Comments: More on the government's equal marriage proposals

"....appears to create a new and ill-defined phenomenon called religious marriage, a novelty liable to generate more problems than the present legislation will solve."

No, I think we need to hear what problems they think will be created. I am keen to know.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Saturday, 28 April 2012 at 8:47pm BST

The problem Martin is that the marital union will be watered down to merely concerning an adult relationship of commitment which, however good and noble, divorces the institution from its procreative purpose.

It is unarguable that when a man marries a woman then the likelihood of children is extremely high. For this reason marriage was always understood and defined alongside the needs of children within society. For all statistics show that children flourish best when raised within a loving relationship by their biological mother and biological father. For that reason marriage has been a bedrock for all civilised societies.

In contrast gay unions, no matter how sincere they may be, can never produce children through the coupling of those involved. For that reason a civil partnership -that provides every legal protection that I as a married man have- seems perfectly sufficient. It protects the couple, gives recognition and dignity to them. But it does not involve a union which BY DEFINITION is about children as much as adults.

Turning the debate on its head let me ask this. If homosexual sex is as sacred as heterosexual sex in the eyes of God then why did God deprive such unions of children by creating us male and female with bodies that compliment each other to bring about life?

Posted by Ed Tomlinson at Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 8:05am BST

All along the Catholic Church DOES teach there is a state called Holy Matrimony and that not all those in Legally recognised marriages are in that sacramental state. If the C of E conflates the two (and it seems that IS the legal position that there is no difference between a marriage performed by a registrar or an appropriately-licensed religious minister) then I cannot understand why Rowan Williams refused to marry Charles and Camilla in church. The logical conclusion that we can draw on the lack of distinction is that EITHER all legally recognised marriages are actually secular OR that that they are all Christian Holy Matrimony. (This would be offensive to Jews, Muslims AND Catholics, I should have thought, let alone sundry atheists and agnostics.)

Posted by Tom at Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 9:50am BST

"We are sympathetic to the full inclusion of gay people in our society and the provision of appropriate means to enable them to maintain stable and lasting relationships." Bishop of Norwich

How lovely of him. But I feel a 'BUT' coming on.....

"We believe, however,"

And there it is.

So, not *quite* full inclusion then, for "them".

Posted by Laurence C. at Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 11:29am BST

"appears to create a new and ill-defined phenomenon called religious marriage"

To the best of my knowledge, this ill-defined phenomenon has existed in England and Wales for more than 150 years. See the enacted version of Marriage and Registration Act 1856, particularly Section 12.

Posted by Caelius Spinator at Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 1:40pm BST

I think if we were to look a little more closely at the historical record, we would see that marriage has been an ill-defined phenomenon for 5000 years at least. It is a very mutable institution shaped and reshaped over and over again down through the centuries by changing human needs and desires, and by ever-changing circumstances.

I can remember a time when interracial marriage was an unspeakable taboo.

In much of the world beyond the West, marriages are still arranged between families, sometimes while the prospective bride and groom are still small children.

The point of marriage for much of history in the West was to produce sons to perpetuate the family name and the family fortune. In ancient times, polygamy was a sensible way to guarantee such an outcome. A monogamous marriage to a woman who was barren or who produced only daughters could spell disaster for a family.

Posted by Counterlight at Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 2:29pm BST

"....appears to create a new and ill-defined phenomenon called religious marriage, a novelty liable to generate more problems than the present legislation will solve."

The Catholic church has also made that distinction for a long long time. They recognise marriages between couples of different faiths, for example, as licit but not as sacramental.

The Catholic definition of marriage does not seem to have torn the realm asunder, I doubt that this would happen if the CoE decided to treat same sex marriages in the same way as it already treats marriages between divorcees.

And if it doesn't want to extend the split, then it needs to get its own house in order and fully recognise same sex marriages. It's no good asking society to hold back because representatives of the 2 or so percent of the population who are active Anglicans dont like it!

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 2:56pm BST

Ed
"If homosexual sex is as sacred as heterosexual sex in the eyes of God then why did God deprive such unions of children"

This comment comes dangerously close to considering infertile couples to be somehow deliberately not blessed by God.

