Counting the cost of the same-sex marriage vote

It was hard going following the debate and developments on Twitter and in Parliament yesterday.  It was like the final push before election day as everyone gives it their final shot to make their point and influence those who somehow have yet to make their minds up on the issue.  Then following the result we had the aftermath of blame games as well as celebrations depending on what  outcome people had hoped for.  The difference this time was that I didn’t see anyone who said they hadn’t made their mind up over same-sex marriage yet.  This has to be the most polarising political issue I can remember, but it’s not surprising when the stakes are so high.

One thing I’ve struggled to get my head around is why so much fuss has been made leading up to the vote about the Conservative party split compared to talk of why so few Lib Dems and Labour MPs didn’t support the bill.  Given the range of polls that indicate that neither those who are for or against same-sex marriage have much of a majority when it comes to public support, one wonders why Conservative MPs have proportionately reflected the public mood much more so than those from the other parties.  Maybe the clue is in the name; Conservative with a big C also makes them conservative with a small one too.  The irony here though is that it is the Conservative party though David Cameron and now Maria Miller driving this legislation through.  In the end it was the one-sided voting by Labour MPs that pushed this through.

Following the debate in parliament during the afternoon yesterday wasn’t overly uplifting.  There has been much more rigorous discussion and analysis in the blogosphere over the last few months than in the House of Commons today.  For something of such significant importance, leaving such a decision in the hands of our MPs, despite this being the job expected of them, doesn’t lead to a great deal of confidence in the system when dealing with an issue such as this.

Now is not the moment to be making a rallying calls and going through the arguments again.  I, like most people who want to make their view known have had plenty of opportunity to say everything by now.  I’m well aware that by disagreeing with the bill I’ve upset at least a few people along the way and that despite my best attempts to give reasoned arguments for my opinions, it’s entirely likely that some will view them as bigoted.  It’s been very hard to engage with this debate without appearing to be intolerant of those you disagree with, irrespective of which side you’re standing on and that’s probably the main reason I dreaded what was to come when it was first announced.

Some pieces of government legislation come with a high cost, and there certainly has been a high price to pay this time round.  MPs themselves have had to face a barrage of complaints from their constituents as this Independent article points out:

‘One MP told The Independent that a number of his colleagues were intending to vote for the Gay Marriage Bill because of the “appalling” nature of the emails they had received.

‘Meanwhile the gay Conservative MP Conor Burns, who has not publicly stated how he will vote, complained that he had been attacked from both the gay and Christian communities. “The whole thing is deeply unpleasant and people are saying things that you wouldn’t say to people you despised or hated,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of God some of those people who have contacted me from religious groups believe in – but he’s certainly not compassionate or loving.”

‘The MP, who asked not to be named said: “Quite a few of us who were considering abstaining will vote in favour of gay marriage because of the unreasonable nature of the emails we have been receiving. Some of the emails I’ve had are simply appalling and I’m fed up with it.”

‘The Conservative MP Angie Bray, who has also not stated which way she will vote, said she had been sent unpleasant emails from both sides. “You get emails from one side saying you’re morally deficient if you vote no and emails threatening hell fire and brimstone if you vote yes. It has frankly been an ill-tempered debate on both sides.”

‘David Burrowes, the main opponent of the Gay Marriage Bill said the abuse was just as strong from those in favour.

‘“I’ve had death threats, hostility and hate mail,” he said. “My children have even been told that their dad is a homophobe. There has been abuse and intolerance of both sides.”’

Sarah Teather having been one of a few Lib Dem MPs to vote against the bill last night was torn apart on her Facebook page last night.  Being an MP should be a tough job, but sometimes we forget that they are human too and that many will have found it difficult to vote the way they did because of the consequences that would result.

Christians with traditional views by and large have had a mauling in the press and those campaigners for gay marriage haven’t got away scott-free either.  The sad thing is that there will be no let up.  We can expect to go through this all again as the bill progresses the parliament towards the final vote.  Assuming that it eventually goes through there will still be traumas along the way especially as religions wait to see how watertight the ‘quadruple lock’ is.  Damian Thompson in the Telegraph describes the legislation as a bomb for the Church of England.  In rather over-sensationalised terms he describes the problems that will be stored up for the future.  He finishes by saying, ‘If you thought the battle over women priests and bishops was nasty, wait until this one begins.’

