Comments: House of Commons considers Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

"The Ayes have it. The Ayes have it."

Ayes : 400. Noes : 175.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Tuesday, 5 February 2013 at 8:12pm GMT

It was a big enough majority to have secured women bishops!

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Tuesday, 5 February 2013 at 10:37pm GMT

The result of this debate shows the dedication of Prime minister Cameron to the cause of justice for LGBT persons living in England and Wales, and is therefore a brave step for him - considering the fact that many of his Conservative M.P.s seem to have failed to meet the criteria by voting against. It was good to see that both the Labour and Lib-Dems were majorly in support of this important legislation.

One now awaits the presumed denial of this work of justice towards the recognition of rights to the LGBT community - by the Bishops in their position of most favoured representation in the House of Lords' - in their treatment of the Bill.

Presumably, after his so-recent opposition of the legislation voiced by the new ABC at his clerical affirmation in St. Paul's Cathedral, we can expect his fellow episcopal Lords to follow suit, and vote it down. However, justice (hopefully) will out - eventually.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 5 February 2013 at 11:19pm GMT

The debate as reported from Canada

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 2:57am GMT

On this subject: The 'Ugley Vicar' has said this on his blog:

"Same-sex attraction is a sexual attraction. It is not just about feelings of love. The debate said a lot about love and commitment. What did it say about sex?"

I would ask, "isn't this the same with heterosexual attraction, too - that SEX is involved?"

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 5:40am GMT

Damian Thompson suggests that David Cameron has left a bomb in the crypt of the Church of England

Lord Adonis advises new ABC

Posted by Labarum at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 6:37am GMT

It was once said by a government "spin doctor" we don't do God". Having listened intermittently to yesterday's Commons debate I was amazed at the number of references M.Ps made to God and Jesus!

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 8:09am GMT

Yo, Ugley Vicar: the Church gets to say something about Love&Commitment. Sex is SOLELY up to those so lovingly commited!

Posted by JCF at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 9:05am GMT

My old Trotskyist ally Mike Wood (Batley and Spen) voted against.
We trained for priesthood together 40 years ago. Haven't spoken to him in a decade, does anyone have any info on why this famous rebel has voted this way?

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 10:40am GMT

On this subject: The 'Ugley Vicar' has said this on his blog:

"Same-sex attraction is a sexual attraction. It is not just about feelings of love. The debate said a lot about love and commitment. What did it say about sex?"

I regret this obsession with, which gives every appearance of pandering to the spirit of the age. Our culture seems pretty averse to thinking of, or portraying Love, overmuch. I never thought it would ineffect those out and out for Evangelicalism.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 11:51am GMT

After reading what the "Ugley Vicar" has to say, I am forced to ask myself whether or not the ontological facts of nature that we observe will ever be able to convince people who cling to some supposed teleological facts of nature that are of human construction. (I realize that they would say they are divine construction.) This fundamental dichotomy in view points seems to underlie all discussions of gender (women's ordination, equal marriage), the evolution/creationism debates (intelligent design presupposes purpose), and perhaps other issues I can't think of at the moment. Sometimes I despair of ever being able to reconcile the the two views.

Posted by David Bieler at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 2:38pm GMT

The Ugley Vicar should note that civil partnerships are not actually about sexual relationships. This is from Louis Letourneau at the website:

"But there are differences as we saw during the Lords Debate, Baroness Scotland (the Minister) answered the homophobic Lord Tebbit by referring to ‘one of the major differences between civil marriage and civil partner to be valid was of course, consummation. For a marriage, it has to be consummated by one man and one woman and there is a great deal of jurisprudence which tells one exactly what consummation amounts to—partial or impartial, penetration or no penetration. There is no provision for consummation in the Civil Partnership Bill. We do not look at the nature of the sexual relationship that enters into the civil partnership. It is totally different in nature.’ That shut him up."

Posted by Tim Moore at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 3:44pm GMT

Oh dear in my previous comment, I notice I failed to identify a regrettable obsession. Does that mean I am myself in fact, obsessed ? I think a Freudian approach would suggest it! A more charitable approach might say, look, see jsut how much I can take it or leave it !

The missing word, of course, is 'sex'.

However, I regret to see that yesterday's Vote has, 'in fact' had some regrettable sequelae, as predicted by some of the more alarmist nay-sayers !

