Comments: The tainted case against gay marriage

I have often argued that one of the main assistants in gaining gay and lesbian equality are the Christian opponents. Yet again they show it to be so

Posted by Mike Homfray at Friday, 3 August 2012 at 11:36am BST

I've always said that the enemies of LGBTs do us and our emancipation movements such a great service by simply being their own insufferable selves. I once wrote a letter of thanks to Fred Phelps many years ago thanking him for all his work on behalf of gay liberation, and to keep up the good work. I could write that same letter today to legions of holy men around the world; to the Pope, to patriarchs, to legions of bishops, to autocratic preachers in mega-churches and not-so-mega-churches, to rabbis, and to any number of mullahs.

Indeed, I remember well that implicit, and sometimes explicit, notion in evangelical dominated places I've lived in that all those who are not like them are somehow defective and exist at only at God's sufferance. Of course, that is far and away the larger part of humankind, but I suppose if you belong to the exclusive club of the Elect, then that's not a problem. Supremacism tricked out in religious garb is still supremacism.

Posted by Counterlight at Friday, 3 August 2012 at 12:07pm BST

An 'Own-Goal' then by Messrs Sugden and Giddings - in the hateful propaganda blitz against the integrity of the gay Community in the Church.

Such a pity that the hierarchy of the Church of England seem to fall in with their homophobic and misogynistic attitude. Let's hope this latest furore pricks the conscience of the English Bishops - at least to a point where they make some protest against their endemic anti-gay rhetoric - and all in the Name of Christ and The Church!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 3 August 2012 at 12:07pm BST

GRAUNIAD COMMENTATOR: NON-LIBERALS ARE NOT LIBERAL ENOUGH. Shock: people feel offended by people who argue against their beliefs and values!

Isn't arguing that non-liberals should just be ignored because they are "offensive" or "tainted" just arguing for liberal bigotry?

Non-liberals - the New Heretics?

Posted by RevDave at Friday, 3 August 2012 at 4:03pm BST

I wouldn't quite go that far. Let's just say they gave a helping hand.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Friday, 3 August 2012 at 4:52pm BST

Well, for truly offensive, Bishop Tartaglia's remarks about gay mortality rates leave Sugden et al. looking like a couple of sunbeams for Jesus.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Friday, 3 August 2012 at 8:31pm BST

"He confuses losing an argument with losing the right to argue."

[Said of Abp Tartaglia---but could be said of so many others on the homophobic "We are the Victims!" Christianist right]

Brilliant summation.

Posted by JCF at Friday, 3 August 2012 at 8:35pm BST

You may not agree with Canon Sugden and Mr Giddings..but are your arguments so weak that you attack the persons than their theology?

Posted by Robert Ian Wiulliams at Friday, 3 August 2012 at 11:14pm BST

"Isn't arguing that non-liberals should just be ignored because they are "offensive" or "tainted" just arguing for liberal bigotry?

Non-liberals - the New Heretics?"


I'm regularly called "heretic," "pervert," and many much worse things that Simon would never allow on this blog. I've been threatened a number of times with violence, and I know people who've suffered it.

On this side of the Atlantic, you can say whatever you like no matter how revolting the sentiment (everything just short of yelling "fire!" in a crowded theater).
On the other hand, you enjoy no right to protection from people who strongly disagree with you, who object strenuously, and who will work very hard to keep your views from becoming policy. People telling you (or me) that you are flat out wrong is not religious oppression. People threatening to make policies that legally and socially disable me, or to beat the bejeezus out of me is.

Posted by Counterlight at Saturday, 4 August 2012 at 1:05am BST

The point, RIW, is that there may very well be a good case to be made against gay marriage. I suspect that John Milbank - certainly no homophobe - has come close to framing a coherent argument against gay marriage from a Catholic and Anglican perspective (Milbank also thinks that the church's stubborn refusal to bless same-sex partnerships may have helped to make gay marriage all but inevitable).

But individuals like Canon Sugden and the amazing Bishop Tartaglia undermine this case by making all opponents of same-sex marriage look like frothing bigots. For me at least, it's generally a case of agreeing with their theology but being utterly dismayed by the way in which they express it.

Posted by rjb at Saturday, 4 August 2012 at 5:03am BST

Looking at the substance of what Andrew Brown says, I want to reply that on this occasion I don't think his analysis is correct.
If it had been possible to make a credible argument against same sex marriage it would have been made. Yes, our opponents helped us hugely, but this is an argument won, not an opposition lost. Country after country is introducing same sex marriage and it is inconceivable that they are all doing this just because those who oppose it are vitriolic. If any credible argument against it had emerged anywhere (and in America, the whole topic was debated extensively and very seriously in the courts), it would have carried the day. Instead, whenever the issue has been examined with a genuine hearing for both sides and taking into account public perception, it became clear that, when you get to the heart of it, there is not a single argument against gay marriage other than “it hasn’t been done before” and “God doesn’t like it”.
This argument is being won in an increasing number of countries purely on its own merit. The vitriol our opposition sometimes has to resort to only helps people in the process of making up their minds see that there really is nothing substantial against it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 4 August 2012 at 7:26am BST

"You may not agree with Canon Sugden and Mr Giddings..but are your arguments so weak that you attack the persons than their theology?"

I agree Robert, it's sad that there are so many personal attacks on this site.

Posted by William at Saturday, 4 August 2012 at 8:50am BST

Currently British Society is secularist and Christianity is openly despised and opposed Why naively expect the Church to adopt and endorse shallow secularist values which are inimical to its teaching? Being a member of the Church anticipates moderation of life which is sometimes sacrificial. It has always been so. Feel-good religion is the fruit of secularism and is deopted by people who want their cake and eat it. Unfortunately ill-educated clerics of both sexes tend to encourage it under the specious,selective term 'Christianity'.

Posted by John Bowles at Saturday, 4 August 2012 at 10:05am BST

"You may not agree with Canon Sugden and Mr Giddings..but are your arguments so weak that you attack the persons than their theology?" - RIW -

But, Sugden and Giddings are surely inseparable from their 'theology' That is their prime cause for their epic notoriety. So that one supposes in attacking their theology, they get hit by the Slipstream (or is that their 'Mainstream')

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 4 August 2012 at 10:55am BST

Erika: there's a short form of the case against gay marriage here: civil partnerships aren't broken so there is no need to fix them. This is what I myself believe. But Sugden and Giddings cannot argue honestly for civil partnerships. They have built their organisation on hostility to gay people - in fact they have persuaded themselves that gay people don't actually exist: there are only more or less misled heterosexuals. Since their conclusions are patently false and their manner entirely lacking in fruits of the spirit, I have better things to think about than their theology.

Posted by Andrew Brown at Saturday, 4 August 2012 at 2:03pm BST

Andrew,
that civil partnerships are "working" is an argument for civil partnerships, it is not an argument against same sex marriage.
And I don't think they're working. The lived reality is that civil partnered people already talk of being married and of their husbands and wives, as do their friends and families and, increasingly, society at large.

A "civil partner" is not an organic word that has anywhere near the depth of meaning as the words husband and wife do. It is a politically created word almost completely devoid of depth.

If civil partnerships were working we would not have this debate.

The question that is being asked is not "is there a satisfactory equal but different" legal state for same sex couples. The question that is being asked is "is there anything intrinsic about marriage that cannot be shared by same sex couples". That is the argument that has to be won and lost on merit, and I believe that is the argument that has been won.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 4 August 2012 at 3:31pm BST

Civil partnerships are second best - and were all that the Church would permit, a mere 7 years ago. Today, no-one is asking the Church.