There has always been a group of couples who could not procreate. Gay people just happen to be part of that group.
That's about the extent of how big a deal it is.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 3:06pm BST

Or 'because God sees that some couples are called to bless society in other ways than by having children. That is not his only priority.'

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 4:15pm BST

I trust that the Lord Bishop of Norwich was actually referring to polygamy when he used the phrase 'serial monogamy.'

Posted by Adrian at Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 6:16pm BST

Throughout human history, Ed T, there have many fertility cults. Christianity is not one of them. Blessedness =/= fecundity!

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 11:19pm BST

Is it not the case that prior to the creation of the Registry office there existed, of necessity for those who did not wish to marry in a Church of England service, a vibrant and socially accepted concept of common law marriage?

As to E Tomlinson's thesis that marriage exists for procreation; it is the contrary that is the case -- procreation not only exists apart from marriage, but marriages can flourish in cases where procreation is impossible. There is no necessary connection. Nor is there in the marriage liturgy any vow to procreate; the marriage vows are all about quality of life in relationship, and recognizable virtues of love, fidelity and mutual support in good times and in bad. Procreation enters in as a possibility, not a certainty, nor as a necessary requirement. And failure to procreate is not grounds for divorce or annulment. The assertion of procreation as essential will not stand up to the obvious facts against the thesis.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Sunday, 29 April 2012 at 11:36pm BST

"If homosexual sex is as sacred as heterosexual sex in the eyes of God then why did God deprive such unions of children"

This strikes me as a very odd way of viewing both sacredness and sex, as if reproduction were the only redeeming facet of the sex act, or that pregnancy represented God's stamp of approval on sexual intercourse.

"Heterosexual sex" includes all sorts of scenarios that could result in children, including rape, prostitution, concubinage, and incest. None of those instances of intercourse strike me as particularly "sacred," no matter how many babies they produce.

It also strikes me as distinctly weird for adherents of a religion founded by someone who, according to tradition, had parents who never had sex and yet are regarded (at least in the West) as being really married, to argue that sexual intercourse leading to procreation is the sine qua non of matrimony. And besides the marriage of Our Lady and St Joseph, the Church has a long history of "spiritual marriages" - marriages entered into without the intention to consummate them, yet regarded as true marriages. St Henry II, the Holy Roman Emperor, entered into such a marriage with St Cunigunde of Luxembourg.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Monday, 30 April 2012 at 2:42am BST

I found Bill Dilworth's post highly erudite and informative.

(( kudos)) *


* as the Americans say (I understand).

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Monday, 30 April 2012 at 11:13am BST

"If homosexual sex is as sacred as heterosexual sex in the eyes of God then why did God deprive such unions of children by creating us male and female with bodies that compliment each other to bring about life?" - Ed Tomlinson -

This presumes that God was only interested in procreation as the intentional end of sexuality.

If you can keep a straight face and tell us that every Christian heterosexual act of congress is intentionally procreative (non-contraceptive), I might begin to understand your objection to the loving relationship between same-sex partners, whose regard for their mate is a mutually-enjoyed act of devotion - but without any need to guard against pregnancy.

Perhaps the Song of Songs has something to teach us about the joys of human intimacy after all!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 30 April 2012 at 11:18am BST

Always lovely to hear from an RC minister here. Though the silencing of Brian d'Arcy by the vatican is a disgrace.(Missing him on the radio 2 Sunday Half Hour radio2 8.30pm terribly).

Procreative means many things, like 'increase'.

Lgbt are hugely creative and pro-creative in myriad ways- we also spend years of our lives LOOKING AFTER OTHER PEOPLE's Children - and also elderly, ill, disadvantaged or dying people in the caring professions; and in millions of informal arrangements for friends, family and neighbourhoods. Lgbt use our energies for the commonweal.

No thanks necessary Ed.


Posted by Laurence Roberts at Monday, 30 April 2012 at 12:43pm BST

PS When I said mean and snide this is the kind of thing I mean :

http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/04/29/reports-tory-chief-whip-says-equal-marriage-proposals-will-not-come-to-a-vote/

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Monday, 30 April 2012 at 1:30pm BST

A valid marriage involves genuine consent and sexual union. The legal requirement for such a lifelong union is that both parties consent to enter that marriage in a manner that is not voidable by either party.

