Gay marriage + heterosexual civil partnerships = one big mess

Whatever you think about gay marriage and the current legislation passing through parliament, it is most definitely not boring.  perhaps one a day a film will be made based on all that is happening with its complex plot and plentiful twists and turns.  Once upon a time the institution of marriage was a pretty straightforward affair.  A man and a woman came together either through love or arrangement, were married in the sight of God and usually went on to have children.  Things have got progressively more complicated with the rise of divorce, remarriage, cohabiting and single parenthood and now here we are  on the next step of the journey trying to work our how to fit gay relationships into the context of marriage.  If that wasn’t enough of a struggle we are now facing the prospect of civil partnerships for everyone too.

One of David Cameron’s reasons when he came out in support of gay marriage was that it would strengthen the institution of marriage, making it available to more people, but potentially his actions could have the opposite effect if we effectively end up with another form of legal partnership, which could easily be renamed ‘marriage lite’.

Did David Cameron and other ministers have any idea what lay ahead when they started on this journey?  The answer is most likely ‘No’.  Perhaps the thinking was that there would be a bit of opposition from mainly religious types and the churches, but with sufficient safeguards everything would work out well without too much difficulty.  In particular for the Conservatives, Cameron surely can’t have envisaged the level of opposition from his own MPs, party members and supporters and the reaction it would cause.  There’s now a festering open wound that will take years to heal.  It may well cost Cameron the next election and possibly his own leadership.

With a bit more intelligence and careful planning, those who were in charge of pushing this legislation through could have done a lot more to help themselves.  The easiest thing would have been not to have started out on this journey in the first place, but it’s too late to wish it had never happened.  If they’d paid a bit more attention to public opinion rather than just ignoring those who disagree with the priniciple and try to spin the line that those against are in a small backward thinking minority, they could have avoided some of the sentiment of betrayal and anger that is now being expressed.  Maria Miller speaking on the Today Programme on Radio 4 this morning made a couple of revealing points.  When asked about the amendment to allow heterosexual couples to form civil partnerships, she complained that those supporting it were trying to over-complicate the situation and that such a measure would delay gay marriage being legalised requiring “considerable thought and consultation”.  Surely she realises that gay marriage in itself is an incredibly complicated issue that needs time to be considered.  One of the biggest complaints is that it is being rushed through without proper consideration.  She demonstrated yet again that there has been a worrying lack of coherent thought.

The Government has potentially shot itself in the foot by proposing that gay marriage should be introduced whilst continuing with civil partnerships for gay people.  Even their proposal to review it five years after legislation is passed, only appears to have been suggested to fend off support for today’s amendment and all it does is kick the problem into the long grass for the time being.  The term ‘equal’ marriage is being used over and over again, but they have failed to follow that equality line of thinking through fully.

So we now wait to see which way the votes go on Tuesday and then watch as the consequences begin to be addressed.  What makes this stage of the process most interesting is that it has temporarily brought us away from the toxic argument about whether gay people should be married and focuses on the value of marriage and the point of civil partnerships in respect to it.  Will a two-tier system do any good or was the hope that civil partnerships in time will no longer be required?

It’s heartbreaking to see the way that something that does so much good that binds families and provides one of the foundations of society is being torn apart and messed with.  We still don’t know how things will turn out and the long term implications of it all, but whatever the end result is, things will be a  lot less straightforward than they currently are with negligible or negative gains.  Marriage deserves a lot more respect than this.

There are prayers being said outside parliament today and tomorrow for the future of marriage.  For those of us who understand its importance, we should be joining this call to pray for our politicians as they battle with this.  It feels like it needs a miracle for this situation to be redeemed and when miracles are needed, there is only one place worth turning to – and it’s not parliament.

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Categories: Government, Homosexuality, Marriage

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31 replies

  1. Well, no, they haven’t. The continuation of civil partnerships is a mildly troubling anomaly which could just be left to resolve itself, as the public find what they want- hetero demand for CPs? CPs withering away as gay people get married?

    The hypocrisy of using a demand that this anomaly be dealt with now is deliberately destructive of a Bill designed to right an injustice, and will rebound on the Tory right. They will go off to obscurity with the UKIP racists, leaving the Government to Labour in 2015.

    • Everyone seems to have forgotten that Stonewall backed civil partnerships because they were vehemently opposed to the concept of marriage. Does anyone study LGBT history these days?

