A response to the prejudiced and offensive comments by Cardinal Keith O’Brien in the Sunday Telegraph – 4 March 2012, where he stated that same sex unions are ‘grotesque’ and ‘madness’.
At the outside a brief comment on vocabulary. Throughout this discussion I will refer to the terms equal marriage and same sex marriage. My personal preference is simply the word marriage. It should not matter whether the couple are same sex or opposite sex. However, currently same sex couples are not entitled to marry in England and thus ensuring equality means that same sex couples must be granted the right to marry in law. Thus for convenience of discussion the terms same sex marriage or equal marriage are used interchangeably. One would hope that when equality is ensured that the simple term marriage would reflect any marriage regardless of the format of couple engaging in the marriage. For the purpose of clarity, this discussion relate solely to the proposal for equal marriage within England that the Westminster Parliament are about to consult upon. Similar proposals are being considered within Scotland and elsewhere internationally, and whilst many of the areas of discussion may relate to these other debates – the focus of this paper is on the current proposals within England only.
It would be very easy to become irate, angry and belligerent at the inflammatory and offensive comments of Cardinal Keith O’Brien in the Sunday Telegraph this morning. Mudslinging would be a very simple pass-time to engage in, and plenty of it would stick on both the Cardinal and the Roman Catholic Church. It would be very easy to comment on the ignorance and petulance of the Cardinal in his approach to homosexuality. It would be very easy to comment on the errors, wrongs and, at times, inhumanity of the Catholic Church. It would be very easy, but that would be lowering oneself to the murky level at which the Cardinal is operating. So, instead, it’s better to explain the reasons why same sex marriage should happen (and almost inevitably WILL happen) and to listen to the comments of the Cardinal and respond to them. That is the responsible, thoughtful and honest approach to take rather than using inflammatory and offensive language implying and suggesting that homosexual people are mad, bad and ‘grotesque’. You may think the same things could be said about the Cardinal, his Vatican colleagues and many others due to issues such as child sex abuse, prevention of contraception etc etc – of course, I would not wish to comment.
So, what is the case for same sex marriage?
1. Civil marriage is entirely separate from religious marriage.
2. Denying same sex marriage is a violation of religious freedom and/or freedom from religion. Same sex people with religious convictions should be entitled to celebrate their unions as much as anyone who currently is able to marry. Whilst some religious organisation and people may feel threatened by same sex marriage or uncomfortable with it, why should their prejudices prevent organisations such as the Quakers, Unitarian church, Liberal Jews or individuals such as the Bishop of Salisbury from engaging in same sex marriage? Equally, why should those who do not hold religious views be prevented from engaging in marriage purely because those who are religious are uncomfortable with it?
3. Marriage benefits such as those from taxation, inheritance rights, rights to make decisions in terms of incapacity, parenting rights etc etc should be available to all couples whether same or opposite sex. Civil Partnerships grant SOME of the rights of marriage but not ALL.
4. Denying marriage to same sex couples is a form of minority discrimination.
5. There is no harm to society or individuals caused by same sex marriage occurring.
6. There is an encouragement to adopt stable, supportive and committed relationships to same sex couples (and this has been shown elsewhere to have an impact on opposite sex marriages ensuring that marriage is a better institution when equal).
It cannot be denied that traditionally marriage has been seen in England as a legal (and often a religious) commitment between a man and a woman, as well (for some) as the ultimate expression of love. Gay relationships are accepted by most people in England (This can be seen, for example, in a survey of Christians in the UK conducted by Ipsos MORI in 2011 that 61% of Christians surveyed believed that gay couples should fully share equal rights). However, gay couples are not able to legally marry in England. Other countries such as Belgium, South Africa, Norway and Sweden have ensured that gay couples are able to legally marry. Some countries which have strong religious traditions (Roman Catholic and otherwise) such as Spain, Portugal, Argentina and part of Brazil have also ensured that gay couples are legally able to marry. England is not the only location where same sex marriage is being debated or proposed. As already mentioned above there is consideration in Scotland. Consideration to same sex marriage is also currently being urged in Australia, Nepal, Mongolia, France, Germany, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Philippines, Ireland and many other countries.