Marriage is consummated by neither a handshake, nor a hug promised to only one's spouse. Those acts may signal an intense emotional connection, but not the intent to form marriage: affinity by which the parties become physically surrendered to each other, responsible for shared offspring and joined for life.

Affinity is the font from which all the other biological rights of family descent flow. Section 12 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 provides the ground for a voidable marriage. A marriage is voidable if it has not been consummated due to the incapacity of either party to consummate it. Consummation requires sexual intercourse which is ordinary and complete.

The jurisprudence is clear: 'mere incapacity of conception is not a sufficient ground whereon to found a decree of nullity'.

The expectation of all those who enter into marriage is biological union between the male and female. Consummation is required (even if it does not necessarily result in procreation).

Of course, you could Tippex that ground of annulment in the interest of forced equivalence and try to define consummation genderlessly. Then again, I've asked for that before...

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 30 April 2012 at 2:18pm BST

Bill,

I very much like the first sentence of your third paragraph. And this is a 'position' (hard to avoid doubles entendres) which Ed is presumably now committed to. It's all baloney. Funnily enough, I'm pretty sure that Ed knows it's all baloney and he's only going through the motions (as couple who can't have children sometimes describe their activities).

Posted by John at Monday, 30 April 2012 at 6:35pm BST

I have read and re-read the letter from these clerics and feel it lacks accuracy, clarity and real generosity. It looks very ill indeed when compared to the address Archbishop Barry Morgan gave to the Governing Body recently.

These men have obviously not talked to any gay person who wants to get married - and who already sees themselves as married.

The failure of the bishops to recognise what the civil authorities are willing to legislate for, that gay people have a vocation to marriage - is deeply depressing. In fact they seem to fail to recognise that marriage is a vocation at all! Their legalism is so very depressing, reminiscent of the attitude which saw slaves as incapable of being married, for, being property themselves they could not be party to a contract, or the present Pope's attitude to women with a vocation to Holy Orders. While most of us have moved forward on slavery and women - these prelates seem to have a real problem recognising gay people have all the qualities, needs and aspirations of all other people and that God deals with us equally. Indeed my partner compared the tone of their letter to the way people treated our kids - who have intricate and complex challenges - some 20 odd years ago.

As to remarks made by Ed Tomlinson, they are totally disingenuous. The Roman Church remains implacably opposed to ALL forms of legal recognition of same sex families. The suggestion he (and others) now make that civil partnerships are tolerable while marriage is not, runs against the teaching and practice of his church. It is a lie, an attempt to look reasonable. It is despicable, deceitful politicking.

Others here have properly challenged and answered his question, but I suspect that he might be completely incapable of recognising our vocations too, yet alone recognising just how fruitful our relationships and families can be!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 30 April 2012 at 7:16pm BST

What is the jurisprudence on same-sex sexual activity? Is it anywhere regarded as sexual intercourse in English law? Rabbinic law is very clear in its understanding of sexual intercourse as based on "penetration" (including how far) -- and on this grounds declares that at least some forms of "sexual" acts between women do not constitute "sexual intercourse."

But I can certainly declare that it is not, at least in a number of jurisdictions in the US, including New York, "the expectation of all those who enter into marriage" that it be "a biological union between the male and the female." Absent conception, just what is "biological" union? Physical union? Of what sort? One cannot, simply be referring to definitions, make reality go away.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Monday, 30 April 2012 at 9:30pm BST

David Shepherd:

Are you saying, then, that a marriage between a healthy woman and a paraplegic man incapable of sexual intercourse is, by its very nature, not legitimate, because consummation is impossible?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Monday, 30 April 2012 at 10:22pm BST

"The Roman Church remains implacably opposed to ALL forms of legal recognition of same sex families."