Gay marriage was always going to be an explosive issue with a high price to pay for a limited gain.  David Cameron and others were quite happy to set it off without apparently realising the enormity of what they were doing, but the resulting fallout will take many people a long time to repair and heal.  It’s been anything but an enjoyable ride so far and though emotions are currently running high, we need to remember that despite the mess the world is not going to collapse.  Whether it is going to be better for it is another matter.  For those on the losing side the temptation may be to throw stones and make a bigger noise, but that will never be productive.  We all need to continue to have robust arguments as the bill progresses, but no matter how much we disagree with others, vilifying them and carrying out character assassinations cannot be justified.  There’s been more than enough damage caused already and it’s in no one’s interest to add to it.  The way in which we continue to deal with this proposed legislation will ultimately say far more about how mature we have become as a society than our willingness to further embrace a certain understanding of equality.

Categories: Government, Homosexuality, Marriage

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28 replies

  1. I don’t think you are right about Sarah Tether and a “torrent of abuse”. I think the comments shown are mostly expression of belief: “disappointing” is not affirming, but hardly abusive- or reasoned arguments.

  2. It will only be a problem for those who choose to make it a problem, methinks.

    There’s something of an irony here: those opposed to the measure made it clear that they believed they knew the mind of God and C4M published a prayer specifically calling for the legislation to fail; those of us in favour chose to live dangerously and prayed, “May your will be done.” * For me, praying those words and surrendering what I wanted to the will of God was a truly terrifying thing: “What if…?” I kept asking myself: would I have been able or content to accept the result had it gone the other way?

    All I know now is a palpable sense of relief, but mingled with sorrow as I see those opposed determined to fight on. For me, the fight now is for the C of E to change its canon law, to open its doors fully to LGBT people as equals: to see equal rights become equal rites within the church; and once again, I pray: “May your will be done, O Lord.”

    * I am sure that is not universally true: no doubt people on both sides prayed for God’s will to be done, and no doubt people on both sides attempted to tell God what that ought to be; I simply speak of the prayers that I personally was aware of.

    • You know, these comments are becoming quite annoying, Phil. No matter how understandable it is that gay couples want to express their love in the traditional way, this is quite a massive shift in marriage – from an institution regulating heterosexual relations (laws on consummation and adultery) for the good of society, to an institution supporting any stable domestic relationship between two people for the good of society. By all means make the argument that this is an appropriate shift for our current situation (stable families for adopted children of same sex couples for instance). But please, PLEASE no more patronising comments about how anybody opposed is just making a bit of a fuss and needs to have more faith in God. You might not realise it, but it actually makes you sound rather complacent and isn’t very convincing to anybody who might be wavering.

      (Not meaning this to come across as aggressive, and, of course, acknowledging that it’s fine for you to have this view and feel strongly about it).

      • Well, Liz, I might equally say your responses to my comments are quite annoying, but it’s a free country and you’re equally entitled to make them, and you are also at liberty to read my observations as patronising or representing complacency — but to do so simply highlights how easy it is to misunderstand or misrepresent (unintentionally or otherwise) what someone else has written.

        And if we can do that here and now, when the writer is here amongst us speaking our own language, how much more so with words written thousands of years ago in another language and culture?

        Unless Gillan chooses to override, I will continue to comment as I see fit; and no doubt you will do the same. Pax.

        • I hope both of you Phil and Liz feel you can comment freely here. It’s good to have people making their feelings known from different points of view. If everyone agreed with me, something would be wrong. I just hope that you don’t annoy each other to the point that you no longer want to say anything.

          I think God would rather have us pray that he’d give us what we want rather than not pray at all, but I’ve learnt over the course of time that God often answers our prayers but not in the way we expect. If people on both sides are praying for God to answer their prayers. Then either one side is going to get a definite ‘no’ or He will answer both sides in a completely different way. The important thing is we continue to pray humbly and accept that whatever the outcome, God is still in charge. God is bigger than a bunch of MPs trying to make a difficult decision.