Andrew Brown good as he is, seems to overlook this. (There's a lot straight folk 'don't get'.) Gays have been treated to 2nd best all our lives. Bit tired now.

In my retirement, and having married hundreds of couples and christened their babies well, I'd appreciate er - equality, myself.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Saturday, 4 August 2012 at 4:50pm BST

I think it worthwhile to keep in mind that what the various clerics are railing about is something completely different from what any government has so far proposed. Simply put, civil marriage is NOT the same thing as the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Does the State have the right to define civil marriage as it sees fit? Absolutely. If it didn't - remarriage after divorce would be illegal. After all, it wasn't legalized with the consent and approval of the Church.

It's doubly ironic that Cardinal O'Keith should compare marriage equality with slavery, given the Church's long support of the right to own human beings.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Saturday, 4 August 2012 at 5:00pm BST

Mr Brown:
'Civil Partnerships aren't broken, so there's no need to fix them.'
But C/P's only exist because people of the same gender are not allowed to enter into a civil marriage. If that is open to them then C/P's are no longer necessary. C/P's are the sticking plaster. If the wound can be healed then the plaster can be thrown away.

Posted by Commentator at Saturday, 4 August 2012 at 5:23pm BST

Andrew,
I think what I am seeing in your article and in your comment to me is an a priori assessment that same sex marriage is not desirable and that as long as there is a valid alternative we do not have to contemplate it. So the argument is already weighted for a start.
Whereas if you look at it from a genuinely independent point of view, the question is not “what equivalence can we come up with so that we don’t need gay marriage”, but “what is it about marriage the excludes gay people”.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 4 August 2012 at 8:19pm BST

No-one is saying that civil partnerships are broke. They're not and we're not proposing to "fix" them. We are simply stating that civil marriage should be available to same sex couples as well as those religious bodies and clerics who wish to do so. Civil partnerships are going to be maintained, so this is not a change to civil partnership.

To that extent I disagree with Andrew.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Sunday, 5 August 2012 at 10:05am BST

Let the definitions sort themselves out. Marriages offered to same sex and different sex, civil partnerships offered to same sex and different sex, including in churches that want to offer these ceremonies, with a registrar either the minister or at the back of the church.

This way Civil Partnership would become a means to share property if wanted, sort out inheritance, indicate friendships, could be informal or other types of sexual relationship. Marriage would be a stronger commitment and a strong sexual bonding identity. An argument could be made for extending Civil Partnerships to more than two people.

Posted by Pluralist at Sunday, 5 August 2012 at 6:30pm BST

Extending civil partnerships in the way suggested above is an open invitation to tax avoidance and for that reason won't be agreed to by HMG.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Monday, 6 August 2012 at 10:35am BST

Bill, the Catholic Church has been condemning slavery since 1435 with countless bulls and encyclicals. There are so many I don't know where to start - you could try Paul III's "Sublimis Deus".

"He has stirred up some of his allies who, desiring to satisfy their own avarice, are presuming to assert far and wide that the Indians of the West and the South who have come to our notice in these times be reduced to our service like brute animals, under the pretext that they are lacking the Catholic Faith. And they reduce them to slavery (Et eos in servitutem redigunt), treating them with afflictions they would scarcely use with brute animals."

This was written in 1537.

Posted by william at Monday, 6 August 2012 at 2:49pm BST

Hmm, noone has stated reasons why it is a bad idea to legally define single-sex sexual partnerships and male-female marriages as the same cultural and legal entity yet. So here are a few:

1. Men & women are by nature genetically distinct types of human being, with complementary inherent attributes: physically, physiologically, mentally and biologically as well as sexually. So:

1.1 This means that a marriage of one person of each sex is more than the sum of its parts, and has inherent potential lacking in a sexual partnership between two people of a single sex.
1.2 And it means that a sexual partnership between a woman and a man is inherently different from that between two women or two men.
1.3 And it means that two males or two females inherently cannot produce children [in fact they cannot even have sex in the biological sense] and so cannot form an intergenerational family which undermines marriage as the basis for family life.

2. Although previous civilisations have recognised and even encouraged same-sex relationships, they have never seen them as analogous to marriage. This is because it's only recently, and in this civilization, that we have cut the natural link between (male-female) sex and children and, therefore, between (male-female) sex and marriage. But, as a consequence we have suffered culture change such that the natural commitment and responsibility people feel towards family members (children and elderly) is being undermined. And it is already leading to conflicts of rights - between the rights of the child and their parents, and between actual parents and the childrens current carers. And between the younger and older generations. Many more children and elderly are ending up uncared-for and lonely. So

2.1 Legally accommodating male-male or female-female partnerships as the same institution as marriage will push this undesirable culture change further.


Posted by RevDave at Monday, 6 August 2012 at 3:38pm BST

"Bill, the Catholic Church has been condemning slavery since 1435 with countless bulls and encyclicals. There are so many I don't know where to start - you could try Paul III's "Sublimis Deus"."

However, the Methodist and Baptist churches in the USA each split in two over the issue of slavery during the Civil War. Both sides, pro- and anti- slavery, defended their positions passionately, firing off proof texts and anathemas at each other. It seems hard to imagine now, but people were ready to stand and die for the idea that some people were entitled own other people, and to exploit their forced labor. Many people did indeed die to defend slavery. In my lifetime, the old defense of slavery morphed into the defense of racial segregation using many of the same proof texts.

Those old positions on slavery and segregation were not fully repudiated by the southern halves of those churches until the 1960s.

Posted by Counterlight at Tuesday, 7 August 2012 at 2:40am BST

RevDave,
I agree that modern society has a lot of problems, but to lay them squarely at the feet of the 100,000 civil partnered couples and the 8000 among them who parent children is possibly a little overdoing the scapegoating.

I'm all for trying to find ways of solving the problems society has. I'm not sure that changing the legal status of same sex partnerships from civil contracts to civil marriage will make one bit of difference.

It's interesting to see how Andrew Brown appears to argue that we don't "need" same sex marriage because civil partnerships are equal in all but name, whereas you state that a change would be so dramatic that the country would go to hell in a handcart - notwithstanding that the evidence from countries who do have same sex marriage shows that none of your dire predictions come true if you encourage drifting people to form stabilising relationships.

So who of our opponents is right - those who claim marriage is not needed because it won't make a difference, or those who claim it must not be allowed because it will destroy the world as we know it?

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 7 August 2012 at 8:26am BST

Rev Dave: did they ever do that philosophical exercise with you at theological college called 'can an Is become an Ought'? I can't help but feel that your posting's an attempt to do just that.

The argument is full of holes anyway. To talk (for example) about 'marriage' without tying it down to a specific culture is pretty meaningless. After all, even within the last 400 years 'marriage' has significantly changed its spots within CofE liturgy. Even something as simple as the fact that longevity in the west is now such that child-rearing is no longer going to occupy the whole of one's married life fundamentally changes its character.

Posted by david rowett at Tuesday, 7 August 2012 at 9:22am BST

Your argument is circular, RevDave.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 7 August 2012 at 9:38am BST

RevDave makes an eloquent case for why every woman concerned about the equal treatment of women ought to be out there actively campaigning for equal marriage.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Tuesday, 7 August 2012 at 11:04am BST

"cannot form an intergenerational family which undermines marriage as the basis for family life."

"we have suffered culture change such that the natural commitment and responsibility people feel towards family members (children and elderly) is being undermined."

Neither of these statements are factual.

We have an intergenerational family.

We have cared for the children and parents and wider family under the same roof for twenty-odd years.