Denying equal marriage rights is an infringement of religious freedom and/or freedom from religion
The main reason for denying equal marriage to same sex couples is either explicitly given as (or driven by) an understanding from some religious people that homosexuality is a sin. Granting equal marriage does not change the religious conviction of those people who hold this view. The only change achieved by ensuring marriage is equal is that gay people get married. Society in England is not a theocracy; it is (at least in theory) a democracy. It is a multi faith society where people hold a wide range of beliefs (and none). Some people who do hold faith beliefs have differing opinions on a wide range of issues including homosexuality. England does not have a society where religion dictates how the law should be drafted, enacted or interpreted. The rights of individuals (and couples) are granted irrespective of religious belief or what that belief may be. Marriage by the state is not a religious activity (in fact marriage law is extremely clear that religion should not interfere with civil marriage). Government should neither be instructed by religions which laws they should make nor which they should not make. Of course, in a democracy religious people are entitled to make their views known – but that is the limit, making views known.
Marriage benefits such a joint ownership, inheritance and medical decision making capacity should be available to all committed couples.
Marriage is much more than mere legal status. It affects many aspects of a couple’s life including taxation, joint ownership of property, insurance benefits, decisions in incapacity etc etc. It is also a strong and undeniable celebration of love. Civil Partnerships have been available to same sex couples in England since December 2005. Civil Partnerships legally recognise same sex relationships and grant some (but not all) of the rights which marriage enables. Civil Partnerships cannot allow gay couples who wish a religious element to their celebration of love to have such a celebration. Civil Partnerships do not give equal pension rights or immigration rights. Civil Partnerships do not give the same granting of titles that marriage enables. There is no international parity of a civil partnership with that of a marriage elsewhere, nor necessarily is a marriage recognised in the UK as such. Civil Partnerships do not require a couple to make a commitment for life nor do they provide a duty to cohabit. There is no definition of the quality of the relationship that is expected. There is no implication of a sexual connotation to the relationship. It is very much an inferior approach to recognition of relationship when compared to civil marriage. Marriage implies a sexual relationship, expects co-habitation and ensures many more rights than civil partnership allows.
Homosexuality is accepted culturally as an orientation and not as a choice. Most scientific evidence points to biological or uterine cause.
Historically there have been accusations that being gay is a ‘deviant sexual behaviour’. A simple study of anthropology and history will demonstrate that since ancient Greece and beyond gay relationships have existed. Overwhelming research demonstrates a biological cause (not necessarily genetic but certainly biological) for orientation. When does anyone specifically choose their orientation? How do they analyse and reach a judgement and how do they then control their natural hormones to ensure that their “choice” is what they follow? The concept of choice in orientation has been shown by psychological study to be baseless and false.
Denying equal marriage is a form of minority discrimination.
There is a strong principle in the UK of protecting minorities. There have been strong efforts to protect people from discrimination on the basis of age, race, gender and religion. In recent years (since 1967 and accelerating in the past decade) the suppression of the rights of people on the basis of their orientation has begun to be tackled. Denying marriage to a same sex couple is no different to denying it to a multi faith couple, Asian couple or oriental couple.
Enabling same sex couples to marry does not harm society or any individual.
Marriage is a relationship celebrated and sanctioned in public. It is a relationship built on love and commitment. It is about the connection and strength of relationship between two individuals. When inter racial marriages began there were many arguments used to say they would destabilise marriage, destabilise society, undermine marriage and damage society. Of course, there was no such impact. The only impact of interracial couples marrying was that black people married white people etc etc. The only impact of same sex marriage is that men will marry men and women will marry women. Interracial marriages did not impact on the marriage of their neighbour across the road or several towns away. Each individual marriage remained a matter for the couples concerned. The same is true of same sex marriage. If churches or individuals disapprove, that is their right and their entitlement. It is not their entitlement to stop marriage of individuals on the basis of the orientation of the individuals involved.
The most important issue in marriage is love.
The vast majority of heterosexual couples do not marry for convenience of taxation, insurance rights, immigration rights, parenting rights or rights to determine medical treatment in incapacity etc. The vast majority of heterosexual couples who decide to marry do so because they love each other. They see marriage as an expression of their love for their partner, a public declaration of their commitment and intention to spend their entire life together. Gay people are able to love too. They should be able to celebrate their love and commitment in a purposeful manner. Marriage is the tool to enable that. Same sex marriage may not be what society is used to, but why should the fact it has not happened in a particular geographical community matter? Surely the love and celebration of the love is important.