Absolutely correct. Our local, benighted RC bishop, the Most Reverend Thomas Tobin, has publicly stated that God will punish the state of Rhode Island for passing an extremely watered-down civil union bill - one with large exemptions for religious hospitals and other entities, which do not have to recognize the relationships formed under the bill:

http://www.dioceseofprovidence.org/?id=14&uudis=229
http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/conlaw/2011/06/rhode-island-civil-union-religious-exemptions-include-civil-union-status-.html

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 12:59am BST

"Are you saying, then, that a marriage between a healthy woman and a paraplegic man incapable of sexual intercourse is, by its very nature, not legitimate, because consummation is impossible?"


Oh, Pat! Now you'll get the "but they are *open* to the *possibility* of children!" argument.

Of course, if we're talking Miracle-Max god, then gays are equally open to that possibility. Besides, of course, in vitro, surrogates, and the option that seems to be outside the comprehension of the right-wing "christians," adoption of the children that so many "blessed" heterosexuals simply abandon.

Simplistic thinking + fairy-tale magic = conservative "christianity."

Posted by MarkBrunson at Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 4:59am BST

Tobias,
Jurisprudence does not consist of mere definitions, but the outcome of centuries of case law, some of which has become enshrined in statute law, such as the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. We are discussing proposals for a change to English law, rather than any other jurisdiction in the world. Furthermore, concerning the impact of other jurisdictions on marital laws in the UK, I would refer you to the petition of Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson for their Canadian marriage to be recognised as a valid UK marriage. It was denied by the High Court in 2006.

Pat,
There is a difference between void and voidable. Void marriages are, prima facie, invalid, whereas voidable marriages are liable to be treated as if they hadn't existed. So, for voidable marriages, the law will uphold the option of either party to annul (rather than dissolve) the marriage that you describe, even if it could be proven that the original intent at the time of marriage was to ignore the incapacity. However, in law, the incapacity does afford the opportunity for either spouse to declare and for that State to uphold that it was not a marriage.

A lifelong union that accepts the incapacity is not void, but voidable. Nevertheless, if the incapacity to consummate is through gender, the marriage is void. Hence, 'Grounds on which marriage is void - section 11(c) MCA: 'that the parties are not respectively male and female''

If, in law, what is expected of those who enter marriage is not 'the biological union between the male and female', the question remains why non-consummation is a ground of annulment. Liberal answers on a postcard, please!

Once again, I ask for a gender-free legally resilient description of consummation, rather than a loosely-worded concept of union that lacks any legal weight whatsoever.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 2:34pm BST

Regarding the paraplegic man and marriage, it appears that not only he but anyone else in a similar state is S.O.L., as we used to say in the Navy. The RC Code of Canon Law reads in part:

"Can. 1084 §1. Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman, whether absolute or relative, nullifies marriage by its very nature."

There was a case in Brazil in the recent past in which a paraplegic man was forbidden marriage in the RCC under this very canon. There is a documentary film on the case:

http://www.katu.com/entertainment/3627531.html


Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 3:32pm BST

"It was denied by the High Court in 2006."
David Shepherd on Tuesday, 1 May

While that is perfectly true and a nasty vindictive piece of work it was too - the allocation of costs was punitive, there is a fairly universal view that there will be a different outcome next time.

Baroness Deech (not a friend!) says:
“In the passage of the few years since this judgment, it is possible that societal views have shifted sufficiently so that an appeal on the same grounds might have a different outcome.

“Whatever might be held, one still concludes that English law has lost any clear concept of marriage.”

Lady Deech in the same 2010 lecture also quotes the famous definition of marriage as a:
“voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.”

And went on to say: “Such is the transformation of family law and family life that not one word of this remains true.”

There are some cases presently before the courts.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 5:00pm BST

"Lady Deech in the same 2010 lecture also quotes the famous definition of marriage as a:
'voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.

"'Such is the transformation of family law and family life that not one word of this remains true.'

Did Lady Deech think that someone was out to make marriage a *compulsory* union?

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 7:37pm BST

Very nice Bill!

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 10:17pm BST

OK, David: postcard-sized:

"Consummation is accomplished by the sexual union of the couple."

Is that simple enough? It is not the current standard, but that is the standard we are talking about changing. (I prefer "sexual" to "biological" union for the reason I explained above -- there is no "biological union apart from conception. The prudish could say "physical union" I suppose.) If there is any doubt about what constitutes sexual union, as I also noted, reference could be made to many other statutes and cases.