I really fail to see why people would want to make these false assertions. Nor can I see how our wishing to have our marriage publicly acknowledged does anything but support the extended family principle RevDave would want to embrace, it adds to it, it takes nothing away.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Tuesday, 7 August 2012 at 11:06am BST

william, even if the Catholic Church had spoken unambiguously regarding slavery since the 1400's (and it has not - check out the Papal bull Dum diversas or Romanus pontifex), Catholic history did not begin in the 1400's. St Thomas Aquinis was very influential in his argument that natural law did not forbid slavery, for example. The Church frequently opined that Christians ought not to enslave Christians, but Muslims and pagans were long considered fair game. The Church did not unambiguously condemn all slavery until Vatican II.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Tuesday, 7 August 2012 at 11:53am BST

"Hmm, noone has stated reasons why it is a bad idea to legally define single-sex sexual partnerships and male-female marriages as the same cultural and legal entity yet."

And RevDave insists on ignoring a century of scientific and psychiatric research that concludes that same sexuality is a natural variation, not an illness.

He also insists on ignoring the individual and collective experience of millions of people for many generations, that same sex relationships can be authentic, loving, durable, and can indeed raise children.

In this brutal and brutalized age where greed and fanaticism rise up to kiss one another, I should think that expanding the meaning of marriage and family would be a most desirable cultural change.

Posted by Counterlight at Tuesday, 7 August 2012 at 2:10pm BST

RevDave, the use of numerals and decimal points does not advance the logic of your argument. It remains a non sequitur. The marriage of a couple consisting of one member of each sex does not have any "inherent" capacity to procreation, solely on the basis of their sex. Such a couple either has "actual" capacity for procreation or it doesn't.

1. A couple including a person of each sex, *each of whom is capable of procreation* has an inherent capacity to procreate as a couple.

1.1 This means that the inability of either or both members of the couple to procreate prevents the couple from procreation.

2. The inability to procreate is not grounds for forbidding marriage, or dissolving marriage.

2.2 This means that those who wish to prohibit same-sex marriage on this ground need to come up with a better argument.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Tuesday, 7 August 2012 at 2:25pm BST

@rjb

In fact in Milbank's earlier work he praises the sublime homosexuality of the angels.

He has recently spoken of the need to develop a new sacrament for the blessing of gay relationships, rather than using marriage

Posted by Gus at Tuesday, 7 August 2012 at 3:20pm BST

I'd be curious from the putative logicians what is at fault in the following:

1. Men & women are by nature genetically distinct types of human being, with complementary inherent attributes: physically, physiologically, mentally and biologically as well as sexually. So:

1.1 This means that a marriage of one person of each sex is more than the sum of its parts, and has inherent potential lacking in a sexual partnership between two people of a single sex.
1.2 And it means that a sexual partnership between a woman and a man is inherently different from that between two women or two men.
1.3 And it means that two males or two females inherently cannot produce children [in fact they cannot even have sex in the biological sense] and so cannot form an intergenerational family.

Thanks

Posted by c.r.seitz at Tuesday, 7 August 2012 at 11:44pm BST

Dear Erika, how did you read my posting as blaming civil partnerships for all the problems of current society? And I didn't say that just changing the name of civil partnerships was a problem either. Do please read what I said, not what you might fear I said!

Dear Martyn, commendable as adoption is, it is a substitute for a natural intergenerational family, not the real thing.

Dear David Rowett, your argument about changing societal definitions rather proves my point -- that the one thing every culture has always agreed on is that marriage involves a man and a woman (though in some cultures one or other may already be married)!

Dear Counterlight, I didn't ignore loving committed same-sex loving relationships - I pointed out how they are inherently different to male-female marriage.

Dear Tobias, your points evade, rather than address, the main point of my argument: that men and women are *inherently* different and physiologically, biologically and sexually *complementary*. This is not the case for two people of a single sex and I argued that changing the legal definition of marriage to include two men or two women will inevitably affect the rights of children and exacerbate the recent societal decline in attitudes to caring for both children and the elderly (Many more children and elderly are ending up uncared-for and lonely).

Is anyone able to debate the points I made, rather than just construct arguments around them?

Posted by RevDave at Wednesday, 8 August 2012 at 12:15am BST

The word 'Marriage' is just that - a word -describing different relationships in different situations.

I don't know whether religious Sisters are still given a ring to signify their Marriage to Christ?

And then there's the 'Marriage Feast of the Lamb' to which all who belong to Him are invited - signifying their relationship with Him.

Neither of these 'Marriage' situations have much to do with heterosexual partnership. So why do we need to exclude this term from covering another sort of life-long relationship - that of loving acceptance of one's Same-Sex partner?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 8 August 2012 at 12:43am BST

C R Seitz
the problem is that you absolutely insist on rooting marriage in biology.
There is no reason to do that.
Childless couples live out successfully that marriage transcends biology and that, for Christians, the true goods of marriage go beyond animal coupling and reproduction.

I find it fascinating when people categorically state that gay people cannot have a normal family life, when the lived reality - not just theoretically, but empiricaly observed and documented reality is that they do bring up children and look after parents, just as the lived reality of many straight couples is that they do not have children - either because they cannot or because the do not want them.
What lies behind this complete denial of reality?

I find this view "heterosexual has the innate ability to procreate, even when they don't" and "gay people cannot have their own children, even when they do" rather missing the point.

It's missing the reality of life - and I cannot subscribe to a view of faith that ignors the lived reality outside church walls.
And it completely misunderstands what marriage is actually about.

You and those who think like you will not be persuaded, I accept that.
But the truth is that you only get answers to the questions you ask.
So if you limit the question to: "Can gay people have children who are genetically the offspring of both", then the answer is naturally No.

I just don't see why anyone, especially not a Christian whose faith elevates human life beyond pure animal experience and who cannot possibly believe that sacraments are rooted in biology, should restrict the question like that.

Unless we're really seeing nothing other than an attempt to shroud prejudice and a yuck factor in respectable sounding theology.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 8 August 2012 at 8:19am BST

Here's what's wrong with it:

1. Men & women are by nature genetically distinct types of human being, with complementary inherent attributes: physically, physiologically, mentally and biologically as well as sexually. So:


ALL human beings--except for identical twins--are genetically distinct from each other.

1.1 This means that a marriage of one person of each sex is more than the sum of its parts, and has inherent potential lacking in a sexual partnership between two people of a single sex.

Since the opening paragraph is built on a false premise, this one naturally falls apart as well. Every relationship is more than the sum of its parts.


1.2 And it means that a sexual partnership between a woman and a man is inherently different from that between two women or two men.

Who said it wasn't? For that matter, every sexual partnership between a woman and a man is inherently different from that of every other partnership between a woman and a man.

1.3 And it means that two males or two females inherently cannot produce children [in fact they cannot even have sex in the biological sense] and so cannot form an intergenerational family.

Aah...we're back to the procreation argument. I thought we'd put paid to that one, when we noted that there is no prohibition on infertile individuals (whether due to illness, accident or age) getting married. And, of course, the church completely recognizes adopted children as no different from natural ones, so--yes--a same-sex couple can, indeed, form an intergenerational family, as hundreds around the world have.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 8 August 2012 at 11:11am BST

"Dear Martyn, commendable as adoption is, it is a substitute for a natural intergenerational family, not the real thing."

I dare you--in fact, in the parlance of the American street, I double-dog dare you--to say this to an adopted child or his parents or grandparents and not suffer at least humiliation, if not actual physical violence.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Wednesday, 8 August 2012 at 11:13am BST

C.R. Seitz: Logic is only as valid as its premises, and the inferences drawn therefrom. So 1 postulates that all members of the class "men" and all members of the class "women" are more alike than a given man is to a given woman--complementariness wholesale, not retail, even as to the "mental" (what about the spiritual?). Debatable, to put it mildly, especially as in Christ Jesus there is no male or female.