  2. I am struggling to find any material injustice in the law as it stands. The real benefit of the proposed legislation is in making Gay people feel that their relationship is as acceptable in the eyes of society. Most Gay people struggle to come to terms with their sexuality mainly because it is different from the vast majority. I wonder will this legislation change that. This does not feel so much like an equality issue but more a matter of conscience about the nature of marriage and clearly many people disagree with one another. My concern right from the start is about how we treat those people who dissent from the new definition of marriage and the names we call them. On BBC question time a while back it was suggested that clerics who spoke against same sex marriage should be charged with hate crime or imprisoned ( to substantial applause ) If the law is to change we need to offer protections for people who disagree otherwise we will end up with a material injustice where people are disciplined, demoted or sacked in the workplace or worse a removal of their personal liberty. The nature of Marriage in law is a matter for government to decide but so is freedom to express a view.

    • We have to acknowledge that there is a very small chance of gay marriage not becoming a reality sometime soon. Once upon a time gay people could be imprisoned and it would be a travesty if things swung the other way and those who did not agree with the principle of equal marriage were punished for voicing that opinion. As I’ve said before, I don’t have a problem with the government considering the introduction of gay marriage as the church or pressure groups are not in a position to dictate to politicians what to do. The problem I have is the way it has been poorly handled and the insensitivity shown towards many people in the process so far.

      • My guess is that the govt. were attempting to bring Britain into line with other countries where same-sex marriage is legal – especially as it looks like the US is heading that direction. I don’t really know what those countries did about consummation and adultery.

        The problem is that as a society we seemed to be in general agreement that those who felt free from the constraints of religious or other commitments to form an attachment with someone of the same sex should have the right to have those attachments legally recognised and protected. That’s a subtly different thing from all people having to affirm those relationships, and a quite different thing again from saying that those relationships are the equivalent of heterosexual relationships (which is something that the LBGT community itself does not agree on).

        It seems that enough people with political influence thought it worth while to force the issue and now we’ve got to face the music. I suppose with the changes around parenting laws etc, they’re confident that they can win the battle.

      • ‘it would be a travesty if things swung the other way and those who did not agree with the principle of equal marriage were punished for voicing that opinion.’ It would indeed, however surely now you must be able to see that if it is hurtful to be unable to voice an opinion on the marriage of a fraction of the population, how much worse it is to have to hide your relationship from the public or the church?

    • ‘My concern right from the start is about how we treat those people who dissent from the new definition of marriage and the names we call them.’ In my more resentful moments I wish that Evangelical Christians get hounded out and banned, then told: we don’t really hate you, only your acts; not the persons, only what is seen as their seen. But I don’t really: prayers for all who hurt. Just stop saying love the sinner, hate the sin.

      • I agree. Love the sinner, hate the sin is a really unhelpful expression that doesn’t help anyone. I would be gutted if someone who was gay, even in a practising relationship was hounded out of my church. This is the real battle for Christians on this issue. Do we genuinely care about everyone and welcome anybody in through the church doors?

  3. I am struggling with your end statement “for those of us who understand these things”. That sounds like it means to exclude a lot of people that feel differently to you. Lots of marriages (male/female) are not a happy fairy tale. Their is abuse and violence and – and at times extreme unhappiness – not all marriages are chocolate box happy. I struggle with your statement ‘once upon a time marriage was a straightforward affair’. Your vision is too narrow. Perhaps you live in a fairy tale world yourself – but the reality is often much more blurred and not always as happy as you seem to believe. This blog is worrisome and reminds me of the blinkered views of many Christians still trying to fit a melting pot into a six inch hole. The world is much more colourful and varied than you seem to want to acknowledge or admit – not just black and white I’m afraid.

    • Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear enough. Talking about “for those of us who understand these things” I was referring to prayer and that it does work, because God listens. Marriages have always had their problems and difficulties and in some ways it is easier to escape a painful or abusive marriage now more than it ever has been, but in terms of the institution, it is more complicated and devalued than in previous decades and centuries. Why else would the numbers of people getting married have dropped so dramatically?

      You’re right that the world is far from being black and white. I don’t disagree with you there. The important thing is that we make the most of all the difficulties and issues we all have to face and try and hold to the things that provide a foundation for stable lives and communities.

      • I do not think marriage is devalued just the institutionalised propaganda and expectation that goes with it through the cost related to the Wedding. Many a folk have said to me would marry but can’t afford the Wedding: http://www.yourchurchwedding.org/your-wedding/the-cost-of-church-weddings.aspx however it is the extras that they really cannot afford which takes it into the thousands instead of the middle hundreds of pounds.

        It is also important to note that: After 40 years of decline, the number of weddings has risen by 3.7 per cent in a year.

        Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2108188/Resurgence-marriage-After-official-report-showed-married-couples-happiest-weddings-increase.html#ixzz2UPlwtblV

        So not all doom and gloom. And since married couples, according to the report, are more stable than non-married couples and the structure of marriage more stable than single parenthood [through choice] then maybe allowing homosexual and lesbian marriage will also bring stability to society that prides itself on soaps that portray adultery, childbirth regardless of the love and care that can be given to the child, squabbling heterosexuals swapping partners like bunnies, apologies to bunnies, and or the acceptance as sex as a commodity without responsibility – its become the same as binge drinking, if you don’t do it there MUST be something wrong with you, along with the acceptance of violence between the sexes, for whatever reason, as the norm.

        And, remember not all heterosexuals couples are Christian and some homosexual and lesbian couples are Christian. Don’t choke on your tea those who find that mind boggling difficult to accept. Its called LIFE and REALITY.

    • To be fair, Trinity, that’s rather a huge misrepresentation of what Gillan actually wrote. He nowhere said that marriage was a happy fairy-tale – just that marriage law was a fairly simple affair around 50 years ago. If heterosexual relationships were happy fairy-tales we wouldn’t need the law to get involved in the first place. We would just settle down and live happily-ever-after without ever having to have a legally binding contract.

  4. Interesting that you refer to Civil Partnership as “marriage lite” — a point that gives the lie to those who argue that gay couples don’t need marriage because they have civil partnership, to those who argue that no change is needed because we already have equality. Civil Partnership ≠ Marriage and it’s good to see that acknowledged at last. Equal rights require equal rites: onwards and upwards 🙂

  5. Gay “marriage” is physically impossible, cos it can’t be consumated as God intended.
    It is pure evil, and no Christian should endorse it. That anyone should endorse it shows how Godless & depraved our country is. If it becomes legal I intend personally to protest at as many ceromonies as I can.

    • I think that would be more accurately stated as “gay marriage can’t be consummated as you believe God intended,” Helen; and may you find the grace to understand that this is an area where Christians disagree, where the questions of biblical interpretation are much more complex than you appear able to see.

      As for calling gay marriage “pure evil” — that won’t help anyone discover God’s grace either: it will only drive people who God loves even further away. Have you read the comments thread on Gillan’s earlier post, The Church’s biggest crisis?? Please do; and please take a moment to reflect on that quote from Gandhi I offered. Lord, have mercy.

      • I understand where you are coming from, but think you are wrong and reasoning from a liberal 21 century standpoint, not a biblical one.
        Why quote God-hating Gandhi?
        Remember the bible says “No sodomite will enter the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6:9-10) Unless of course he repents, which is in itself an act of God’s grace. Where God’s grace has so touched someone’s heart that they have been born again, a new creation, then that person will be sensitive to sin and will not want to keep on sinning the way they once did..I know we all sin, and even Christians are not yet perfect this side of heaven. But the sin of homosexual acts is particularly bad, cos those who practice it make a virtue of it, normalise it, and refuse to even try & stop. Who would say of lying, stealing, or murdering: “I know I habitually lie/steal/murder. Its who I am, God made me this way and I am proud of it, and intend to live this way for the rest of my life”, signing a pledge/contract with others to be committed to it, maybe even going on marches to celebrate their prefered lifestyle of lying/stealing/murder?
        It IS loving to confront people with the sin of homosexuality, THEN they may have the opportunity to realise they are sinners in need of a saviour. The conclusion of Romans 1 says “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practise them.”
        I DO sympathise with people who suffer same-sex attraction; we live in a fallen world and satan uses all manner of means to attack. But we all have frustrated desires, hopes & dreams, and need to ask God to give us the grace to accept the things in life, we’d rather were other.

    • I hope the host of this blog (who, though I often disagree with his views, usually attempts to communicate them in a reasonable way I find welcome) will condemn that comment for the ‘swivel-eyed’ bigotry it is.

      ‘If it becomes legal I intend personally to protest at as many ceromonies as I can.’

      Err, what?! You intend to picket the weddings of strangers? You, madam, are indicative of the state of our country. It’s not about endorsement, it’s about allowing people the freedom to live their own lives.

      • I agree with you Lee. Protesting and interfering in such a way does nothing to further anyone’s cause irrespective of what they believe. I don’t believe that gay marriage is the best way forward but that doesn’t give me the right be abusive to someone who I don’t agree with. I would expect every Christian to respect the end result of the gay marriage process, whatever that finally ends up being. Christians are called to submit to the authorities with grace whenever possible.

        • Peaceful protest is not abuse, it is an attempt to stop normalising perverted behaviour. I don’t want today’s children growing up believing the lie of sodomy as OK.
          When it comes to the part of the service where “Does anyone know of any just impediment?” I can say “Yes, Romans 1!”