It should also be noted that the high middles ages saw a great deal of debate about whether marriage was formally constituted by consent or coitus. Roman canon law (1057) still says that marriage is "made" (facit) by consent. The canon law also assumes consummation based on cohabitation unless proven otherwise. A non-consummated marriage is a marriage and is only dissolved "for just cause." (1142)

I realize this may have little impact on English law, but if we are talking about changing English law it makes little sense to act as if the English law is like that of the Medes and the Persians.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 11:07pm BST

Bill:

Very funny!

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 1 May 2012 at 11:11pm BST

Tobias:
The actual proposals state: 'Specifically, non-consummation and adultery are currently concepts that are defined in case law and apply only to marriage law, not civil partnership law. However, with the removal of the ban on same-sex couples having a civil marriage, these concepts will apply equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples and case law may need to develop, over time, a definition as to what constitutes same-sex consummation and same-sex adultery.' Although it betrays a fudge, there are clearly no plans to dispense with the consummation requirement. Current statutes do refer to non-consummation and adultery, their definitions are underpinned by a significant volume of existing case law.

I note that you stated: 'if there is any doubt about what constitutes sexual union, as I also noted, reference could be made to many other statutes and cases.'

Sorry to press you on this, but given that the description should be legally resilient, it would be useful to identify a number of statutes and cases (I presume elsewhere) that address same-sex and heterosexual consummation in an equivalent way. For example, if we incorporated the aspect of rabbinical law that you mentioned into English civil law, you have indicated that under such law 'at least some forms of "sexual" acts between women do not constitute "sexual intercourse." So, those 'sexual' acts are not enough to constitute sexual union?

It would appear that your definition could only be applied to petitions for annulment that are not contested by the other party.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 2:03am BST

"Did Lady Deech think that someone was out to make marriage a *compulsory* union?"

My Arkansas relatives called that a "shotgun wedding."

Posted by Counterlight at Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 2:54am BST

David Shepherd worries far too much. The matter being defined in case law will no doubt continue to develop in cases that come before the courts. I see an intellectual curiosity here not a problem.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 11:07am BST

Rabbinic law holds that only anal intercourse violates the commandment not to "lie with man as you lie with a woman." Other acts may still be sinful, but don't violate that commandment.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 11:19am BST

David, I don't have ready access to the English statutes, but I'm sure there are definitions of what constitute "sexual acts" between persons. I would offer as a very basic element, "genital contact" and leave it at that. So, "A marriage is consummated by genital contact between the parties." I don't think more need be said.

I think it also very important to note that consummation does not make the marriage; though non-consummation can be grounds for a finding of nullity. The marriage exists from the time of consent, exchange of vows, etc. The whole issue of consummation only arises when there is an appeal for nullification or voiding of the marriage.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 3:20pm BST

While you may feel that 'genital contact' broadly describes sexual union, it will not suffice as an orientation-free definition of consummation or adultery. Despite the need for coyness, it does not begin to resonate with the actual cases from which the legal definitions of consummation and adultery were developed, such as D-E v A-G (1845) 163 ER 1039.

In Pat's paraplegic marriage example, genital contact might even result in an innocent wash nurse being named as co-respondent in his divorce proceedings!

This exercise proves that, in law, a genuine equivlence, rather than one enforced by statute is a lot easier to define.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 6:39pm BST

Perhaps I should also add that Jesus said adultery could take place without any genital contact, by means of the eye and the heart... It is understandable that the Law wants a more objective standard; but I think one can be objective in describing same-sex consummation -- and infidelity -- in legally cognizable forms of physical activity.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 9:28pm BST

"The problem Martin is that the marital union will be watered down to merely concerning an adult relationship of commitment which, however good and noble, divorces the institution from its procreative purpose." Ed Tomlinson -

I've only just got back and noticed this comment. It sounds rather out of touch with the current understanding that marriage may be undertaken, by both civil and church authority, in cases where the couple are not capable of, or disposed to, the prospect of procreation. It is seen as the legal bonding of two souls who 'love one another' and want to commit themselves to life-long union.