Equal marriage encourages lifelong commitment and stable relationships both in the gay communities and amongst heterosexuals.
One of the arguments that many religious people use against equal marriage is that it would erode family values. Actually, the converse is true. Marriage encourages people to settle down and commit to each other and build a life together and encourages stability. In studies of marriage rates in countries such as Canada, Belgium and Scandinavia where same sex marriage has been legalised there has either been an increase in the rate of heterosexual marriage, no change in the rate of heterosexual marriage or a decrease which is consistent with a decrease in neighbouring countries where same sex marriage does not occur. Some religious proponents quote the work of Stanley Kurtz (from the right wing Hoover Institute) stating that since the introduction of same sex marriage in Denmark, Norway and Sweden that heterosexual marriage rates have decreased. This study has been shown to have made incorrect claims and made assumptions that cannot be sustained. The integrity of this study is in severe doubt. A good critique of Kurtz’s views can be found here: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2004/05/prenuptial_jitters.html. Many more recent studies have shown the converse to Kurtz and that heterosexual marriage rates have increased post same sex marriage or remained unchanged.
WHAT DO OTHERS HAVE TO SAY ON THE ISSUE?
Tim Montgomerie (co-founder of the Centre for Social Justice, editor of the ConservativeHome website and joint founder of the Conservative Christian Fellowship) states:
“It is because I value marriage so much that I have come to believe it should be extended to gay people and not kept exclusive. Because it is so beneficial an institution it should be enlarged rather than fossilised. Whereas some people see the gay marriage issue as primarily about equal rights, I see it as about social solidarity and stability. Marriage is, for want of a better word, conservatising. I don't mean in a party political sense. I mean it is one of the key social institutions that conservatives admire. It is about drawing people together. Not just the couple but also their extended family and other friends and loved ones. It is a deeply important social act that draws others to the care of the couple and draws the couple to the care of others, not least ageing parents.”
Andrew Sullivan (British blogger, author, editor, conservative and political commentator) states in his book Virtually Normal:
“More important, perhaps, as gay marriage sank into the subtle background consciousness of a culture, its influence would be felt quietly but deeply among gay children. For them, at last, there would be some kind of future; some older faces to apply to their unfolding lives, some language in which their identity could be properly discussed, some rubric by which it could be explained - not in terms of sex, or sexual practices, or bars, or subterranean activity, but in terms of their future life stories, their potential loves, their eventual chance at some kind of constructive happiness. They should be able to feel by the intimation of myriad examples that in this respect their emotional orientation was not merely about pleasure, or sin, or shame, or otherness (although it might always be involved in many of these things), but about the ability to love and be loved as complete, imperfect human beings. Until gay marriage is legalised, this fundamental element of human dignity will be denied a whole segment of humanity.”
Peter Tatchell (Internationally renowned human rights campaigner, founder of the Peter Tatchell foundation, Labour party supporter and prominent member of the Equal Love campaign) states:
“Outlawing black or Jewish people from getting married would provoke uproar. The prohibition on gay marriages should provoke similar outrage. Arbitrarily excluding heterosexual couples from civil partnerships is equally reprehensible. The bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships are a form of sexual apartheid – one law for gay couples and another law for heterosexual partners. Two wrongs don’t make a right. In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law,”
Professor Robert Wintemute (Professor of Human Rights law at Kings College, London and prominent author) states (when referring to forthcoming case in the European Court of Human Rights):
“Our case is that the combination of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the Civil Partnership Act 2004 creates a system that segregates couples into two separate legal institutions, with different names but identical rights and responsibilities. The segregation of couples is based on their sexual orientations: same-sex couples are excluded from marriage, and different-sex couples are excluded from civil partnership. Under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, all differences in treatment affecting other Convention rights – in this case the rights to marry in Article 12 and to respect for family life in Article 8 – must have an ‘objective and reasonable justification’. The European Court of Human Rights has said that differences in treatment based on sexual orientation ‘require particularly serious reasons by way of justification’, like differences in treatment based on race, religion or sex. The only apparent reason for maintaining the system of segregation is to use the law to mark same-sex couples as socially and legally inferior, and different-sex couples as socially and legally superior. Same-sex couples are excluded from marriage, which is the universal system for legally recognising a loving, committed, sexual relationship between two adults. This legal segregation is similar to having separate beaches and drinking fountains for white and black people, as existed in South Africa under apartheid. It is comparable to having a system of marriage for Christians and civil partnership for non-Christians.”