1.1 assumes these presumed, not demonstrated, differences are such that they make the heterosexual union more than the sum of its parts, but tacitly presumes that the individual differences do not have that effect. In my profession, law, we have an old saying that "a distinction without a difference" is not valid. Complementariness in marriage is lived at the individual, not the wholesale level.

1.2 rests entirely on 1.1, and assumes the gender difference is not only a distinction with a difference, and one which is positive enough to warrant special status. Perhaps, but not demonstrated.

1.3 doesn't flow from the earlier steps, and adds children as definitional by fiat. Older and infertile couples beware!

Finally, all of these steps presume a constant, unchanging definition of marriage. The sharp decline in "sister wives" since biblical times, and of treaty marriages might be worthy of note here.

Posted by John Wirenius at Wednesday, 8 August 2012 at 11:48am BST

"Dear Counterlight, I didn't ignore loving committed same-sex loving relationships - I pointed out how they are inherently different to male-female marriage."

Well, you certainly ignored the rest of my point.

From what I remember from past biology classes, there are fewer physical differences between male and female human beings than any other species. I don't see why the presence of a Y chromosome (or its absence) changes anyone's capacity to love, and to make a family. Besides, we were all female at one time in the beginning of our gestation. The Y chromosome only kicks in later. If you don't believe me, then open your shirt and look at your nipples, a fond souvenir of what might have been.

What makes a family is love, not biology.


I notice that all of the anti-gay arguments are on the level of abstraction. They are all arguments for how types are supposed to fit into larger schemes. Anecdotal and empirical evidence is simply, and arbitrarily, dismissed.

There is no scheme. There are no types. The complicated contradictory mess of humanity is what is real. What is glorious about humanity is inextricably bound up with what is base, and with all that comes between those two poles. The variety of humanity seems endless. That variety and complexity, even with all its failings and contradictions, is abundance. It is God's bounty.
It is we who insist on tidying up everything into nice categories that fit neatly into smoothly running cosmic machinery. We imagine ourselves cutting through the Gordian Knot, and then we realize too late that all we've done is cut a baby in half.

Posted by Counterlight at Wednesday, 8 August 2012 at 1:20pm BST

Dr Seitz, 1.1 seems a pretty big leap from 1 - it's claims don't really seem to be based on 1 at all. I think that's where your problem is.

As far as the "anything other than heterosexual procreative sex isn't really sex" bit goes - well, if that's so, the US Republican Party (and not a few Democrats) owe President Clinton an apology for maintaining that he didn't have sex with Ms Lewinsky. It's the same sort of reasoning that leads to heterosexual teens, including those in the organized "abstinence movement," to indulge in oral and anal sex because "it doesn't count."

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Wednesday, 8 August 2012 at 1:51pm BST

Rev Dave, I am not discounting your premise, but your conclusion. Obviously men and women are different; though I demur from the use of "complementary" as demeaning to human nature; I prefer "supplementary" in that the union of a couple is more than the members are on their own. But in fact any two people are different from each other, and the sexual difference is ultimately not determinative unless one chooses to adopt a "sexist" position that asserts it to be determinative. The issue is not, 'are the sexes different' but 'is that difference in fact the determining factor for how a society governs human relations?' I think not. There is obviously no inherent rational requirement that men and women couples be treated differently from other couples. The "particulars" of each relationship will be as they may be -- and an infertile mixed-sex couple (of which there are not a few) is, for the purposes of law, indistinguishable from a same-sex couple. A couple -- any couple -- with children (whether their own biologically or by adoption) will naturally be provided for under a truly equal law.

As to your assertion -- for that is all it is -- that the allowance of same-sex marriage will lead to "change": perhaps that is so, but there is no reason to see it as change for the worse. If it leads to fewer failed "marriages of convenience" or marriages based on internalized homophobia; if children are cared for and loved rather than being abandoned by those who conceived and bore them; if stability and security are encouraged and promoted --- yes, I see that as change, but it is change "devoutly to be wished."

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 8 August 2012 at 2:22pm BST

Ron:

I hardly think that the instances of religious sisters, or the spiritual covenant of Christ with the church fall within the legal definition of marriage, which is discussed here. They may have spiritually diverse meaning, but their irrelevance to our current legal definition of marriage does nothing to advance the argument for gay marriage.

To others:
RevDave is restating the ontological objection, that heterosexual relations trigger a different range of legal consequences to homosexual relations because they are substantially different. The fact that there are relational similarities does not make them the same in substance.

The essential difference here is that those in support of same-sex marriage view opposite gender relations as a procreative necessity, and nothing more.

In contrast, those who oppose same-sex marriage, consider it far too reductive to restrict gender as a mere procreative necessity. (I also realise that it might appear all too temptingly clever to reverse the sense of these words in order to encapsulate the view of same-sex marriage proponents).

We consider opposite gender spouses to be a legal relational necessity of marriage, i.e. gender undergirds the framework of how spouses are and have been legally understood and expected to relate to each other. Why? Because marriage affirms the union of partners in accordance with the sexual differentiation inherent to our species and its survival. That legal union of sexual differentiated partners is central to structuring our society for the benefit of human survival. It presents an exemplar for beneficent participation in furthering society. That goal alone is worthy of State support as marriage.

The problem with the reductive view is that perfectly legal, non-discriminatory jurisprudence that was developed to define legitimate sexual union and adultery, has to be set aside in favour of orientation-free re-definitions. If gender was a secondary relational requirement and not indispensible to the legal character of marriage, this could be done easily. As it is, no-one on TA has presented a legally resilient orientation-free re-definition of these and that speaks volumes.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 8 August 2012 at 8:11pm BST

"'Dear Martyn, commendable as adoption is, it is a substitute for a natural intergenerational family, not the real thing.'

I dare you--in fact, in the parlance of the American street, I double-dog dare you--to say this to an adopted child or his parents or grandparents and not suffer at least humiliation, if not actual physical violence."

I'm glad I missed the ignorant comment Pat quotes reading this thread, and I'm glad I didn't experience it in person. I might not have resorted to physical violence, but I certainly would have raised my voice; I fear I would have lapsed into profanity, as well.

Do not dare to tell me that I, or any other adopted person, didn't have "the real thing" in my relationship with my parents. You simply have no clue what you are talking about, and denigrate an ancient and important institution (and one at the heart of Chtistian theology, at that!) in an effort to score points in an unrelated argument.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Wednesday, 8 August 2012 at 9:36pm BST

Several people have already mentioned the absurdity of discussing this at a theoretical level that ignores the reality lived out in the lives of gay couples. I saw another example quoted in the Living Church today: a bishop at General Convention claimed that exclusive and lifelong fidelity to one other person is predicated on sexual difference..." As if heterosexual couples were naturally monogamous (the divorce rate says otherwise, and anyway, if it's all about sex and biology why do we need marriage at all) and as if gay couples were incapable of it! There's got to be an end to this sort of bizarre abstraction of human experience into neat theoretical bundles.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Wednesday, 8 August 2012 at 9:46pm BST

Obviously the reason that Milbank holds to a view of marriage he is unwilling to negotiate so that the term can then be applied elsewhere is because of what Mr Shepherd holds to be a true state of affairs.

I believe what is required is a special term, a neologism, that tracks with the development of similar special terms like 'Gay' or LGBTABCD.

Posted by cseitz at Wednesday, 8 August 2012 at 11:55pm BST

"As it is, no-one on TA has presented a legally resilient orientation-free re-definition of these and that speaks volumes." - David

Someone hasn't read Br Tobias's book.

