Comments: What's in A Name? A report on Equal Marriage

This is not just a religious controversy. People of no faith at all, as well as members of religious organisations are involved in this important discussion. In a non-theocratic democracy, the Church has no prior rights over anyone else in matters of public policy which affects not only Christians but the whole of society.

The Government has responsibility for every single citizen, and should be encouraged to legislate for relationships that enhance society's expectation of peace and harmony for all, and the good of all.

If that means that the legitimisation of Same-Sex Marriage could be seen to enhance their quality of life - without endangering the possibility for other people, then why should the Church seek to prevent such a possibility? Who knows, the Marriage of committed LGBTQ couples could be an encouragement for stable monogamous relationships for heterosexual couples. Goodness knows, they need someone to encourage them to be faithful.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 17 July 2012 at 10:47am BST

This is interesting less for what it says than for who is saying it.

On what it says, it is confused on some points (e.g., the Quaker/Jewish exemption from requirement to be married in C of E churches dates back to 1753, not to C19 as the pamphlet claims), and it could make some arguments with more force (e.g., on the emptiness of "complementarity" as an objection to equal marriage, see the submission to the Govt Equalities Office from Scot Peterson, myself, and others, linked from here a few weeks back).

But on who is saying it: this is a libertarian Conservative think-tank, associated with the people around David Cameron. One of its founders, I think, was Jesse Norman, the leader of the Conservative Lords reform rebels. So: the Prime Minister has an opportunity to burnish his liberal credentials with people like Mr Norman, by adopting this report, and catching up with Labour (Yvette Cooper), the Lib Dems (Nick Clegg), and the SNP Scottish government, who are all signalling support for same-sex marriage on religious premises for those religions that want it - as this report also does.

Posted by Iain McLean at Tuesday, 17 July 2012 at 11:13am BST

‘The history of marriage is clearly not one of rigidity. Instead, it has gradually evolved over recent centuries. Notably, the State has intervened on a number of occasions to subtly alter the nature of marriage’
Wrong. The evolving modes of entry and exit from marriage by civil and religious means do not alter the nature of marriage itself. As a parallel, permitting citizenship registration via foreign embassies does not alter the nature of British citizenship. However, changing entry criteria, so that non-native visitors have an automatic entitlement to British citizenship rights changes the nature of the institution, rather than merely altering the mode of entry.

‘Extending marriage to include gay and lesbian people would not be inconsistent with the history of marriage as a human construct in civil law.’
Wrong. While laws governing the modes of entry and exit have changed, marriage is not a mere human construct in civil law. Marriage is built upon a substructure of heterosexual affinity and biological kinship responsibilities that have existed from time immemorial.

Worse still on page 21: 'Although there are many examples of successful, monogamous relationships in gay life, many parts of the gay ‘scene’ are still dominated by heavy drinking, drug abuse and short-term relationships...However, the kind of short-term behaviour and levels of risktaking that sociologists have identified with unmarried young males still forms a far bigger part of gay life than it does of heterosexual life.'
Wow, really? However well substantiated these findings are, if the paper didn't support gay marriage, many commenters here would have assumed this to be homophobic.

The subsequent notion that this could be fixed with a 'commitment device', like marriage (when it hasn't been fixed with civil partnership) is fanciful at best. This is paper is more a liability than an asset to gay marriage advocates.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 18 July 2012 at 6:37pm BST

This all sounds so reasonable and even handed *until you think about the issues they didn't address* !!

So, they argue that religions (and presumably religious people) should not have same-sex marriage imposed on them... but do they support the right of religious persons or religious orgnisations to not have to recognize a same-sex marriage - for employment law, for next of kin rights, or for provision of services (other than religious services)? I don't think so! I doubt that they would even defend the right of religious people or religious organizations to say that same-sex marriage isn't a real marriage.

So, what about the right of people to discuss the facts of life - that a man and a woman have complementary sex organs, that these are designed to work together in intercourse, that intercourse is the natural mechanism that produces children? Will they defend the teaching of human biology from ideological pressure to rewrite the facts? I very much doubt it.

And do they support the right of the child to be raised by its own natural parents, or at least by an adoptive mother and father? I expect that 'equality' will trump the rights of the child.

Posted by RevDave at Wednesday, 18 July 2012 at 7:13pm BST

Since when did 'biology' need defending??!! I cannot think of anybody suggesting men and women can no longer have the bits they do have ...

Sheesh - paranoia reaches new heights!

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 19 July 2012 at 8:10am BST

RevDave, I think you are confusing civil legislation with opt-outs for religious belief.
There is no provision for any group in society to opt out of civil legislation, for whatever reason.
The Parliamentary system is there to (in theory) assure that every view is heard and that the most sensible and or most popular one becomes law.