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 4:42pm GMT

Now is the time for all clergy in civil partnerships to start drafting a letter to their Diocesan and Area/Suffragan Bishops asking when they will make it possible for them to exercise their legal rites to civil marriage? They might like to suggest that the CofE takes a step back from the indiscriminate recognition of civilly celebrated marriages and recognises only marriage celebrated in church, investing only these with sacramental status. - That would put the cat amongst the pigeons!
But the HoB will continue to act against its civilly partnered priests by banning them, not from consideration for episcopal office, but from the exercise of their legal rights and from supporting the married state by their personal commitment to it.

Posted by commentator at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 5:20pm GMT

Excellent advice from Andrew Adonis. There is so much the ABC can and needs to do AT HOME. Work that would have a meaningful impact and spreading of the Good News. That would be a very good example to the Anglican Communion.

If he continues Rowan's pattern of trying to leverage Africa against TEC, Canada, and other progressive churches, we are doomed to another useless, hurtful, and wasteful dance. And further isolate CoE from the people they are supposed to serve, English and Welsh people whose taxes go into supporting CoE.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 5:30pm GMT

Regarding the whole "love" vs "sex" -- and for some on both sides, apparently, it is "vs", rather than "and" -- debate,
I remember having similar debates with gay friends in the 1990s, when the real possibility of same-sex marriage began to emerge in the USA. Some of my more radical friends felt that the whole concept of marriage was a patriarchal sell-out, that being gay meant never having to say "I do!" That it was all about the pure enjoyment of sex for itself.
To those people, I simply say, "Then marriage is not for you, but how about showing some respect for your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters for whom marriage is important, for whom commitment is important, who want to be recognized as being in a loving relationship 'til death to them part?"
Nowadays, two people who enter into marriage make of it what they will. Society, for the most part, doesn't bother with how the two people in the marriage respectfully treat each other. The relationship can be "The husband is Lord and Master". The relationship can be a partnership of two equals.
Lastly, after all this fuss and bother, if same-sex marriage is approved, never underestimate the power of mothers: "So, son, when are you and Michael going to settle down and get married? Don't you think it's time? You've been together forever ..."

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 8:02pm GMT

" I was amazed at the number of references M.Ps made to God and Jesus!"

Posted by: Father David

And isn't it salutary, that it took a debate about Gays to bring up the subject of God and Jesus ? This surely must be a plus for those who really believe that God cares for homos as well as heterosexuals!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 6 February 2013 at 10:33pm GMT

Father Ron - I've never for a single moment doubted that God cares equally for both homosexuals and heterosexuals - all those He has created in humankind are deeply loved and valued in his sight. My great hope is that the Almighty and His only begotten Son make more regular appearances in the chamber of the House of Commons as their presence might just well improve the quality of the debate, if not the outcome of the vote.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 6:25am GMT

And such wonderful support for heterosexual marriage, especially from those who think it so important that, like Roger Gale MP, they have done it three times.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 9:26am GMT

Judging from Bp Tom Butler's 'Thought for the Day' this morning, the overwhelming vote for equal marriage this week ought to prompt the C of E into considering allowing the blessing of civil partnerships in church. On this timescale the C of E will be considering allowing equal marriage in church in about ten years time.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 9:30am GMT

I've just heard some of the debate in the House of Commons, and am very much impressed by wya in which it was conducted. The arguments for Gay Marriage were clear and succinct - dispelling any doubt by religious dissidents that they might be penalised for not rejoicing at the probable outcome of the proposed legislation. Bravo the House!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 10:24am GMT

Whither Marriage Part 1:

Unless the House of Lords achieves something quite remarkable, it does seem that same sex marriages will be solemnised quite soon; it does seem that liberal and soft left elite in the legislature is in favour of the development by a great majority; and that the Conservative party alone matches the general view among the electorate - equally divided, for and against.

Arguments against the propriety of proceeding without electoral mandate and without a super-majority in the general population do seem already to have been discounted, so where does that leave the nation?

Up until now we have been able to say that there was one institution of marriage entered into by civil or religious (rites and) ceremonies, and one lawful way to dissolve such a marriage, even if some religious organisations do not recognise such state administered divorces.