Platform 10 (Conservative liberal campaigning group) states:
“An argument that some use against same sex marriage is that civil partnerships represent marriage in all but name. It is true that civil partnerships represent a genuine social advance and Tony Blair should be highly praised for introducing the reforms. There is also a high level of support for civil partnerships. However, they aren’t the same as marriage. Civil partnerships are important but they don’t represent equality and, in terms of perception and some pension and other financial issues, they aren’t equal to marriage. Opponents who claim to speak for a “silent majority” of the public would also be well advised to look at public opinion polls on the matter. A recent survey showed that 77% of people support either gay marriage or civil partnerships (43% supported gay marriage, 34% civic unions). Another poll for Populus showed that 61% supported the statement that “gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just civil partnerships.”
Sister Jeannine Grammick (a religious sister within the Roman Catholic Church in the USA and founder of the New Ways Ministries) states:
“Catholic thinking dictates that we should use the evidence we find in the natural world to help us reach our conclusions. Many Catholics have reflected on the scientific evidence that homosexuality is a natural variant in human sexuality, and understand that lesbian and gay love is as natural as heterosexual love. In forming our consciences, Catholics also consult scripture and our theological tradition. Here, again, there is little firm reason to oppose marriage equality. The Bible presents us with a marital landscape that includes polygamy, concubinage, temple prostitution and Levirate marriages (in which a man is bound to marry his brother’s widow.) Jesus disputed the Mosaic law on divorce, saying that what God has joined man must not separate, but this dictum was modified in the letters of St. Paul. Moreover, they find support for marriage equality in the Catholic social justice tradition: Catholic social teaching requires that all people be treated with dignity, regardless of their state in life or their beliefs. It upholds the importance of access to health-care benefits, the protection of children, dignity in end of life choices, and, most importantly, the promotion of stable family units. Marriage equality legislation would be an obvious boon to same-sex couples and their children in each of these areas, yet the bishops are spending millions of dollars opposing it.”
David Skelton (Deputy Director and Head of Research at the Policy Exchange) states:
“The case for gay marriage is clear and it is great news that the Government seems to be ready to accept the case. Same sex marriage is already legal in Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Portugal and a number of American states (including, most recently, New York). Despite the dire warnings of anti gay marriage activists, the sky hasn't fallen in in any of those countries and the family unit seems as strong as ever. Now is the right time for the UK to join that list. The argument for gay marriage on pure equality lines is pretty clear cut. It is unjustifiable in modern Britain that reasonable sections of the population are denied the right to marry their partner. That is an inequality that needs to be put right. But there's also a little noted argument for gay marriage on family values grounds. Although anti same-sex marriage campaigners have attempted to don the cloak of family values, it's about time that those of us who support gay marriage started to make the family values case for gay marriage. People are right to emphasise the importance of the institution of marriage. They are right to emphasise the importance of the family as a bedrock of society and a source of stability and guidance. The issue that many same sex marriage opponents on the right (and some on the left) can't address is - if marriage and the family are so beneficial and are of such strong cultural importance, why are they determined to deny the benefits of them to LGBT people?”