Posted by Geoff at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 12:14am BST

"Because marriage affirms the union of partners in accordance with the sexual differentiation inherent to our species and its survival"

That is not a universal premise, that is a conclusion you have come to.

The whole debate is happening precisely because increasingly, people no longer agree with your premise and both gays and straights refuse to be seen in such reductionist terms.

You can, of course, re-state the same premise over and over again in different guises. It makes it no more true or appropriate.

The real questions you have to engage with are why precisely the same forms of family life (childless, with adopted children, with IVF children, with step children) should be considered worthy of marriage when straights are involved but not when the partners are gay.

This completely illogical idea is upheld by nothing but prejudice.
And most people in society are beginning to be very much aware of it and are rejecting it.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 4:27am BST

RevDave, if you are a serving priest, I tremble to think of the effects upon your parishioners of your attitude toward adoptive families. Your response to Martyn (“. . .commendable as adoption is, it is a substitute for a natural intergenerational family, not the real thing”), is simply appalling.

I am an adopted daughter and an adoptive grandmother. After the death of my mother, my father remarried and my stepmother adopted me. I thus acquired a third set of grandparents and an additional extended family. My dead mother’s parents meanwhile took my young stepmother to their hearts – in effect, adopting her into their family; it was she who, many years later, held Grandmother’s hand as she was dying.

Several years ago, to our joy, my daughter and her husband adopted a little girl. She is busy stitching herself into the fabric of our intergenerational, international family.

Your argument against same-sex marriages based upon what you suppose to be ‘natural’ or biological premises simply fails in the face of the lived experience of families like mine, and of current scientific knowledge of gender and sexuality, family structure, and patterns of nurturing and bonding. Humans are built not only to care for their blood kin but to foster and protect others as well. Adoption is a *natural* response, part of our normal repertoire of nurturing behavior, frequently observed in non-human species as well as widely across human societies. To designate adoptive families as “not the real thing” is grossly wrong-headed at this naturalistic level, but even more so at a theological level, given the New Testament image of God the Father who predestined us before the foundation of the world to be his adopted children! Adoption on this view is not second-best or unnatural, but exalted and divinely inspired, an essential part of the plan of salvation. If God is our adoptive parent, how can human families based upon adoption be categorized as mere “substitutes” for “the real thing”?

This type of reasoning about the family makes an idol out of what is erroneously assumed to be natural, ignoring both theological principles and scientific data which would correct its perspective. It betrays both the Gospel and scientific reality. Blinded by its abstract model of the “natural” family, it fails to see the embodied grace of actual families that God has assembled according to His own logic, and thus fails pastorally.

Posted by Mary Clara at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 6:13am BST

Further to Rev Dave: You assert that “changing the legal definition of marriage to include two men or two women will inevitably affect the rights of children and exacerbate the recent societal decline in attitudes to caring for both children and the elderly (Many more children and elderly are ending up uncared-for and lonely).”

If indeed there has been such a decline in people’s willingness to care for children and elders in the U.K., how would extending marriage rights to same-sex couples aggravate that situation? I should have thought such a provision would enable a greater number of stable, committed families to be established, to the overall benefit of society. Legally married gay and lesbian couples would be in a stronger position than they now are to care for children and the elderly (as well as for each other, as they grow old).

But perhaps you believe that same-sex individuals and couples are somehow more selfish than heterosexuals, less capable of family feeling or commitment, and less prepared to care for children and elders? Such a notion would be impossible for me to sustain, based on personal experience. My maternal uncle, a gay man, took exemplary care of his parents, his sister, and his nieces and nephews. On the other side of the family, my father’s sister lived to be 105, and no one in the family doubts that the primary reason for her longevity was the tender, competent care she received from her gay son (with the active support of his life partner). Both men had very active professional and community lives yet always found time to give the highest quality of attention to their multi-generational families.

Yes, extending legal marriage to same-sex couples will change the institution, but what will actually be damaged, other than a cherished (but essentially abstract) idea of how family should look? On changing models and rules for marriage, it’s worth reading the piece by Esther J. Hamori, ‘Biblical Standards for Marriage’, to which there is a link in the article just above this one on TA – ‘Opinion’ for Saturday, 4 August 2012. Dr. Hamori shows that ‘Biblical marriage’ was always changing in line with the actual needs of society. It could be argued that what makes marriage work is precisely its adaptability. We shouldn’t be afraid to adapt it to the needs of our time.


Posted by Mary Clara at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 7:46am BST

Thank you Mary Clara.

In addition - all women everywhere ought to be afraid of arguments that urge confining marriage to 'complimentary' sex roles. Such arguments imprison women in stereotyped images of 'what it is to be a women' ... and 'what it is' always turns out to be 'what somebody else thinks you should be'.

I want marriage to be the free partnership of two individuals, because I want to be free to be myself, the real me I was created to be. And this is not simply about the 'me' I would be in a hypothetical relationship (I am not in one) but the 'me' I am every day of the week, with friends and strangers. I am not 'complimentary' to men and I don't bring a special 'woman's point of view' - I am an individual, answerable first to God, and through him to others, but always as me, not as a social construct as 'a woman'.

Once we go down the route of 'women as complimentary to men' it takes us to a whole load of places no right-minded women would ever want to be.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 9:05am BST

Geoff:
I challenged Tobias to come up with a legally resilient definition on the TA forum and the responses were full of holes.
http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/cgi-bin/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=5477

Erika:
'The real questions you have to engage with are why precisely the same forms of family life (childless, with adopted children, with IVF children, with step children)'

Your challenge reduces sexual differentiation to nothing more than a procreative necessity.

As I said: 'The essential difference here is that those in support of same-sex marriage view opposite gender relations as a procreative necessity, and nothing more.' Therein lies the real reductionism.

Your assertion of prejudice holds no more water than an assertion of prejudice about those who oppose broadening the qualifications for any other claim-right, such as maternity leave for men, or universal British Citizenship for non-nationals.

BTW, when last I checked only relatively few countries have introduced same-sex marriage legislation. What is the status of your Changing Attitudes petitions?

Hardly the groundswell of support that you describe as 'most people in society' (unless you mean the ruling class!)

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 12:08pm BST

The effort to absolutize gender (as an "ontological" point) absent its actual and duly acknowledged performative function is at the root of the "problem" posed or the "impossibility" posited. This sort of _mutatis mutandis_ view of reality is irrational. It is also actually reductive, while the argument for same-sex marriage is expansive. There is not more reason to make gender-difference the sine qua non for marriage other than the traditional belief that it is the gender-difference alone that constitutes grounds for marriage, however artfully phrased that belief may be. This is circular reasoning at its most obvious, and least convincing.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 2:32pm BST

Great postings from Mary Clara.

But if logic's what's required, how about this?

(1) Marriage is a civil institution.

(2) Marriage is the public union of two individuals.

(3) Liberal states have an absolute duty to ensure that none of their citizens are discriminated against.

(4) Homosexual marriage is an absolute civil right.

QED.

One of the many things wrong with the logics of RevDave and C Seitz is that they make no attempt whatever to deal with the question of the relation between church and state, even though the ways in which they frame their arguments imply/smuggle in religious arguments based on divine design ('male and female created He them', etc.).

Posted by John at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 4:36pm BST

Dear Mary Clara and Pat O'Neill

If you track back you will see that I did not say that there is anything wrong with adoption - it is a commendable, self-sacrificing way to make up for the inability of a child's natural parents to raise them themselves (whether by necessity, inability or choice). Martyn and his partner are well known as successful adopters. However, I am a bit surprised at your co-option of the idea of divine adoption to assert that human adoption is equal to natural families.
But most adopted children still want to know who their real parents were at some point - it is a genuine part of who we are! Furthermore, I guess you will know that not all adoptions succeed, that there can be a feeling of not really being a family member in the same way that the biological children in the family are, and that there are statistically higher levels of abuse against step children than against children raised by their biological parents.


ps I do love Paul's use of the image of adoption in Ephesians too; "In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace ..." Halleluia!!