To my knowledge. I have known of only one instance recently; where a Roman Catholic priest in Southern Italy refused to marry a couple because of their inability to procreate - and it cause a storm on the outside world!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 2 May 2012 at 10:54pm BST

Fr Ron
"It sounds rather out of touch with the current understanding that marriage may be undertaken, by both civil and church authority, in cases where the couple are not capable of, or disposed to, the prospect of procreation."

Do you know, when I first got married there were a lot of debates among my peers whether it was moral to have children at all, looking at the over population in the world and at the large number of children in our own country needing foster parents or adoptive parents. It was a real moral issue people wrestled with and there was a lot of respect for those who chose to help already born children instead of leaving them as someone else's problem.

I have always admired that stance, although I have personally not followed it. But social responsibility and loving stewardship for all of God's creation goes way beyond just having sex and producing your own bundles of joy.

And while the commandment to procreate may have made absolute sense for a small desert tribe, to insist that it is the be all and end all in today's overcrowded and largely starving world is positively immoral.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 8:46am BST

David, you may assert that "genital contact" is inusfficient to constitute adultery -- and that may be true in current law. But that does not mean that this must always be the standard. As noted above, both statute and case law change over time.

I was able to check on the English Statute on Sexual Offenses 2003. It gives a broad definition of "sexual" that is reasonable and actionable. My point here is that an act which, absent consent, constitutes an offence under law, could well be held to qualify -- with consent -- as either adultery or consummation.

Otherwise we are in the realm of Mr. Clinton's prevarication on a very narrow definition of "sex." Most ordinary people would think that oral sex is "sex" -- and this is the standard required by the Sexual Offenses Act 2003 to meet the definition of "sexual."

Posted by Tobias Haller at Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 11:52am BST

David, since I had understood Tobias' "genital contact" to mean "mutual contact of the couple's genitals," your wash nurse example initially gave me a start.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 1:02pm BST

Am I the only one who is finding this discussion about how to define sex rather sadly obsessive and beside the point? One could almost think that for some people marriage boils down to sex and in particular to one precisely defined sex act. How sadly limiting!

We all know what we mean by a sexual relationship. After all, those of us who are gay have been criticised and damned often enough for ours.
If it really still matters, then I'm sure the legal brains of the country will come up with a definition for it.

Shall we move on?

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 1:36pm BST

Interestingly (to me, at least), from what I've been able to find on-line it seems that most US states do not address the topic of consummation in their marriage statutes. At the end of the ceremony, you're married. Period.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 9:17pm BST

Since most US states' laws do not address the issue of consummation, definitions of "sexual intercourse" are found in statutes dealing with sexual assault. This extract from the laws of Connecticut echo language I've also read in several university sexual assault policies:

"Sexual intercourse" means vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, fellatio or cunnilingus between persons regardless of sex."

http://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/pub/chap952.htm#Sec53a-70b.htm

That seems to cover all the bases; maybe it could also serve as a working definition of "consummation."

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Thursday, 3 May 2012 at 9:47pm BST

Precisely, Erika. And this is why the Vatican will be feeling the weight of responsibility for the increase of the world's population - through its ongoing policy of banning contraception in the Third World countries, which are currently unable to sustain population growth because of a lack of natural resources. Where is the morality in that?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 4 May 2012 at 1:15am BST

I agree with Erika. I think we have all had quite enough discussion on consummation now. Let's move on...

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 4 May 2012 at 7:19am BST

Simon:

My point has been established. The proposals involve a dumbing down of the legal understanding of the common intent of parties to a marriage to the point of ignoring authoritative and codified precedents.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 4 May 2012 at 8:15am BST

"Am I the only one who is finding this discussion about how to define sex rather sadly obsessive and beside the point?"

No you are not, though I don't find this to be quite so sad. All this lawyerly talk about defining sex acts is indeed obsessive and it's also howlingly funny. I can think of few things less appropriate for the magniloquent language of legal procedure than sex.

Posted by Counterlight at Friday, 4 May 2012 at 12:11pm BST

It was most refreshing to hear of President Obama's personal movement towards the approval of 'Gay Marriage' - after an extended period of his own 'Listening Process' - something lacking even in the highest echelons of the Anglican Communion.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 10 May 2012 at 12:50am BST
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