        • What I’m trying to say, Phil, is could you please express your very laudable optimism about the future of marriage and same-sex relationships in this country without making the rest of us feel like Scrooge experiencing the visitation of the ghost-of-Christmas-present! 🙂 No offence meant.

        • If I’m to be known as the ghost of anything, Liz, I’d rather it be the ghost of Christmas future; and don’t worry, no offence taken. Wot Gillan said ^ – thanks, Gillan: you are a generous host.

        • The ghost of Christmas future did go on about graves and mental institutions rather a lot. I thought the ghost of Christmas present was rather a lot more cheerful. Of course, I was speaking figuratively, we all rather hope it will be a long time before you become a ghost! 🙂

  3. WELL it certainly stopped parliament concentrating on kicking those on welfare. So much sadness and tragedy going on but we get all excited over who can legally have sex with who through an institutionalised system. Personally I am now believing that the church ans state should be absolutely separate and that churches should be allowed to perform marriage ceremony to who they do or do not want to, Since the majority of heterosexual marriages that take place in church are normally between non-believers then the church needs to rethink what it really actually wants – converts, believers or just the money for the service – because hypocrisy is pretty obvious when it comes to the money pot.

    I do realise with all the equalities ramblings that things are never easy. But I do not want to have equal things to someone but equitable opportunities. If a church or other non-government institution does not want to offer its services to those who do not follow its code of conduct then I am fine with that. But lets see the truth of the matter shall we. A heterosexual couple wants a church wedding for all the pomp but do not believe in God one bit. Going through the hoops they get one. A same-sex couple trying to act out their Christian faith best they can under the circumstances of here by the grace of God are turned away.

    • Quite. The situation stinks to high heaven; and there is no evidence that God has set his face against same-sex couples: on the contrary, the same fruit and work of the Spirit is visible in their lives as it is in all others who commit themselves to the Way of Christ — in many cases, even more so: witness the behaviour of those who have opposed Jeffery John, for instance, and compare his gracious responses. Who is the more Christlike?

      Hope you don’t mind, efgd: have shared this comment on facebook; seems to me it really gets to the heart of the matter.

    • There are plenty of ironies and contradictions caused by the Church of England being established. Disestablishment would certainly simplify things and is attractive for lots of reasons, but if this is the way it happens there will be plenty of traumas to come.

  4. Such a tangled web! The established church has no right to decide how the country is run, no more than the state has a right to dictate how faith groups should operate – I firmly believe that they should be fully seperate so that they can function to their best. It’s also tragic that the whole of Christendom in the UK is bunched under the banner of CoE, just like the whole LGBT community is given the same personality. My church is based in Brixton, which is possibly one of the biggest cultural/sexual/religious/racial mixing pots in the country, if not the world, and we see every kind of person come in – all are welcomed, treated with dignity and respected as a brother or sister, regardless of whether they stink of stale alchohol, have been out of HMP Brixton for 2 days or have rolled up in their 63 plate BMW X6, and nobody is pressured to change as we are ALL in need of transformation, and it happens at our own pace.

    This whole issue has angered me for various reasons, but mainly because it has bumbled along with stone-throwing from all sides; no real coherant and reasoned conversation, no grace from the church of a different way of life and no acceptance from a progressive society of tradition. Nobody has come out well, and nobody has the right to say so. Jesus must be torn to pieces over how we have treated eachother.

    The core of the gospel is the restoration and healing of our hearts, and all this has proven is that most Christians don’t understand that. This is really hurting us.

    • I agree. A lot of scaremongering from both sides and no attempt to really get to the heart of the issue or to understand why we have this disagreement. This might sound glib, but I think the best thing we can all do about it is invite the gay couple/ traditional Christian couple next door round to dinner and talk about something else!

  5. Friends, countrymen, brothers and sisters…

    I am confident of 3 things:

    1) God is not pleased with us when we destroy others with our tongue (or fingers) because we have opposing views. (So He can not stand by us when we do.)

    2) The bill will not make it past Lords.

    3) If this is outside of God’s will, then He is perfectly capable of defending himself.