Posted by RevDave at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 6:07pm BST

I wrote "Men & women are by nature genetically distinct types of human being, with complementary inherent attributes: physically, physiologically, mentally and biologically as well as sexually."

Pat O'Neill wrote "Here's what's wrong with it: ... ALL human beings--except for identical twins--are genetically distinct from each other.

Dear Pat, I said that women and men are by nature genetically distinct *types* of human being. Your reductionist argument highlights where the current liberal problem over sexuality stems from: You do not want to recognize that we are part of nature, not above it, and whole integrated beings, that are meant to function in certain ways and have problems when we want to function against those ways.
If there are no inherent differences between men and women as types of human being then why do we discriminate in the Olympics (for instance) between men and women? I'll tell you why - men and women inherently have different bone structures, body mass distributions and muscle fibre types... so the law specifically allows sports to discriminate against transgender individuals! Indeed, not just our bodies and our reproductive bits, but our brains are inherently different: http://current.com/community/89115019_womens-brains-are-different-from-mens-and-heres-scientific-proof.htm

Posted by RevDave at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 6:34pm BST

"If you track back you will see that I did not say that there is anything wrong with adoption..."

Nothing wrong with it save that it isn't a "real" intergenerational family. As one who as observed many families...both "natural" and adoptive...I can tell you that I know a great many adoptive families who are stronger and more "related" than natural ones.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 7:23pm BST

" Your reductionist argument highlights where the current liberal problem over sexuality stems from: You do not want to recognize that we are part of nature, not above it, and whole integrated beings, that are meant to function in certain ways and have problems when we want to function against those ways."

Yes--and for those whose primary sexual attraction is to people of the same gender, they are meant to function in that way...and to make them function against that definitely causes problems.

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 7:26pm BST

David S., you've helpfully provided the link, so people can check whether my comments were "resilient" enough. Your private judgement that my definition of consummation is inadequate is just that. There is plenty of jurisprudence on sexual activity that would find my definition acceptable, unless you too wish to fall into the Bill Clinton School of Legal Contention Against the Obvious. I believe I noted at the time that a number of laws accept cohabitation of a married couple as proof of consummation, unless explicitly proven otherwise. (See CCL Can. 1061.2 for the RC position.)

In any case, as I also noted at the time, consummation does not "make" the marriage. See this from a legal dictionary:

"The marriage, when otherwise legal, is complete without this [i.e., consummation]; for it is a maxim of law, borrowed from the civil, law, that consensus, non concubitus, facit nuptias. Co. Litt. 33; Dig. 50, 17, 30; 1 Black. Com. 434."

However, definitions of adultery and consummation are really beside the point, as you should know.

If what you really want is a legally resilient definition of marriage that would apply to same-sex couples, do the following, as has been done in New York State (in its Domestic Relations Law) and I imagine in plenty of other states and nations around the world who have made the move to _legalize_ marriage equality:

(1) Replace all instances of "husband" and "wife" and "man" and "woman" with "spouse" or "person" as appropriate.

(2) All other legal requirements remain the same; i.e., age, lack of concurrent marriage, limits as to affinity and consanguinity.

Canute-like refusals to engage with reality do not constitute refutation of what is actually happening. Laws are changing in numerous places, and the failings to which all human relationships give rise are being dealt with: divorce, annulment, child custody, and so forth are all having impact on same-sex marriages, just like mixed-sex marriages.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 10:47pm BST

There is theory, and there is real life.

Millions of gay and lesbian couples around the world are living ordinary lives, and finding fulfilment in relationships, fidelity, service, love, just like heterosexual couples do.

There is no real life distinction in the love within all these relationships.

In real life, equal marriage is coming in country after country.

Ordinary, decent people wish all these couples - heterosexual and gay and lesbian - well.

To be honest, people can compile thousands of pages of contra-indicative theory, but it remains theory, quite detached from the actual lived experience of gay, lesbian, or heterosexual couples.

Even politicians, so often viewed sceptically, 'get' this basic reality.

Sometimes real life just gets on with living and leaves the theorists behind.

This is one such case.

The case for Equal Marriage has already been won. Those Christians who want to accept it (and there ar many) will just go ahead and accept it. Those who don't want to, won't.

But it won't stop Equal Marriage moving ahead, or stop ordinary people living real, and beautiful, and devoted relationships of love.

More and more people (and the law) will recognise these relationships as marriage. It will become a new normality.

People and the law will affirm Gay and Lesbian marriage out of a generosity of love. They will be saying, "We desire to extend the blessing and the sacrament of marriage to our gay and lesbian friends."

Equal Marriage is becoming a new 'de facto' normality. Real life just happens. Theories of exclusivity seem impoverished, but marriage itself will be enriched.

Posted by Susannah at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 10:54pm BST

We absolutize citizenship and specifically reserve the status for natives and their descendants.

What's the performative function required of all British citizens? Yet, we categorically and legally deny non-natives and their descendants of this status.

Marriage can legally maintain its ontological restrictions on the same basis..

Posted by David Shepherd at Thursday, 9 August 2012 at 10:59pm BST

Thank you, Tobias! New York State last year, after ten years of hard work by activists, finally did the right thing and equalized state civil marriage law so that a marriage that is otherwise valid remains valid regardless of the legal sex of the partners.

The intent of New York State law is that "the marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples be treated equally in all respects under the law."

The legal sex of the partners is irrelevant in the contracting of a civil marriage in this state.

This equalization has not done away with any of the other requirements.

Religion, alas, for the most part lags way behind civil law because the usual argument is that we have always done it this way, which is an argument used to support slavery and the subordination of women.

Religions may either modernize or be left behind.


Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 1:26am BST

Tobias:
'Your private judgement that my definition of consummation is inadequate is just that. There is plenty of jurisprudence on sexual activity that would find my definition acceptable.'

Once again, I must remind you that we are discussing these terms as they relate to British jurisprudence. 'Plenty of jurisprudence' elsewhere had little bearing on the failed 2006 lawsuit of Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson for marriage recognition. Legislating for a marriage that is inherently voidable is not legally resilient. The fact that your responses were chopped and changed over the course of that debate proves that gender is more substantial to British marriage than you'd care to admit. That's my point: 'gender undergirds the framework of how spouses are and have been legally understood and expected to relate to each other'.

'(2) All other legal requirements remain the same; i.e., age, lack of concurrent marriage, limits as to affinity and consanguinity.'

So, it is a special pleading. Thanks for letting us know.

British jurisprudence regarding consummation and adultery is not really beside the point (except the one that you are trying to make) and the proposals, at least, mention them as rational concerns. That said, the attempt to resolve orientation disparities through future case law merely exacerbates the issue.

Your comparison of those who oppose same-sex marriage to King Canute would be far more apt if the worldwide adoption of same-sex marriage represented a tidal change. Perhaps, you can enlighten us about the proportion of states worldwide whelmed over by legislation for the recognition of same-sex relations as marriage. Go on, astound me!

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 8:28am BST

David,

You're not a fool. You must know that your logic is faulty.

The argument I put forward is of course not mine - it's made by many lawyers - including, you presumably know, some American Republican Christian ones. It is an argument which sooner or later will win, in the UK as elsewhere. Many Christian leaders - including many Anglican bishops - are not intelligent enough to realise this, and by their stupidity and obstinacy they will drag their church yet further into the mud. One almost despairs at the poor quality of our leaders - except of course that they matter less and less, and a jolly good thing too.