        • Helen as much as it might shock you or pain you you have no right to oppose as in be a damn nuisance a legal act that requires, and does have consent, between two adults. Only God will judge and if he deems so he will punish. Not all people believe in God. So your harassing and demonstrating against them would be in poor taste and very bad manners. Are you a Westboro Church fanatic by any chance? Hate is what you are spouting. Did Jesus ran amok and go about demonstrating at ordinary peoples celebrations whether he agreed with them or not. I do believe he told his disciples to walk away. To pray for those who do not believe. And certainly not to force their presence upon them. The church can stand clear on what its believe and or traditions say. The government must allow no one to become an outcast or a second class citizen just because a religious sect want them to. Otherwise we might have a case whereby all Christians are declared too coercive in their manners to be allowed freedom of citizenship and the rights to the legal apparatus of our country. Believe me it has happened elsewhere [USSR for instance – read Peter Hitchens book The Rage Against God] and is the same kind of thought pattern you adhere to,

          By the bye, for your information quite a few heterosexuals commit sodomy and quite a few homosexual couples do not, and to clarify also, lesbian couples cannot commit sodomy as via the penetration of ones penis into the other ones anus anus. So if it is only the sec act you are bothered about then maybe you ought to rethink what love and commitment means in relation to a marriage. Or are you only bothered that sex should only be for having babies? Just wondered.

          Gillan, feel free to delete this reply to Helen if you personally do not feel it is applicable.

        • No, I do not support the activities of Westboro baptists. Actually I am not “shocked or pained” as you suggest. Before I became a Christian I would have agreed with everything you and other liberals say re gay sex & freedom of choice. But since becoming a Christian I see that God designed sex to be only between a man & a woman who are married to each other, and God’s decree is meant for our own good & not to be deviated from. That’s what the bible teaches. Yes, most of the world’s population are not Christian, and most people in Britain are not Christian, but even if they are not Christian, gay sex is still harmful to the body, and to the soul. Whether I am uncomfortable or not is irrelevent,the fact remains gay sex is a sin against God and one’s fellow man, or woman. And a sin which leads to hell (1 Cor 6:9-10), unless the perpetrator repents, and proves their repentance by their deeds (Acts 26:20), i.e stops sinning.

        • Hi Helen.
          As I said you have no right to be a nuisance and cause disturbance at another’s choice of consenting lifestyles; however much it disturbs your belief.

          If people do things to harm themselves then they pay the price do they not? Alcoholism and drug taking is more of a worry than a few people committing acts of sodomy [homosexuality is not a prevalent thing by the bye nor is sodomy. Sodomy not allowed but oral sex ok then?

          Both heterosexual and homosexual and lesbians and transexuals have oral sex. I know you are saying that people of the same sex should not fulfill their love to their partner by satisfying and relaxing them through sexual tension release. I know you are prepared to thunder the Biblical verses at all that dare to disobey. Personally I would rather state that non-believers must be allowed to do as the law allows and accept the results of their actions.

          I worry more about fatherless children being born by women in order to get welfare. I worry more about those who are struggling to pay their rent and get food on the table. I am saddened that there has to be food banks in Western countries – who have built their wealth on the ethics of greed.

          Thanks for taking the time to rely Helen. Just try not to cause harm and distress “Westboro Style” to those who do not agree with your belief. And I hope and pray that we do not become a theocratic country. Choice and freedom of will and action is what Christ was on about. Non believers must be allowed to be citizens with access to civic amenities. Just because they disagree with the Bible does not mean they have to be second class citizens or be put into mental institutions, ECT anyone? Nor imprisoned for not adhering to the Biblical notion of who has adult consensual sex with whom and why.

  6. Marriage. Weddings. I think that many get married for the Wedding. For those who do not believe and get married in a church it is hypocritical if not blasphemous.

    Maybe if the church had stuck to the tune of only believers to be married in the church.

    Maybe if the church had denounced cohabitation before marriage was wrong – but if those concerned came to believe, and that they were once wrong, then to be married in a church is applicable.

    Maybe if the church did not stand agnostically parasitically holding its hand out for the cash and the access to Government it might be respected better.

    Maybe if it had stood for marriage and not just the glamour of the Wedding it would not be having such a hard time nowadays.

    People still get married. Less often in church as they did, and less in the Registry Office also, as Weddings and Receptions can be accommodated in one place – saves travelling to a from designated area.