Affirmation Scotland (an association for LGBT Christians in the Church of Scotland) has the following comment on their website:
“As this debate on same-sex marriage has progressed I’ve found myself changing my views. There was a time, not so long ago, when I was unsure about same-sex marriage. I was sympathetic to the view that marriage was historically and theologically a relationship between opposite sex persons, bound up with patriarchy and societal structures and expectations, albeit we talk today of equals and of a covenant. It’s also the case that marriage, as an institution, is failing: heterosexual people have cheapened marriage through easy marriage, easy divorce and having children outside of marriage. Why, I asked myself, do lesbian and gay folk want to enter this patriarchal, crumbling institution? Let the straight folk have it! Further, I was quite content with being different and outside of mainstream society: what’s the attraction of playing at weddings like straight folk! To be gay is to be different: so let’s be different! I was speaking to a friend recently who told me that when he was coming out in the 1960s, as a hippy, no-one wanted to get married! He finds this contemporary rush to get married by gay folk a bit strange. I can understand that. But perhaps younger lesbian and gay people, for whom coming out has been a lesser ordeal, and who’ve had the blessing of less fear and prejudice to deal with, simply feel like everyone else and want to do what everyone does. (So says the old man!) When Civil Partnerships were introduced in November 2004 I rejoiced; I felt very strongly that same-sex relationships ought to have legal sanction and protection. When my partner and I had a Civil Partnership ceremony our key motivation was that legal recognition; in fact we had such a simple ceremony that if we could’ve done it on-line we would’ve! We’ve also not sought a Blessing Ceremony as we’ve no doubt that our relationship is blessed by God. I’ve been content with Civil Partnership, and probably will remain so. So what’s changed for me? There’s no doubt that marriage, or some form of public recognition of a committed relationship, is a good thing. There’s research showing that married people tend to be happier, healthier and live longer than single or unmarried people. Indeed, it is not good for a man to be alone! I’m also in no doubt that equality under the law is something to which gay and lesbian people must aspire and work for. I was delighted when legislation was passed making is illegal to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services. So much has been achieved in the last ten years; I once thought that I might never live to see such progress towards full equality. And there’s the rub: there’s either equality or there’s not. You can’t be half equal. I suppose marriage is the last hurdle. And I’m persuaded that if the state is to give legal recognition to two people in a committed relationship then it ought to offer to its citizens only one such legal framework. Anything else is discriminatory. Civil Partnerships were a huge milestone: but why is there a legal framework for opposite sex couples and a different one (different chiefly in name) for same-sex couples? That’s discriminatory. It’s been curious, I think, that some opposite-sex couples are campaigning to be allowed to have a Civil Partnership, because they don’t want to be married (perhaps for some of the reasons I mentioned above.) That’s the chief reason why I have changed my mind. I’d actually like the Government to go further and totally separate the civil aspects of marriage (or whatever you might call the arrangement!) from the religious and adopt the model which is found in most of continental Europe. There, couples must have a civil ceremony in order to be legally married; after that, those who are so inclined can go to church, chapel or mosque to have the religious bit. If we had this clear dividing line between the functions and responsibilities of church and state there wouldn’t have been any huge problem, I believe, with a proposal to have same-sex marriage. (I also found Prof. Hugh McLachlan in a letter to the press persuasive. He argues that marriage shouldn’t be about sexual orientation: two people of any gender or any sexual orientation should be able to be married, if the law is to be totally non-discriminatory. It’s not really the business of the law to ask about a person’s sexual orientation, after all.) But there’s another reason for my change of mind: I’ve been pushed into it. Some of the rhetoric flowing from the anti-same-sex marriage lobby has been vitriolic and spurious. The prophecies that same-sex marriage will be the end of civilization, the suggestion that the human rights of heterosexual people are being attacked, the belief that opening up marriage to same-sex couples is an attack upon marriage and the assertion that marriage is ostensibly about the raising of children are all founded upon an irrational fear and dislike of lesbian and gay people. It’s hard to argue rationally with such irrationality.”
Nicholas Holtam (Bishop of Salisbury, broadcaster and author) states:
“All of us have friends, families, relatives, neighbours who are, or who know somebody, in same sex partnerships. I’m no longer convinced that marriage can only be between heterosexual people. I think same-sex couples that I know who have formed a partnership have in many respects a relationship which is similar to a marriage and which I now think of as a marriage. And of course now you can’t really say that a marriage is defined by the possibility of having children. Not all heterosexual marriages produce, or even have the potential for, children, so that can’t be the single defining criteria setting them apart from same-sex partnerships.”
SO WHAT DO THOSE WHO OPPOSE SAME SEX MARRIAGE SAY?