Religious opt-outs protect the right of believers to believe what they like, and ensures that what happens inside churches is protected.

So you may still preach that same sex people are not really married and you may still refuse them any role in your church and you may still refuse to conduct services of blessing for them.
But that's where the opt-out stops. Always has done.

It's the same whether we're talking about Civil Partership or Marriage. You can ignore the fact that your parishioners are civil partnered while they're in church but only there.

As for "And do they support the right of the child to be raised by its own natural parents, or at least by an adoptive mother and father? I expect that 'equality' will trump the rights of the child" - where have you been? Gay people are already allowed to foster and adopt on the same terms as straight people. Gay people already use IVF and, shock and horror, have their own children.
None of this will change.
I'm quite pleased that you haven't noticed that it's been going on for years, though. Clearly, the world hasn't fallen in, then.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 19 July 2012 at 8:23am BST

Dear Erika

That was my point - that the report argues that same-sex marriage can be implemented in a way that will not affect Christians and most religions - that think it is wrong. But it gives that impression by ignoring the actual effects it will have on the freedom of people to speak and act as if same-sex marriage is not marriage.

So the "report" is more propoganda than a objective evaluation.

Regarding adoption etc, I don't have a lot of problem with two men or two women adopting a child - given that the ideal of a new mum and dad is just not available enough - and the horrendous outcomes from state "care" homes. Indeed, I see that recent reports have found that children raised by gay partnerships have about the same educational outcomes as those raised by any other arrangement that does not involve both biological parents for the whole of childhood....

BUT the findings also consistently show that a child raised by its own mother and father, has significantly better outcomes! So that should be taken into account when offering fertility services, for instance. But, because equality trumps all other rights, same-sex marriage will probably mean that choosing who gets fertility treatment on the basis of the potential outcomes for the children, will be seen as primary discrimination, rather than just taking into account the rights of the (potential) children.

Posted by RevDave at Thursday, 19 July 2012 at 6:04pm BST

Rev Dave
I don't know if the report was written by people who belong to any church, but what most people mean when they say that civil same sex legislation will not affect Christians is that churches will not be forced to conduct same sex marriages.

Whether any individual Christian feels otherwise "affected" by the fact that someone down the road gets married is really a different issue.

As for same sex parenting, I believe studies consistently show that children raised in stable relationships by the people they have been with from birth do better than children who don't know who they belong to or who have changing parental relationships.

As far as I'm aware, very few studies have analysed the differences between stable same sex parenting and stable heterosexual parenting, but the one American study that did particularly look at this concluded that children from same sex households do as well.

We must also take into account that most gay couples adopt, and in the case of adoption is makes no sense to look at whether those children would do better with their birth parents - there's a reason they're up for adoption, after all, and that is ususally that the birth parents are not very good at looking after them.
The honest comparison would be one of straight adoption vs. gay adoption, and I don't know whether any studies have been done in that field -they may have, of course!

I do know that gay couples often take on those children straight couples do not want to adopt and who are hard to place and would otherwise remain in "care".

So we need to be very very careful here when we talk about rights of parents trumping anything.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 19 July 2012 at 11:05pm BST

A recent U.S. study that supposedly found that gay parents were not as good parents as straight parents was widely condemned as being deeply flawed -


"[The study] categorized all people who said their parents were once in a same-sex relationship in the same group, even if those people had also experienced major childhood upheavals. About half of the people whose parents had ever been in gay or lesbian relationships also said their parents had once been in a heterosexual marriage, suggesting that a great many of these children were the products of a heterosexual relationship in which one parent later came out as gay or bisexual. Fifty-eight percent of those raised by moms who'd indicated a lesbian experience said their mother once left the household during their youth, and 14 percent said they'd spent time in foster care.

"All he found is that family instability is bad for children and that's hardly groundbreaking or new," Gates, who was not involved in the research, told LiveScience.

"What I find most frustrating is that from what I could tell, he could have used his data to test the way I'm suggesting the test,* and he chose not to," Gates added. "He intentionally chose a methodology that is absolutely primed to find bad outcomes in those kids."

*"a fair comparison would have matched up children of same-sex parents with children of heterosexual parents who looked otherwise similar — no extra divorces, no extra separations, no extra time in foster care for the kids."

Posted by dr.primrose at Friday, 20 July 2012 at 12:55am BST

"BUT the findings also consistently show that a child raised by its own mother and father, has significantly better outcomes!"

Citations please, RevDave?

What I understand: studies show that, for a child 1) *2* (committed-to-each-other) parents are better than one, and 2) an *unbroken* family is better than broken one.

But that is NOT the same as "a child raised by its own mother and father, has significantly better outcomes". No, not at all the same.