    Be blessed…

  6. Reblogged this on Richard's Watch and commented:
    A commendable commentary in view of the controversial circumstances, Gillan.
    In all this, three facts imho point to the ignored core issue and to the truth of scripture: 1. people deny their sin, thereby making God a liar and repudiating what Jesus did for them on the Cross (1John 1:8-10) 2. many believers are unclear, confused and even deceived (2Tim 3, Matt 24) 3. the underlying role of the EU in this confirms its link with the ‘end of days’ messianic vision in Daniel 7. (Cranmer at
    Behind those facts (not to mention hatred of righteous expression and twisting of definitions!) one can discern the source and strategy outlined in Rev 13. Oh, btw, the technology for implementing the Mark of the Beast (666) is ready and waiting!! (McTernan at

  7. George Orwell had a name for this process – he called it “Newspeak”: roll on 2050 !

  8. I used to be gay, but over SEVEN years ago Jesus set me FREE! I am now free from the sin of homosexuality. Marriage is between 1 man and 1 woman according to the King James Bible (Genesis 2:24) so I am now married and my wife is pregnant by me. What’s really cool is that now my life is not focused on “ME” I actually think about other’s. More to the point, it’s not about “ME” at all it’s ALL about JESUS CHRIST! Jesus is Lord!!

    • Praise God for that testimony. May he continue to bless you and your family as you look forward to wonderful future together.

    • Excellent witness Greg, and Amen Sharon.
      So good to hear from an overcomer in the Bridal company! (My opinion b4 checking out ur site!)
      Far too many brethren have yet to realise we can overcome the evil one’s schemes: not only by the Blood of the Lamb but also by the word of our testimony…Rev 12.

  9. I used to be straight; then I realised that I wasn’t. Jesus smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it, kid: you’re mine, and nothing can take you away from me, neither death nor life, height nor depth — there is nothing in all creation that can separate you from me, from God, from my love.”

    Straight, gay or somewhere in between: I’ve realised that God loves us all just the same; and, John tells us, perfect love drives out all fear. The truth, said Jesus, will set you free; and it does: hallelujah!

    • Exactly. Jesus set me free in the year 1986. Never been so close to the Lord before then and feel loved and cared for by my partner and the Lord.

      • Why the Taoist avatar?

        • Hi Joe.
          I like symbols. Like I like icons to reflect upon – not to worship. The Ying Yang symbol relates as an icon the complementary sides of life. Two aspects of a single reality; we are good and bad but never holy as we as humans are not triune as God is. The passive and the active. Living in harmony through difference.

  10. I wouldn’t say the Conservative party best express the country as a whole because the country as a whole is more in favour of same sex marriage than not , whereas in the Conservative party most of them voted against it. There were some Lib Dem MPs who were away for legitimate reasons and I assume the same was true for some Labour MPs.

    I don’t see why it’s any less a social institution when two people of the same sex marry. It doesn’t make it just a private thing, in fact just the opposite. There’s a desire among many same sex couples to want to make their relationsnip part of the wider fabric of society and publicly recognised as well as quite a few wanting it to be spiritually sanctioned.

  11. This is a trend today to create a God of our own imagination:…..”The gay Conservative MP Conor Burns,………… I don’t know what kind of God some of those people who have contacted me from religious groups believe in – but he’s certainly not compassionate or loving.”
    Our God is compassionate and loving and wants all people to be saved from their sin. God hates sin. For some though they want a God than accepts their sin and they complain when others point out Gods righteous ways.

    • Righteous ways or human control of human needs and behaviour? If the Holy Spirit has touched me on what grounds does a human have for saying no He did not? Yes you can point to the Bible. I will also point to the Bible. Polygamy. Slavery. Genocide. Murder. Rape. Infanticide. Subdivision of women. Then we have Love One Another As I Have Loved You. We have Do Unto Others As You Would Wish To Be Done To. Then we have Whoever So Believes. If God uses marriage to take men and women off the path of decadent behaviour and towards Him then I think we need to give God credit and not try to impose our will on His words – either of those for and against. What will be will be. Pray harder and throw stones or kick less.

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