· Same Sex Marriage will destroy the institution of marriage
Already discussed above are the discredited reports from Stanley Kurtz which wrongly claimed that Scandinavian introduction of same sex marriage had caused a negative impact on heterosexual marriage.
Some Christians regularly use this passage from the Bible to support the argument that marriage would be weakened when same sex couples are permitted to marry:
“29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 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 practice them.”
The first observation is that this passage neither in this translation nor in its original appears to make any reference to homosexual people specifically. The second observation is that it makes more sense to consider the following verse with this passage:
“ 1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”
The third (and arguably the most important) observation is that there are many more people who do not follow the Bible than those who do and public policy should not discriminate due to some peoples ideology.
Furthermore, no credible study has ever found that children are negatively impacted upon by being raise in a gay or lesbian household.
· Legalising same sex marriage would lead to polygamy
There is no rational basis for this statement. There is no obvious clarion call for polygamy in England. Even if there were, or if there were a rational basis, surely denying same sex marriage should not be done just in case it leads to polygamy. Surely the answer to dealing with concerns about polygamy is to concentrate on preventing polygamy happening – not discriminating against legal, consensual, same sex relationships.
· Legalising same sex marriage is not necessary because civil partnerships exist
There are numerous rights and entitlements that are afforded to married couples that are not available to civil partnerships. These are discussed in detail above.
SO WHAT ELSE DID THE CARDINAL HAVE TO SAY?
The Cardinal acknowledges that when civil partnerships were introduced that he did not support them.
If we look at what he actually said at the time of the debate about civil partnerships we can see that he said that introducing law to legalise civil partnerships were “unjust and immoral laws” that have no “natural or rational basis” and are “destroying Christian culture”. He predicted at the time that it would lead to a destruction of marriage and the fabric of society. Was he right? Clearly not. Why should he be right about same sex marriage then?
This is the same man who told Scottish MP’s that homosexual people are “captives of sexual aberrations” and compared gay men and lesbians to prisoners in the Scottish Saughton prison (official name HMP Edinburgh). Clearly, the Cardinal views LGBT people as criminals and sexual deviants. Helpful language to use.
He stated when civil partnerships were introduced that they were harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved. The reality is that creating a committed relationship and stable, publically recognised relationship which can be celebrated improved the mental well being of many people who have engaged in civil partnerships. There is no evidence to demonstrate any deterioration of physical or spiritual health due to civil partnerships, nor is there any evidence to suggest the same in nations where legal same sex marriage does occur. The propaganda that the cardinal uses is identical to that he used to try (fortunately in vain) to prevent civil partnerships. It is also very similar rhetoric that was used in the USA when inter racial marriage was proposed. Does the cardinal really endorse policy that is similar to that adopted by the Ku Klux Klan? He states there will be a redefinition of marriage. There would be no more of a redefinition (if that is the correct word, although I would dispute the vocabulary used) than when marriage was “redefined” to allow inter racial marriage. Has marriage died since interracial marriages were allowed? Does any reasonable person really think interracial marriage was a bad development? Marriage is principally about love; surely the love of two men deserves to be celebrated in a way identical to a man and a woman? In any event as Scottish QC and former head of the Scottish Sex Crimes Unit states “... there isn’t a single reason in the world why a willing minister shouldn’t be able to conduct a service to marry two gay people. This change of law is not changing the Catholic definition of marriage or the Church of Scotland’s definition of marriage or the Wee Frees’. I respect their right to that definition but it is the right of other churches to have their definition and act upon it. The Government has no business allying itself with one doctrine over another.”
One presumed the Cardinal was an intelligent man to have reached the lofty position that he holds. So either he is deliberately trying to mislead or he lacks the level of intelligence that one might presume when he states that article 16 of the Universal declaration of human rights defines marriage as a relationship between men and women only. The article actually states:
- (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
- (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
- (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
The article does not specify that men must marry women, nor does it prohibit men marrying men or women marrying women. In fact if the second clause is considered it appears to adopt non gender specific descriptors of partners in a marriage.