Perhaps the time has come for the state on one hand, and the churches and faith-communities on the other, to make separate provisions.

The state should restrict itself to setting out the broadest possible contractual framework to regulate the financial responsibilities and tax liabilities of persons who contract a marriage as defined by the state; to legislate for the protection of children; for the prevention of the problems of in-breeding; and to define the rules of inheritance. The churches and faith communities should be free to continue to define marriage and the rules for divorce according to their own lights with only the lightest oversight of the state.

Given that marriage is to be permitted between two persons of the same sex, why should polygamous and polyandrous marriages not be permitted? Polygamy at least is a cultural norm for a substantial minority of our immigrants. If you are going for a liberal and multicultural state, how can the arguments for such a development be resisted?

Posted by Labarum at Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 2:29pm GMT

Whither Marriage Part 2

So, it's a civil marriage ceremony for all, to establish a legal contract, with a religious solemnisation for those that choose it, and those that choose a definition of marriage that is differently specified. Church courts would need to be restored to adjudicate the dissolution of religious marriages, and the current practice of allowing the Jewish community to establish private tribunals to consider matrimonial disputes extended to Sharia tribunals, subject again to the supervision of Law Courts of the land.

The English parishioners right to marry should be withdrawn, so that only those who assent to the church's doctrine on marriage may have the marriage service of the Church of England read over them. I do not believe this necessarily ends the Establishment of the CofE, but it does weaken the tie.

Some may think the legislation currently in process brings closure to some issues of equality. It doesn't. It raises as many issues as it claims to solve.

Posted by Labarum at Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 2:31pm GMT

"Given that marriage is to be permitted between two persons of the same sex, why should polygamous and polyandrous marriages not be permitted?"

Oh, that slippery slope. Once you allow a man to have one wife, the next thing you know, he wants five.

Posted by dr.primrose at Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 10:27pm GMT

I have just submitted my own opinion on the felicity of the debate on 7th February in the House of Commons. I'm not sure they will take any notice of a submission from far off New Zealand (we are in the midst of our own debate in the New Zealand Anglican Church), but I thought I must do what I can to support the Parliament of the country of my birth.

I urge any of you here who supports Gay Marriage to send in your own submission. Every little helps.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 11:47pm GMT

"Given that marriage is to be permitted between two persons of the same sex, why should polygamous and polyandrous marriages not be permitted?"

Striking non-sequitur.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Friday, 8 February 2013 at 1:21am GMT

The second reading in British politics is a key moment and calls for a brief pause before the next stage (committee) begins.

I have a number of reflections.

1. The CofE may want to reflect on how hitching one's wagon to the star of C4M, the extremist Christian Institute (organisation behind C4M and who opposed every single move towards LGBT equality without a single exception). C4M do not come out of this debate looking sane or balanced.

I am not asking people to say things they don't believe but subcontracting CofE "thought" to C4M is not a good way to go.

2. The CofE needs to reflect on the extent to which it is pushing the debate forwards in ways it might not realise. Its vitriolic attack on the original proposals led to the Government backing down and allowing religious marriages. Now it is attacking the exclusion of heterosexuals from Civil Partnerships. It remains to be seen if the CofE is equally successful here. It would be good to see.

3. I really do think with such a large majority it is time to now work on improving the bill which clearly is going to be adopted and leave this offensive and extremist campaign of scaremongering (engineered by C4M) behind.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Friday, 8 February 2013 at 7:48am GMT

Dr. Primrose:

Labarum could be a covert conservative, but there's no hint of tongue-in-cheek. If he's a liberal he's merely advocating a clearer separation between the civil and religious marriage.

It's not a scare-mongering slippery slope argument when it comes from a more extreme element on your side of the debate. To some liberals who favour his argument, and for whom you now have no reasonable counter-argument, it's the next logical step to extend marriage to encompass UK minority customs of world religions and personal motives above a shared consistent public meaning.

You wouldn't have a problem with 'extending' marriage to be inclusive of practices within other major religions, would you?

That includes those that claim with you that marriage can be and is constantly redefined, even to include polygamy.

You haven't got a leg to stand on.

Posted by David Shepherd at Friday, 8 February 2013 at 8:27am GMT

"Given that marriage is to be permitted between two persons of the same sex, why should polygamous and polyandrous marriages not be permitted? "

If you really can't tell the difference, then you probably *do* need someone to tell you whom to marry.