Regards.

Posted by John at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 8:38am BST

Please note the follow-up piece by Jonathan Chaplin, which has been added to the main article above.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 8:58am BST

"We absolutize citizenship and specifically reserve the status for natives and their descendants.

What's the performative function required of all British citizens? Yet, we categorically and legally deny non-natives and their descendants of this status."

Wait a sec...are you saying it is impossible for a non-native of the UK to become a citizen thereof? You have no "naturalization" process for immigrants?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 11:13am BST

For those who erroneously assert that it is only bigotry (religious or otherwise) or ignorance that is behind the belief that two people of a single sex can't be married, here's a quote hot off the [legal] press: " ... it is not beyond rational speculation to conclude that fundamentally altering the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions might result in undermining the societal understanding of the link between marriage, procreation, and family structure." This is one of the main concerns I expressed above. Any reasonable person can see that our current marriage laws are not just based on hatred towards gay people!

Posted by RevDave at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 11:42am BST

John:
Let's apply your logic to citizenship.

(1) British citizenship is a civil institution.

(2) British citizenship is the public recognition of individual liberty (assigning maximal rights and freedoms).

(3) Liberal states have an absolute duty to ensure that none of those who live here are discriminated against (not just citizens).

(4) British citizenship is an absolute civil right?

Well, as we know there are still qualifications inherent to the definition of British citizenship. It is not an absolute civil right. You may hold it to be discriminatory towards those who 'just happen to be born elsewhere', but it's your own logic that fails.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 12:56pm BST

David, I'm willing to give this one last go, but I doubt it will have much impact. You keep talking about "jurisprudence" while apparently failing to recognize its essential quality as evolving. Case law will emerge to define the things about which you appear to be needlessly anxious, as it has elsewhere in the world.

As we are speaking here of making changes to statute law, and the evolutionary quality of "jurisprudence" your insistence that changes cannot be made is meaningless. You seem to want to avoid the very messy work of law that you at the same time call for. The fact is you simply don't want change, and have dug in your heels against it, declaring it to be impossible.

Once SSM is legal in Britain (perhaps in Scotland first and not too long after in England, Wales, and who knows, N.I.) future cases will arise and the legal world will adapt to refine these matters.

After all, the settled decision to rest the "fact" of marriage on consent rather than ooitus didn't happen until the high middle ages, so if it took the law a millennium to refine the definition for mixed-sex marriage, I think we can tolerate a few decades of development for same-sex marriage.

That was my point about the laws in other jurisdictions -- not a special pleading at all; just a recognition that reality -- with which you seem unwilling to engage -- is proceeding apace, and England, though itself "special," will adopt and adapt.

As always, impossibilist arguments run aground on reality. On your last point, check out the tally of nation-states that either have same-sex marriage (Denmark the most recent) or recognize the validity of same-sex marriages from other countries (including Israel). You may not find this astounding, but I consider the pace at which this change has happened to be surprising. The fact that in parts of the world in which same-sex sex (consummated or not?) was criminalized as recently as a few decades ago now permit same-sex marriage represents a significant social and legal change. While not perhaps a tidal wave, the water level is rising -- not sinking. And the prudent will get on board.

The defense rests.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 2:52pm BST

John Bowles says that gay marriage is the result of "shallow secularist values". No. It is a Christian value. Actually opposing gay marriage is a secularist value of previous centuries, which all along has been part of a culture that assumed that being gay was a curse and perversion, along with treating women as lesser beings and children as non-persons. Thank God that we are moving on.

Posted by Adam Armstrong at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 2:53pm BST

Find this hard to believe, David.

The argument I quoted will win because it is simple, clean and obviously just. It is far superior to all this sub-Aristotelian, sub-Stoic (OK, I'm a classicist) and sub-Aquinian stuff you and C Seitz keep trotting out, which - sorry to be crude - evolution has refuted.

Bye.

Posted by John at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 6:54pm BST

RevDave, the use of “real parents” to describe biological or birth parents is highly offensive to adoptees and their families. My real parents were the people who adopted me and gave me a loving home.

The observation that some adoptions do not “succeed” is a problem, too. Are you under the impression that all biological children and their parents form happy, healthy, “successful” bonds? A look at child abuse statistics ought to dissuade you from that belief.

Finally, if adopted relationships are not the equal of biological ones in terms of family formation, then Paul’s use of the term to explain our relationship with God falls flat, and his Gospel is changed into “God isn’t our real Father.” Not terribly Good News.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 7:08pm BST

"For those who erroneously assert that it is only bigotry (religious or otherwise) or ignorance that is behind the belief that two people of a single sex can't be married, here's a quote hot off the [legal] press: "

You're assuming that the Federal judge in Hawaii who made this statement is not motivated by bigotry, religious or otherwise. I believe that's called question begging.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 7:14pm BST

Pat:

'You have no "naturalization" process for immigrants?'

So, a naturalization process proves that British citizenship is an absolute civil right for non-natives and their descendants, eh?

Tell me how an equivalent gay 'naturalisation' process before marriage would work?

Obviously, I am referring to British citizenship as an automatic entitlement. Naturalisation is just another qualification for non-natives.

Well spotted, though..

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 7:21pm BST

Speaking of "running aground on reality" see Yale theologian and Sr professor of CH at Wycliffe, U of Toronto, E Radner's review of Br Haller's book.

One must wonder what the word "impossibilist" actually means unless it is in the land of "the wish is the father of the thought."

Posted by cseitz at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 7:30pm BST

Tobias:

'The fact is you simply don't want change, and have dug in your heels against it, declaring it to be impossible.'

Who said anything was impossible? No, really. Point me to where I said that.

I did state: 'If gender was a secondary relational requirement and not indispensible to the legal character of marriage, this (re-definition) could be done easily.' There's a difference between difficulty and impossibility.

Your 'find and replace' word substitution was supposed to convince us of just how easily, yet you later admit, in respect of specific matters of legal resilience: 'I think we can tolerate a few decades of development for same-sex marriage.' You have not proven that gender is a secondary relational requirement.

We agree that it would, at least, take decades of case law to resolve, presumably at the tax-payers expense. A bit surprising for something that you consider to be quite secondary.

Defence rests? If that's the defence, it should be pensioned off.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 7:50pm BST

Jonathan Chaplin's denial of homophobia in the church is a joke. One of the reasons Parliament came up with the separate-and-unequal institution of civil partnerships is because the Church of England didn't want to treat same-sex couples like all other couples. Allowing different-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships will not solve the problem of how same-sex couples are shut out of civil and religious marriage.


The straight (or at least pretending to be straight) white males made up rules which discriminate against same-sex couples. To say sexuality can only be expressed in marriage makes a whole category of person celibate. They also invented a sadistic, homophobic God, whom they get to ventriloquize.

Same-sex couples and their families deserve all the same rights as everybody else.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by Gary Paul Gilbert at Friday, 10 August 2012 at 9:48pm BST

'Speaking of "running aground on reality" see Yale theologian and Sr professor of CH at Wycliffe, U of Toronto, E Radner's review of Br Haller's book.'

Well, quite! I've read the piece myself: it's strikingly free of any actual substantive counter-argument - he spends the greater part of it complaining about formatting. By forfeiting any semblance of scholastic theology to mine for support for his prejudicial conclusions (à la Gagnon) - the antithesis of scholarship - Radner and his colleagues across the road play right into Wiebe's thesis about the inappropriateness of theology in the academy.

Posted by Geoff at Saturday, 11 August 2012 at 1:05am BST

"So, a naturalization process proves that British citizenship is an absolute civil right for non-natives and their descendants, eh?"