So whilst the Cardinal may seek to suggest that same sex marriage is “jettisoning the established understanding”. The reality is that it is seeking to eliminate discredited, prejudiced and indoctrinated understanding of what marriage is. It is being humane and being true to the letter and spirit of the entire Universal declaration of human rights. The Cardinals spurious and unintelligent use of article 16 is a red herring. He describes what he calls subverting article 16 as “grotesque”. The reality is the grotesque nature of his comment is the untruth of what he says. If a man of God has to lie to win his argument, then the argument is clearly lost.
The Cardinal rightly states that marriage predates any state or government. It also predates the Roman Catholic Church.
The Cardinal tries to scaremonger about polygamy. Where is this appetite for polygamy that he talks of? Surely polygamy would need to be decriminalised in any event. Homosexuality is not illegal. Polygamy is. His connection of the two is illogical, inhumane and disingenuous.
The Cardinal tries to scaremonger further referring to a case in Massachusetts, USA where school libraries were required to stock same sex literature. Firstly, is he really concerned that intelligent children should be able to read something and form their own moral judgements? Secondly, the likelihood of significant quantities of same sex literature hitting schools is remote. Thirdly, is his passion for preventing comments on same sex relationships (which children can see daily in Neighbours, Eastenders and Coronation Street) the same as the passion of his colleagues to prevent education on condoms in Africa where it could assist the prevention of HIV? Fourthly, how many forms of doctrinising literature does the Roman Catholic Church issue?
The Cardinal states that it is astonishingly arrogant that the Westminster government would introduce same sex marriage, and allow churches not to conduct it as this would dismantle the “universally understood meaning of marriage”. Firstly, marriage is about love and commitment of two people. Many nations and US states already understand it to include same sex partners. The UN declaration does not state what he tries to twist it to state. I believe it is astonishingly arrogant that any church leader believes that a government should acquiesce to the ideological rhetoric of a particular religious doctrine and expect law to be formulated to benefit that one doctrine. Marriage is not owned by state or church. Marriage is a celebration of two peoples love.
The Cardinal then has the audacity to extend his argument to slavery. He tries to suggest that if the government had tried to “redefine” slavery etc etc. Abolition of slavery (which many churches supported – but some battled to prevent!) was about freeing people from restriction, giving them equal rights and ensuring they had freedoms others enjoyed. That’s exactly what happens to gay people when same sex marriage is introduced.
The Cardinal uses his world view to interpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and tries to fit this to his own definition of marriage and family. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is blind to doctrine, ideology, orientation, race etc etc. The Universal Declaration is about fairness, integrity, honesty and impartiality. The dishonesty used by the Cardinal in twisting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an anathema to fairness and integrity and is deviant in itself.
In reality the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in article one “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” There is no suggestion that there is only equality if one is heterosexual or married to the opposite sex, although this is exactly what is implied in the Cardinals comments.
Whilst the declaration does not specifically mention orientation there has been inference that this is implied in article two where it states “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” The use of the language “such as” implies that the examples given are not the limit of considerations. It is therefore entirely reasonable to extrapolate from article two that orientation should not be used as a distinction to any of the rights set forth in the declaration. The Cardinal does seek to impose a restriction on rights of LGBT people and that is unfair, unjust and inhumane.
States have a responsibility to ensure the rights of all of their citizens regardless of difference. That includes ensuring them for those with and without religious conviction or regardless of race, gender, age, disability or orientation. The right to be considered as an individual and respected as an individual is innate. It is not granted by church, government or individual. It can be crushed by church, organisation, government or individual. The right still remains. Governments who act responsibly reflect the spirit and reality of the UN declaration of Human Rights. They do not acquiesce to indoctrination from any individual or group of religious leaders or organisations.
The Cardinal states that if same sex marriage is introduced that the Westminster government will have forfeited the trust that society has placed in them and their intolerance will shame the UK in the eyes of the world. The intolerance here is that of the Cardinal seeking to perpetuate homophobia and prejudice. He is seeking to root society in discrimination and unfairness. It is the Cardinal who shames the United Kingdom by his bigoted and outrageous comments seeking to undermine and dehumanise a minority in society.
The Cardinal will see the respect society has for him when the consultation shows beyond any doubt (as the recent opinion polls have shown) that his opinions are unfair, discriminatory and out of place. Much like many of the other aspects of the Roman Catholic Church. His belligerence does him no favours.