    I have been to many lavish Weddings. But the notion and reality of Marriage is not about spending vast amounts of money on dresses that will never get worn again. On banquets that turn into an orgy of drink. It is the lead up to a lifelong commitment of two people for better or worse, in good or poor health, in riches or poverty, till death they do part. Neither one should be thinking I’ll get a divorce if I can’t cope or married life does not suit me. Or the night before, or the week before, as Hen and Stag nights continue to be about the last rave up, and the attitude, even if in jest – or is it? – is “This is my last night of freedom.”

    LGBT persons should ponder this very carefully as well. Marriage has been made a mockery by those who undertake it for the glamour of the Wedding.

    So my long and laboured point is are we really talking about marriage or is it all about The Wedding and the showcase we put on? Seriously. Because when talking to people – gay and heterosexual – they all seem to be on about The Wedding, what to wear, who to feed and with what. The wedding is the fun part, the party, but seriously, marriage is a very serious thing.

    I think religious groups should be able to choose, according to their creeds and dogmas, who they give the marriage rights to. They should not be forced by an equality or human rights act to have to accommodate. But they should carry out all their creeds and dogmas accordingly.

    I think the State – as a civic enterprise – should allow the LGBT to have the same access to civic applications as heterosexual couples.

    • Thank you and glad to have your comments again. You’re right about this. Our attitude to commitment even in marriage has waned at the same time that weddings have become increasingly lavish and over-blown. It’s no wonder so many people don’t want to get married if they think they can’t do it without spending huge amounts of money and going into debt. Marriage has become more consumerist in that sense, which is of no benefit.

    • @ efgd – I agree with all except final paragraph! I especially agree churches should only marry believers//members. That is the problem with the established church.

      • Yes Helen, the church like a person should not be hypercritical. It should keep to its stance of belief regarding its ideology through Scripture – ethical and moral as professed by Christ. Which is why Christ would not have wanted believers to insist on non-believers being made to act and forced to live as a believer. In the end it is God who will judge. Meanwhile we are called to turn our swords to ploughshares. To advocate what we believe but NOT force it onto anyone and NOT to try to usurp a civic law that tries to enable fairness and access to civic enterprises in society just because the person concerned is not of Christian belief. That is one step away from Sharia Law and one step backwards to the bloody battles of those who were Catholic and those who were Protestant. The church and Christians should walk the walk as well as talk the talk as exemplars of the faith not oppressors. Maybe such behaviour will trickle down and affect society – like trickle down economic theory but more realistic.

      • Hi Gillan.

        Thank you. Good to be back! Took time out so it is good to be back.

        Sad that the nature of marriage, or is it Weddings really, that remains and has become the topic of the day for our ignoble government. So much going on that is unfair and deliberately aimed at the poor and the ill who through no fault of their own are unable to be of the money god world. If we put as much effort into bringing fairness and honesty along with ethics of behaviour into debate the UK would be a far better place. As I once said before, so much time talking about this issue, yet poverty is increasing as food banks pop up in places we would never have dreamt they would. As homeless is on the increase and people are fearful of losing their homes because they cannot now, thanks to the Government, afford their homes.

        Of course monogamous and lifelong relationships should be promoted. Especially when there are children involved or those involved are thinking of having children. A legal recognised certificate, allowing access and provision of such couples to all that is available, to ensure the continuity and stability of such a unit, should be applicable for those who wish to partake of it.

        There used to be tax breaks for married couples. But as many found out most were better off financially [which is the bottom line for most people] better off being two separate individuals. Thus the deceit of couples pretending they do not live together – more money into the household. If the Government was serious about the institution of marriage it would enable marriage to be on a par with two individuals claiming benefit be it tax or social benefits.

        Of course money should not be the reason to get married. But it always played its part in the past. Maybe it is time for the ideology of monogamous and settled couples to be promoted rather than the decadence of treating relationships as a means just for sex and nothing else. Only a promoting of such values will change things. Sadly the ignoble politicos in power are only in it for themselves – otherwise they would not be thinking of giving themselves a pay rise whilst others have to tighten their belts.

        Good to be back 😉

  7. I think Jesus said love the sinner and hate your OWN sin.

  8. This lady (ex-lesbian) always speaks good sense & wisdom:
    http://iamhis-lyn.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/degrading-passions.html

  9. “…I feel the political atmosphere in the UK has changed dramatically over the past 12 months since David Cameron announced out of the blue that he wanted to re-define marriage. It has become nasty – militant even. You now hear slogans such as “Fair is more important than Faith” and “Equality overrides free speech” and the word “Bigot” is being thrown around like it was going out of fashion. …” http://faithinourfamilies.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/why-equal-marriage-law-will-destroy-my-wedding-cake-business-and-free-speech/

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