Posted by MarkBrunson at Friday, 8 February 2013 at 10:00am GMT

Actually, any argument against polygamy or polyandry has to stand on its own legs regardless of the success of marriage equality for same-sex couples. There is no natural slippage from same-sex monogamy to mixed-sex polygamy. The real slip is from mixed-sex monogamy to mixed-sex polygamy, amply displayed in the early chapters of Genesis.

It is a fair question to ask, but the context is wrong. Opposition to Muslim or Fundamentalist Mormon polygamy needs to find its own logical legs; and something other than circular reasoning is needed. But this has nothing to do with same-sex marriage, other than the fact that some of the arguments in FAVOR of SSM actually work AGAINST polygamy, most principally the notion of marriage as an exclusive partnership between two persons, because only a couple can be truly "mutual." Just as "no man can serve two masters" a man cannot equally and mutually love two wives, nor a wife two husbands. In my opinion this dynamic is true of any triad, regardless of the sex of the parties involved: teeter-totters and scales have two arms, not three. Balancing the emotional, social, and sexual dynamics of a triad is inherently more complex (if possible) than that of a dyad.

Does that work?

Posted by Tobias Haller at Friday, 8 February 2013 at 5:27pm GMT

I think we all have to accept that any future parliament could make any changes to marriage legislations it wished to provided it got the required majority.

The question is how likely it is that polygamy would suddenly become a major issue in society.

Right now, gay people want exactly what straights have - exactly the same exclusive relationship between 2 committed people.

How you can jump from there to saying that there will be a sudden groundswell of opinion that wants to introduce polygamy, when that has not yet ever been mooted among the largely straight population, I don't understand at all.

Thin end of the wedge arguments always assume that allowing something that most people believe is good will immediately result in a grassroots movement to get something that most people believe is bad.

But, yes, if the grassroots movement was there and if it became strong enough and if the majority in society began to want it, then a future parliament would be within its right to introduce it.

We cannot legislate for future generations nor should we want to.
All we can do is make decisions for our own based on the justness or not of the actual questions we are discussing.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 8 February 2013 at 5:40pm GMT

"Given that marriage is to be permitted between two persons of the same sex, why should polygamous and polyandrous marriages not be permitted?

Red herring.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 8 February 2013 at 5:49pm GMT

David, the extreme on your side wants to kill gay people. The extremes on either side are not going to happen -- the chances of "death to gays" or polygamy being adopted in the U.K., the U.S. or Canada is nil.

Posted by dr.primrose at Friday, 8 February 2013 at 6:11pm GMT


Not a red herring at all. If the traditional understanding of marriage is to be modified on grounds of equality and non-discrimination, all cultural practices have to be embraced in the rules of a liberal, multi-cultural society.

What justification is there for refusing equal treatment to minority groups that have for generations considered polygamy or polyandry both acceptable and normal?

Posted by Labarum at Friday, 8 February 2013 at 6:50pm GMT

"What justification is there for refusing equal treatment to minority groups that have for generations considered polygamy or polyandry both acceptable and normal?"

I'm sorry that you don't appear to have read any of the answers people gave on this list.

The question is not what a minority group wants but whether it can convince a majority in society that the wish is justified and whether it can drum up a parliamentary majority for its wish.

And so I would say that it is highly unlikely that Britain will ever legislate for polygamy, but we have to say that, theoretically, if enough people want it in the future it can happen.

Now tell me what that has to do with marriage equality?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 8 February 2013 at 10:41pm GMT

"What justification is there for refusing equal treatment to minority groups that have for generations considered polygamy or polyandry both acceptable and normal?"

As Jonathan Rauch noted several years ago in his book on same-sex marriage, there are strong societal reasons for not having polygamy. In humankind unaffected by abortion or gender selection, children are born almost exactly 50% each for boys and girls. One man having five wives essentially results in four men having no wife. That situation results in significant social instability in a couple of ways, he says.

To begin with, unattached men tend to be less socially responsible and to engage in irresponsible activity, sowing one’s wild oats and all that. They generally become more responsible when they marry. Encouraging men to become involved in marriage, regardless of whethe the marriage partner is male or female, benefits society as a whole.