It certainly presumes it is a civil right for any non-native who can meet the requirements therefor; I assume these include length of residence, lack of criminal record, properly filling out the correct governmental forms, etc.

In all of these, it is little different from the requirements to get a civil marriage, right?

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Saturday, 11 August 2012 at 3:13am BST

'It certainly presumes it is a civil right for any non-native who meets the requirements'

Actually, citizenship by naturalisation is at the complete discretion of the Home Secretary. However, there is another status called British National for which most non-natives apply who want to live and work here permanently.

British National is a parallel to British Citizenship as civil partnership is a parallel to marriage. The difference is that British Nationals aren't, for the most part, crying foul at not being automatically entitled to British Citizenship.

Posted by David Shepherd at Saturday, 11 August 2012 at 8:25am BST

"Ron: I hardly think that the instances of religious sisters, or the spiritual covenant of Christ with the church fall within the legal definition of marriage, which is discussed here. They may have spiritually diverse meaning, but their irrelevance to our current legal definition of marriage does nothing to advance the argument for gay marriage."

- David Shepherd -

I suspect here, once again, D.S., you are using casuistry in your argument. Your own prejudice against Gay Marriage is not a legal one, but rather, a religious one - exactly the same ethos in which I have outlined my use of the 'Marriage' word - in not a legal but a religious context.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Saturday, 11 August 2012 at 12:01pm BST

"the inappropriateness of theology in the academy" -- yes, we wouldn't want Yale trained PhDs with long lists of publications getting involved in theological discourse.

Thank goodness someone like Radner bothered to review the book at all. I don't believe I have seen it reviewed in any standard peer-reviewed journal. That's fine. It is what it is. A popular level advocacy book.

Posted by c.r.seitz at Saturday, 11 August 2012 at 1:52pm BST

Well, I suppose one last short rebuttal is in order. I refer you to the notion of gender as "indispensable" in re marriage. This appears to me to be an impossibilist position.

The fact is that gender can, and has been, "dispensed" with as an essential element in the law of marriage in a number of jurisdictions around the world. As far as I know, the law of England is not that of the Medes and Persians and so is capable of similar amendment.

For example: the definition of adultery. Some jurisdictions recognize oral sex with a person not one's spouse to be adultery; some, such as England, do not. A principal of law that is capable of variation across jurisdictions is also capable of change within them. Jesus, after all, stated quite clearly that the eye and the heart could be instruments of adultery. I don't think the English statute needs to be amended to that degree, but as law is capable of describing sexual activities (other than P in V) in cognizable form, it can also easily apply these same standards to adultery. This is not only possible, but it has been done. Moreover, as I noted, there is a longstanding standard of proof of cohabitation as sufficient to establish adultery -- as well as the same standard for consummation -- no actual sexual contact need form a part of the law.

The fact that some, such as David S., find the laws of other states not to be resilient enough is an opinion to which they are of course entitled, but which is not in itself conclusive. If English law is incapable of dealing with new realities, then I will have to file an amicus brief to the case of Mr. Bumble.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Saturday, 11 August 2012 at 3:09pm BST

Our exchange has centred on whether gender is a substantive, rather than secondary relational requirement if marriage.

The test of whether gender is 'indispensable to the legal character of marriage' is to examine how the legal character, i.e. the distinctive defining normative outcomes of statutes and precedents relating to marriage can survive its removal.

It is always possible to re-define, but is the legal character of marriage destroyed in the process?

If gender is secondary, every reference to it in matrimonial causes can be easily expunged without unravelling the existing common fabric of UK marriage statutes and binding precedents.

Even your last convoluted attempts to vary the definition of adultery (from oral sex to lustful thoughts) have failed that test miserably.

Gender remains a substantive relational requirement of marriage.

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 12 August 2012 at 12:48am BST

David Shepherd, your description of "British National" doesn't seem to square with the information on the Border Agency's site: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/britishcitizenship/aboutcitizenship/

There's a category called British National (Overseas), which was constructed for residents of Hong Kong in the wake of its return to China; it's not normally granted any more.

Also, according to the UKBA, citizenship applications are supposed to be dealt with in accordance with immigration law and policy, so saying citizenship is completely at the discretion of the Home Secretary seems a bit of a stretch.

According to Wikipedia there is such a thing as United Kingdom National that is sometimes informally called a British National; it's a term that means different things in different Acts of Parliament. None of those things seems to be the status you describe.

Posted by Bill Dilworth at Sunday, 12 August 2012 at 2:32am BST

The arguments are clear: is marriage about gender-roles, or about the quality of self giving love?

Is it about how physical bits fit together, or is it about commitment?

The side-show is: do we read any verses in the Bible as culturally conditioned or not? Does a church which agreed to differ over remarriage after divorce (which Jesus forbids) permit same-sex marriage which he never mentions?

That is how 20 years (20+ years) of arguments boil down. There has not been a new argument in all that time.

Posted by Rosemary Hannah at Sunday, 12 August 2012 at 8:01am BST

Bill:
I said: 'Actually, citizenship by naturalisation is at the complete discretion of the Home Secretary. However, there is another status called British National for which most non-natives apply who want to live and work here permanently.'

Wikipedia:
'British Citizenship can be acquired in the following ways:..
5. By naturalisation -
'Naturalisation as a British citizen is at the discretion of the Home Secretary (i.e., in practice, his or her officials). The Home Secretary may grant British citizenship to anyone they "think fit".[12] Although the Home Office sets down a number of official requirements for naturalisation, the Home Office may waive any of these, or may conversely refuse citizenship to a person even if they meet all of the requirements'

A good example of this refusal was former Harrods owner, Mohamed Al-Fayed.

I admit that British (or UK) National is a broader term that extends to include a variety of former British Subjects.

The key point is that, like marriage, British Citizenship is not an automatic entitlement. There are obvious parallels with marriage entitlement vis-a-vis civil partnership.

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 12 August 2012 at 9:47am BST

"Even your last convoluted attempts to vary the definition of adultery (from oral sex to lustful thoughts) have failed that test miserably."

But this is what it comes down to, right? You're basically saying, roundaboutly, that the "test" is whether the Jenga puzzle can stand with that piece removed. And you don't believe it can because you don't believe it can, and arguments to the contrary are wrong because they are contrary.

Empirically, Tobias has pointed to several instances where the "societal fabric" has remained intact after expansion - again, reality is where the "contra" line begins to unravel. The implications of insisting in an idealized prelapsarian biological "integrity" to family-making has, by contrast, been shown to be disastrous, as RevDave had to find out the hard way. And still, in hetero-Topsy Turvy Land, promoting marriage and its spread is sure to be its undoing; marriage must somehow be at once the standard to which all relationships are held and yet the exclusive preserve of only some (and the instructions for those whose is conscience is bound so inevitably vague: hope for a celibate vocation or slide toward suicide). To DavidS and cseitz this may be a convincing retort to Haller's view; fine, but it all sounds to me very much like the dying gasp of old bigotries and special pleadings. In any event it is certainly not academic.

Posted by Geoff at Sunday, 12 August 2012 at 10:17am BST

Time to close this discussion, I think.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 12 August 2012 at 1:37pm BST

c. r. seitz wrote:
I don't believe I have seen it reviewed in any standard peer-reviewed journal. That's fine. It is what it is. A popular level advocacy book.

Charles Hefling, of Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
wrote this in The Anglican Theological Review Winter 2010, Volume 92 Number 1, 225-226.
http://jintoku.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/another-review.html

Ephraim Radner's review in The Living Church is available here
http://reasonableandholy.blogspot.co.uk/2010/02/review-from.html

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 13 August 2012 at 8:33am BST