Posted by JCF at Friday, 20 July 2012 at 3:31am BST

"But it gives that impression by ignoring the actual effects it will have on the freedom of people to speak and act as if same-sex marriage is not marriage."

I am trying to imagine those effects.
You will still be free to preach in your churches that, in your eyes and in God's eyes these people aren't married.
You can still stand on Hyde Park Corner proclaiming that they will go to hell in a hand cart.
And you can still "act" as if they weren't married, whatever that means for you.

You could, if you were really obsessed, plaster your car in stickers or have a “they’re not really married” T-shirt printed to wear when you shop in Tesco.

You could cross the street if someone who “pretends” to be married approaches, and you could pointedly refuse gay wedding invitations, should you ever receive one.

It all doesn’t seem to amount to an awful lot of infringement of your right to disapprove and to feel very Christian about it.

Or am I missing something?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 20 July 2012 at 9:15am BST

In a civil society you cannot act as though what the state recognises as true were not true. You cannot act as if an innocent man is guilty, whatever you think of the verdict. You can only say you think he is guilty if you are pretty sure he will not bring an action for slander/libel against you. It is easier when individuals are not concerned. You cannot act as if a marriage has not taken place, when one has. You can think what you like, and if you want to say (for instance) that all marriages after divorce are not real marriages, or all same-sex marriages are invalid, you can say it (and with regards the former, the RC denomination can and does.) That defames nobody, and as long as you steer clear of calling for action against divorced re-marrieds, nobody will do anything. The same will be true of same-sex marriage. Suggest stoning the couple, and action will be taken. Say you consider such a marriage improper and it will be fine.

Children will continue to learn that babies are made by sperm and ova, and whatever you do or do not teach in the classroom, they will continue to learn that men can love men and women love women, and take sensual pleasure in that love.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Friday, 20 July 2012 at 3:52pm BST

Even if statistical outcomes were to become the primary determinant of parental suitability (it would be ridiculous to imagine Social Services wresting kids from birth parents, just because they belong to a group with statistically inferior outcomes), how could you isolate a detriment to be *solely* due to parental influence?

A deserted and recently divorced mother should not have to negotiate custody terms with authorities who believe that her offspring are statistically better off within the pairing of her ex-husband and his new partner. As before, the latest comments on this thread betray a desire on the part of some to supplant the primacy of biological kinship with subsidiary adoptive relationships. It does nothing to advance the cause of same-sex marriage.

In respect of religious freedom, the Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) policy is clear: 'The needs of all pupils should be met, regardless of sexual orientation or ethnicity.'

If the proposals for same-sex marriage are adopted, SRE teachers in religious schools would be mandated to explain 'the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and bringing up children' with respect to both homosexual and heterosexual orientations.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 20 July 2012 at 6:31pm BST

What a wonderful synopsis by Rosemary Hannah.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Friday, 20 July 2012 at 6:45pm BST

"If the proposals for same-sex marriage are adopted, SRE teachers in religious schools would be mandated to explain 'the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and bringing up children' with respect to both homosexual and heterosexual orientations.

- Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday -

Quite so, David. and what is so unlovingly un-Christian about that? The Prophet Micah did say:
"This is what Yahweh asks of you:to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God"

Not a bad policy - even for conservative people!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 21 July 2012 at 1:13am BST

@David - I don't think anybody is proposing taking children from their own parents. In the case of a break up is is now usual for both parents to have responsibility for the child, and both to have the child living with them. In practice such arrangements break down because of hostility between the parents, or because work take one or the other away from the home town, but the ideal is to have both natural parents involved in the child's care. The days of courts 'giving' the child to one or the other parent are long gone.

The case of children in the care of the local authority is quite different.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Saturday, 21 July 2012 at 10:12am BST

Given that you admit that we live in a 'non-theocratic democracy', Micah's theocratic view of acting justly differs considerably from the godless secular attempts to assign marital equivalence to create a travesty of the institution.

I merely challenged the earlier emphasis in this thread on the study of outcomes as a basis for comparison between heterosexual and same-sex parenting. If courts gave credence to 'proof' that single parenting is more detrimental to 'the best interests of the child' than a stable pairing of any orientation, a deserted biological mother would stand little chance in a less than amicable resolution of custody with her recently re-partnered ex-husband.

As for the idea that those who disagree with same-sex marriage will not have their right to disapprove curtailed, try telling that to the street preacher who, in 2010, was challenged to explain his position on homosexuality in Glasgow, only to be prosecuted for hate speech. His free speech was curtailed, though it fell far short of suggesting that gays should be stoned to death. So, you can't lawfully 'proclaim that they will go to hell in a hand cart'!