In addition, a polygamous society has serious problems figuring out what to do with the surplus men. In fundamentalist Mormon societies that practice polygamy, the solution has been to find excuses for kicking the excess boys out of the community in their late teens and early 20s. This is a horrible situation for the boys, who are then cut off from the only community they’ve ever known. This situation then increases the likelihood of social irresponsibility of unmarried.

There is therefore a social benefit of encouraging gay men in particular to get married to encourage greater social responsibility. By contrast, there is no social benefit – and in fact a social detriment – to permit polygamy.

Posted by dr.primrose at Friday, 8 February 2013 at 10:58pm GMT

Perhaps we should ask King David, his general Uriah, and Bathsheba about Biblical marriage.

Polygamy was the norm for marriage in the ancient world, especially for those who could afford it. The Mormon fundamentalists are right about that. The point of marriage for centuries was to produce sons to perpetuate the family name and inheritance. Why risk everything on monogamy with a barren wife?

People didn't start marrying out of love in large numbers until very recently. Before the 18th century, love was for children, not for spouses. All of the great love affairs of early literature were adulterous, even Dante's yearning for Beatrice.

I think we moderns are much better off for all of our marriage woes and family difficulties. Marriage as an equal partnership creating a small loving community to meet the chances of life belongs to our time. The genders of the equal partners no longer matter. That may be an innovation, but it is a happy and healthy one.

Posted by Counterlight at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 2:34am GMT

"What justification is there for refusing equal treatment to minority groups that have for generations considered polygamy or polyandry both acceptable and normal?"

I can't see why allowing gay marriage makes polygamy any more likely. It seems to me that once society has created any sort of legal machinery by which people can declare a commitment to one another it is then possible for anyone to claim that they should also be allowed to enter into such a relationship. That doesn't, however, mean that they will. The word "marriage" could, theoretically, be used of any relationship we want it to. It is up to particular societies at particular moments to decide what they think it should mean and design legislation accordingly. Would a relationship between an adult man and a twelve year old girl be considered as "marriage", for example? Not now in the UK - indeed it would get you locked up and put on the sex offenders' register - but for most of our history, and in many parts of the world today, it would be considered entirely unremarkable and perfectly legitimate. "Marriage" is whatever we decide it is. We are perfectly at liberty to decide to restrict it in whatever ways we want. Opening it to gay couples doesn't make it more or less likely that we will eventually sanction polygamy, any more than it makes it likely that we will sanction (again) the marriage of chidren.

Posted by Anne at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 5:23am GMT


My point is a simple one. If a state that has hitherto defended traditional Judeo-Christian mores decides that it will no longer; but that it should frame legislation in accord with the lights of a post-modern relativistic multi-culturalism, how does it justify admitting the legitimacy of same sex marriage while refusing to recognise polygamous (or polyandrous) marriages?

Posted by Labarum at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 11:27am GMT

I will make the same point for a third time.

The state can do what it likes. It does not have to "justify" anything beyond the level required to get a parliamentary majority for it.

And if there is a sufficient majority in society and in parliament who want polygamy, a future parliament can introduce it.

At present, there is a sufficient majority in society and in parliament to support a change in the understanding of marriage to include same sex couples.
And so that will become law.

Where's the problem?

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 1:02pm GMT

And a sigh from me, Labarum.
The state justifies its decisions about whether or not to call a particular relationship "marriage" according to whatever a majority of its people happen to have decided it should. It is called democracy. If the UK wished to recognise polygamous relationships as marriage, or indeed relationships between adults and 12 year olds (as it has done in the past), it could do so. It is up to us as members of that state to define what sort of relationships we wish to legitimise and support; it is our responsibility in every age to decide what is healthy, good and appropriate. At this time people do not generally want to recognise polygamous relationships as marriage in the UK - there is nothing to say that might not happen at some time in the future. We can't however, rely on "Judeo-Christian" mores - in other words, tradition pure and simple. We have to actually have good arguments based in an understanding of what people experience in relationships here and now, what works, what is good for them and for the families they form, what encourages behaviour we think is healthy...

Posted by Anne at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 1:18pm GMT

"The state can do what it likes. It does not have to "justify" anything beyond the level required to get a parliamentary majority for it."

Indeed it can, and it is; but this philosopher is looking for some consistency, some equality, some fairness.

He sees only problems, only an arbitrary judgement.

The root of the antagonism shown me may be this: that the proponents of same sex marriage see the development as progressive, but would see the legitimisation of polygamy in "liberal" western societies as regressive, and tending to favour the subjugation of women. (And I might ask "According to what lights?)

You do have to justify your progressive policy change, or it does look both arbitrary and discriminatory against a sizeable minority of the electorate who may yet raise their claim to order their family life as they choose in a free, democratic and multi-cultural society.

Posted by Labarum at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 3:19pm GMT


I think the problem is that although institutions evolve, they are not trends. An institution holds a shared inter-generational social meaning through which we maintain its importance and purpose to society. Institutions need consensus to thrive.

In a previous comparison, I referred to British Citizenship. Citizens have unconditional right of abode and can vote in parliamentary elections. It is largely restricted to natives and their immediate descendants. Applications for naturalisation are only approved at the Home Secretary's discretion.

So non-natives and their relatives might campaign for immediate 'equal citizenship' on marriage to a UK citizen. According to the Home Office, we're only talking about 30,000 migrants who joined their UK spouses in 2010 and want to participate fully in our society. So, anyone who cites sham marriages and major societal upheaval can be called a scare-mongering xenophobic bigot, right?

The reality is that citizenship restricts the unlimited right of abode to those who hold a legacy of parentage in this country. It is our birth privilege to live where we are born and have primary influence on who governs and how they govern.

Even if a change to this citizenship, or marriage law is introduced, to remain an institution, a duty of recognition and promotion is imposed on everyone else. It is a claim-right, not just a liberty (like freedom of speech, or from lifelong servitude).

The key issue is that you are enforcing a duty of recognition and promotion on others, without genuine consultation. While a majority of the population might have recognised and supported marriage as geared towards perpetuating biologically unified family identities, if it no longer holds that purpose, why should they invest in and support it? In fact, they will rightly refuse to promote it. The institution will further lose its meaning in our collective consciousness.

Posted by David Shepherd at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 3:32pm GMT

Well, maybe that philosopher should have listened to the parliamentary debate that talked a lot about equality and fairness.

Do you really think that Cameron would have done this if he had thought it was electoral suicide? That he would have done this if not opinion poll after opinion poll had shown a consistent majority in favour? Even among Christians?

Do disagree, by all means.
But this is very clearly a very popular political move in the country at large.
And that is all that is required in a parliamentary democracy.

The other important requirement is the protection of minorities.
And that is why the churches have opt-outs from equality legislation and why the CoE will not be allowed to marry same sex couples.
And people like you are still free to believe that same sex marriage is wrong.

But there is no single reason left why your particular religious belief should affect my civil rights.

And that's how it should be. In this country, all citizens are equal. And a minority no longer gets to say that some should be less equal than others.
That, precisely, is fairness and justice.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 4:59pm GMT

"But there is no single reason left why your particular religious belief should affect my civil rights."

I agree, Erika; and that is why I say these proposals are not thoroughgoing enough. They are inconsistent and unfair.

Let those ethnic minority communities that are accustomed to polygamy have their cultural norms recognised.

NB Parliament may have a substantial majority for same sex marriages, but (according to opinion poles) the nation is about equally divided.

Posted by Labarum at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 5:53pm GMT

Wait, are you actually arguing in favour of polygamy?

But what makes you think that doing that on the back of a completely unrelated issue is credible?

You will have to make credible arguments in favour of it and convince the majority in society that a minority should be allowed to marry more than one partner.

Like same sex marriage, this stands and falls on its own terms.

Posted by Erika Baker at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 6:03pm GMT

"You do have to justify your progressive policy change, or it does look both arbitrary and discriminatory ..."

As opposed to the decades when same sexuality was criminalized and pathologized for entirely arbitrary reasons. And those on the receiving end of that policy suffered the worst kind of discrimination.

Posted by Counterlight at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 6:32pm GMT

I agree (broadly) with Erika about parliamentary democracy - the vote in the elected chamber is a reflection of the broad opinion in the country on this matter - these people depend on getting their 'calls' right to get back into Parliament as individuals and also as a governing party. And from a scientific point of view we have opinion polls - many of them!