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 22 July 2012 at 12:40pm BST

David, we already know that the evidence is that children do best with two parents, but no court awards sole custody to whichever parent has a new partner. That Daddy is now with a new woman does not enter the thinking, and it will not if Daddy is with a new man. In as far as possible courts try to get both parents to maintain responsibility for the child, whoever they are with. This is a straw man.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Sunday, 22 July 2012 at 3:03pm BST

My words expressed what might happen *if* courts gave any credence to these studies of outcomes (and you clearly agree with me that they don't). Therefore, as I said, comparative outcomes have no place in this discussion.

Furthermore, the phrase 'recently re-partnered ex-husband' does not connote a particular orientation. I would contend that the straw man is an effigy of your own artifice, not mine. What part of 'stable pairing of any orientation' did you not understand?

My point is that child outcome comparisons are irrelevant to this discussion of the same-sex marriage proposals and the evidence-based approach that the Policy Exchange paper purports to adopt.

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 22 July 2012 at 9:21pm BST

@David - no, it is because we know that the most important thing for children is to keep up links, not with birth parents, but with those people who have always nurtured them, that custody is ideally joint custody. That does give the best outcome for the child (unless one parent is in some way abusive or neglectful)

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 7:52am BST

Dear Rosemary and Erika

As Rosemary has said, a changed legal definition of marriage *will* affect everyone. Two men or two women down the road getting married won't affect me directly (though it will if they decide my rejection of their gay marriage is "homophobic" and complain about me) but I bet you would object most strongly if the law didn't oblige me as an employer to treat and employee's same-sex marriage the same as another employees male-female marriage....

So where is my freedom? Not being forced to approve of a same-sex wedding *ceremony* is trivial compared to the effects on my freedom of not being able to treat a same-sex *marriage* as invalid. That's why I think that this report is just propaganda - not a thorough objective review.

ps you addressed the effect of same-sex marriage on adoption rights (and I think we agree quite closely) but you side-stepped fertility treatment! That's where there will be a clash between Rights of the Child and the Equality of same-sex marrieds. Will the Rights of the Child win - which would mean that male-female couples get priority because the more natural arrangement has better outcomes (all things being equal) - or will Equality win - and taking into account such benefits be deemed discriminatory.. or will it just be that anyone who publishes work that shows that being raised by your natural mother and father has better outcomes than being raised by two men or two women just be attacked until they denounce their work, or are professionally destroyed, for their heresy?

Posted by RevDave at Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 7:15pm BST

RevDave. I think you are ignoring completely the fact that Same-Sex Couples have been know to adopt children of a loveless marriage - whose immediate circumstances militate against the children's good.

This is surely better than leaving children in an environment of bitter, and often violent conflict between their natural parents, that is proven to be deleterious to the children's health & wellbeing?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 25 July 2012 at 12:52am BST

Being limited in what you are allowed to do to other people - especially in terms of the power of an employer over an employee - is a basic aspect of being part of a society with laws and expectations.

I don't see the point of the uproar. There are always limits on the way we can treat others, and, as such, no legal decision or legislative outcome is without that sort of effect on society. That's why it is society and not chaos. Trading certain amounts of freedom for liberty is society. The concerns about restrictions on employment practices seems something of a red herring.

I confess that, in the argument about adoption, I'm jaded enough by experience to tune out when a "what about the children?" argument comes out - it's generally not about the children, at all, and, worse, seems to only come along at the end, like an afterthought when all other persuasion has failed.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Wednesday, 25 July 2012 at 7:01am BST

yes, you are right. The state allows no citizen an opt out from its laws. There is a certain opt out to continue to discriminate in the religious sphere, but rightly only there.
Which is why you, like any other citizen, and indeed like the church itself, have had the opportunity to contribute to the consultation phase.
And which is why you, like any other citizen, will have to live within the resulting laws.

There are rather a lot of laws in this country I'm not happy with but it would be strange if I tried to negotiate solid opt-outs from them. This is one of the insidious side effects of allowing any opt-outs at all, that people and institutions suddenly think that their opinion should have a time honoured place in law regardless of where the rest of the country is heading.

It is only religious people who even think that there should be two laws, one for us and one for them. That you believe this report to be propaganda is a sign of how far this thinking has settled in and how far it has pushed out a true understanding of what living in a democracy is all about.

No, religious freedom means your freedom to believe what you like, to speak as you like and to discriminate within the religious sphere as you like - but not where anyone's civil rights are concerned.
You didn’t get an opt-out from recognizing that divorced people can re-marry, you only got an opt-out from not having to conduct those marriages.
And that is precisely as it should be.

Regarding fertility treatment, proposals for equal treatment of same sex couples have already been drawn up by NICE and were published in May. They are not linked to same sex marriage. There followed a period of external consultation with experts and other interested parties that ended in July, and final new guidelines will be published by the end of this year.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 25 July 2012 at 8:24am BST
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