I don't say that democracies never do wrong things or that majorities are ever wrong - s28 was passed by a Parliament, after all.

There is the need for justification but I think providing for equality and the freedom of religion are two good justifications. Also I think the justification is set out in the introduction and speeches in support of the Bill and other parliamentary mechanisms and occasions.

The minority who are against are still able to order their lives as they choose to do so and (rightly in my opinion) are able to continue their religious life as they choose (for me religious freedom is more than a compromise in a free society between competing groups but a vital good in itself).

The classic formulations of liberalism do apply (J.S.Mill) but this bill protects both the desire of the majority and the protection of minorities (LGBT people who have a significant history of being discriminated against and churches and other faith groups who do not agree with the changes).

If there is more to be done I am happy to trust that to the parliamentary process where the CofE actually has a significant number of bishops within the Parliament (House of Lords).

Parliament is the right place to engage in the balancing act between different groups.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 8:14pm GMT

there have actually been very few acts of legislation in recent history that are as popular as equal marriage.

The Christian Institute "warned" as early as 2008 that Cameron would introduce it and it "warned" repeatedly since. The Conservatives included the promise of equal marriage consultation in their Equality Manifesto.

They conducted a proper 3 months long public consultation exercise in which every single citizen and resident of this country could participate. That only just under 400,000 did so may well show that people are not so worked about about it as you think. The majority of those who did bother to participate supported equal marriage.

Opinion poll after opinion poll showed that the majority of people in this country support equal marriage including the majority of Christians.

And in a free vote in Parliament it commanded an overwhelming majority.

Short of conducting a referendum, there is nothing that could have been done to demonstrate more convincingly how Britain feels.

I think what you really have to accept is that for most people, the perpetuation of biological ties is only one potential aspect of marriage and by far not the most important one.
I know that for you it has absolute primacy.
But it might be time to recognise that this is not a view the majority of people in this country share. And because they don't share it, the institution of marriage will not lose anything in their eyes by extending it to gay couples, nor will their own reasons for getting married change.

Posted by Erika Baker at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 10:54am GMT

Serious Omission of religious & spiritual freedoms

Why is no one speaking of the denial of religious freedom, to those many members of the Church of England, both lay and ordained, whose freedom to see gay and lesbian couples marry will be denied, under this legislation ? Who will be denied marriage themselves under this legislation ? And the fervent desire of many ministers to marry all parishoners, would be circumvented at the behest of bishops who would impose this on us ? Or is it nameless officials ? The members of the Church have never been consulted on equal marriage. Opinion in the Church is varied - so provide for everyone !

This is a shocking and chilling aspect of otherwise good and necessary legislation.

I even suspect that a majority of parishioners, congregants, and ministers fervently wish for this.

Who will head up a campaign for the religious freedom of faithful anglicans who believe in marriage equality ? I am not well enough to do so, and probably lacking necessary skills and contacts, but their must be some good people who could get together to establish a Campaign for Religous Freedom in the CofE.

If there were to be a website, people could sign up by name, to make clear their commitment and easrnest desire to see marriage equality available to those of us who wish for it. (Without prejudice of course, to those who do not wish personally to be married or conduct Weddings under the new legislation. They will be free not to).


Posted by Laurence Roberts at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 2:30pm GMT


Even if Labarum's argument for polygamy is an 'equality too far' for me, I can't see why any liberal would complain.

You have no objection to removing the opposite sex requirement from marriage. Why isn't the binary requirement any less discriminatory towards those who belong to a different world religion?

Of course, traditionalists actually suggested that this would be the next frontier for marriage evolution. I could imagine the argument: 'Traditionalists are arguing that marriage should remain binary because marriage involves an agreement between two people. This is circular reasoning at its most obvious, and least convincing.'

Three-person civil unions have been the next step in the Netherlands and Brazil. Yes, they will have to argue a case for plural marriage, but just remember to drop all objections based on the biblical archetype of monogamy, since you and others here have reminded us that OT polygamy upholds the case for dismissing the Genesis pattern. You should also remember that the church has changed its position on divorce and slavery, so why not polygamy? Anyway, we're not talking about polygamy as it was practiced in the OT. All of these arguments parallel those in favour of same-sex marriage.

The law already makes welfare provision for polygamous marriages solemnised in other countries, so there is no reasonable liberal objection to those unions being solemnised as marriage over here according to the rites of those religions which approve.

'Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world'

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 2:33pm GMT

The Church of England has a lot of thinking to do. I dont think this has even begun to take place - people are anchored in patterns of the past, just starting to catch up with CPs. I can only hope Tuesdays vote will make the Church of England start to address these questions. One can hope.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 4:25pm GMT

Others have addressed the governance issues with polygamy.

I live in a state that has a couple of religious sects that practice polygamy, despite laws against it. It is not victimless. Girls are married off at a young age with no consent. It is not an open society where girls can get an education and make their choices. It is practically slavery.

I don't know of any widespread practice of polygamy where educated women who have significant life choices chose polygamy. That's why that argument seems to be a total red herring to me.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 4:50pm GMT


I'd just refer you to the Commons Library briefing on Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. It acknowledged that survey results could be skewed by 'Do you agree that...' questions from both proponents and opponents of gay marriage.

'The most consistent result in the polling data is the relationship between age and attitudes to same sex marriage. Younger people are more likely to support same sex marriage and older people are more likely to oppose it. This result holds across all polls although the exact level of support found in any given age-group varies with the form of the question used in the poll.'

So, what is the proportion of over 55s across the electorate? The DeMontford University study commissioned by Age Concern reports that: 'In 2010 the number of grey majority (over-55 voter majority) seats is estimated to increase to 319, meaning that in 2010 most seats in Britain will hold a grey majority.'

This means that those who oppose are in the majority. The largest surveys show this. So, please don't argue from a standpoint of skewed surveys, a 'ways and means' consultation exercise and ignored petition numbers.

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 6:00pm GMT

the over 55s may be the largest single age group in the country, but that does not make them the majority of the voting population that is made up of a number of other age groups too.
Add all the age groups that tend to favour marriage equality and compare them to the single largest age group that tends not to favour marriage equality and you are still left with a majority of the whole electorate favouring marriage equality.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 11 February 2013 at 8:34am GMT

Yes, Erika that's right.

'Let right be done !'.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Monday, 11 February 2013 at 3:41pm GMT

As to who constitutes a majority I should point out that modern opinion polls are well constructed and are corrected for various population groups so are not skewed in that way.

In any case, a majority of a majority in a majority of seats does not necessarily constitue a majority per se.

Opinion polls clearly show majority opinion in favour of marriage equality.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Monday, 11 February 2013 at 7:16pm GMT


'As to who constitutes a majority I should point out that modern opinion polls are well constructed and are corrected for various population groups so are not skewed in that way.'

On that basis, then, it is the House of Commons Library Research paper commissioned by the pro-gay marriage government that must be skewed when it says of polling a three-way choice between same sex marriage, civil partnerships without same sex marriage, and neither civil partnerships nor same sex marriage:

'As the table shows, when the question is asked in this way, support for same sex marriage is the largest individual response category, *but when the responses in the categories opposed to same sex marriage are combined, they are larger in three of the four polls*. This suggests that some of the people who express support for same sex marriage in polls that present a binary choice for or against same sex marriage may be content with just civil partnerships'.

That's what the research says of binary choice polls, but you may choose to disagree with the research commissioned by a government in favour of same-sex marriage.

Posted by David Shepherd at Monday, 11 February 2013 at 10:49pm GMT

The other question is just how much any of it matters to people. If you stopped me in the streets and asked me if I thought that the government should reintroduce O'Levels or make GCSE exams harder, I might have an answer to the question, but it's not one that would exercise my mind 2 minutes beyond the opinion poll.

There has been an astonishing lack of public outrage about marriage equality. No major protest marches like against the Iraq war, no endless television time and analysis like over Occupy. The debate has been, had newsprint, has gone.

Apart from a few Christian blogs, everyone else now sees this as yesterday's news.
People really aren't all that bothered and they clearly do not feel that their own marriages are threatened in any meaningful way.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 12 February 2013 at 8:08am GMT

Dear David,

It is well known that a tripartite question reduces support. However the question before us, especially after so much debate and information, is essentially a binary one, therefore more appropriate to ask the question in that way.

My comment was merely that a majority of a majority is not always a majority.

Posted by Craig Nelson at Tuesday, 12 February 2013 at 8:43pm GMT
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