Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A few thoughts on (some of) the arguments against same-sex marriage

I HAVE SEEN many arguments against the introduction of same-sex marriage (it seems to me that opponents know their position is weak, so use a 'blunderbuss' approach, putting forward every argument of which they can conceive, many of which are extremely weak). However, I have yet to come across one that, when given a modicum of consideration, has any real validity. Here are my thoughts upon some of the arguments (all taken from the Coalition For Marriage website):

Redefining marriage would make marriage adult-centred rather than child-centred.

Marriage is already about two adults. If they have children, fine. If they do not have children, that is fine as well. Children will not be affected, and in any event same-sex couples have children too.

Marriage has a distinguished place in our history.

But it has not been unchanging - laws relating to the celebration and dissolution of marriage have been changed many times over the centuries. In any event, the fact that something has existed for a long time does not, of course, mean that it cannot, or should not, per se be changed.

If marriage is redefined once, what is to stop it being redefined to allow polygamy?

There is already nothing to prevent it being so redefined. However, we are not talking about such a redefinition. If and when we do, objectors (who I'm sure will include many who are now in favour of gay marriage) will have the opportunity to object. Such an argument is nothing more than (rather feeble) scaremongering.

No one has the right to redefine marriage.

Where does it say this? Marriage is governed by the law, and the law can be changed.

Redefining marriage will be expensive, have complicated policy implications, have bewildering effects on the English language and lead to further unfairness.

These can really be answered quite simply: other countries have done it, so why should it be so difficult for us? I suspect that most of us will be able to cope with any 'bewildering effects' on the English language (which will surely only be transitory anyway). As for unfairness, see also my thoughts on Civil Partnership, and my answer to the religious liberties point, below.

A majority of the public oppose same-sex marriage.

I'm not sure that this is so, but even if it is that is not a bar to changing the law. There are many laws that a majority of the population oppose, but that doesn't of itself make them bad laws. Most new law is passed without a public referendum, and much is not included in any election manifesto. In any event, as my other answers indicate, no one should be adversely affected by a change in the law here (this is also surely self-evident: how does a gay couple getting married affect me?), so I don't see that there is a problem if a majority object.

A man and a woman who wished to enter into the traditional institution of marriage would no longer have the opportunity to do so. Only the new, statutory institution, which defined a ‘marriage’ as the voluntary union of any two persons, would be available.

So what? They are able to get married now, and they will be able to get marriage after the law is changed. They will notice no difference. Why should they have a special status? Or, to put it the other way, why shouldn't everyone be equal? (As for Civil Partnership, my view is that it should be abolished after same-sex marriage is introduced. If it is not, then it should be available to opposite-sex couples, so that everyone is treated equally.)

Redefining marriage would have serious consequences for religious liberties.

The concern here seems to be that those who continue to believe only in 'traditional' marriage because they think their religion requires them to do so will be discriminated against, in the same way that those who oppose homosexuality and Civil Partnerships have been 'discriminated' against. Anyone who knows my views upon religion will not be surprised to hear that I have little sympathy for such an argument. These people need to stop believing in books that were written hundreds or even thousands of years ago, and come into the twenty-first century. They believe themselves to to be truly 'moral', but surely the 'moral' position is to support equality? If they can't do this (and no one is forcing them to change their beliefs), then they will just have to keep their beliefs to themselves, without using them to discriminate against others.

Redefining marriage would have serious consequences for schools.

Oh dear, children may have to be taught the truth: that there are people out there who engage in same-sex relationships. Get over it (I'm sure the children will). Hopefully, openly educating our children may actually have a highly beneficial effect, by (eventually) reducing prejudice against gays.


  1. Well addressed, John. It struck me when this issue came up on another forum that the previous government simply postponed the inevitable and gave family law practitioners an unnecessary raft of fresh legislation to deal with when they introduced the C.P. Act.
    Surely, they could just have repealed s11(c) MCA 1973 which makes a marriage void if the parties aren’t male and female? Similarly, the definition of both adultery and consummation as specifically heterosexual acts need redefining- they date from a time when homosexuality was illegal.
    In every other respect bar the religious element, CP’s and marriages are pretty much similar contracts. Now that some religious institutions are willing to marry same sex couples (probably a cynical move to replenish their ever diminishing congregations), it’s difficult to see any reason not to change the law.
    Not that there ever was a valid reason, just homophobia given a spurious gloss of respectability by holy writ. And that is the enduring legacy of holy writ- whether it is homophobia or mutilating the genitals of children- ugliness commanding respect and protection under the law because it was ordained by some Middle Eastern sky pixie.
    I’d like to think we are making progress but the large readership of the Daily Mail which promotes the spurious arguments you’ve addressed would suggest that a large proportion of the public still have their knuckles trailing the ground on this issue.
    And don't even start me on "religious liberties......."

    1. *Scrutinises comment for points to disagree with*

      Nope, can't find much wrong with that.

      Thanks, NL.

    2. I've not seen anything in the Quaker, Unitarian or Liberal Jewish position that suggests that our decisions to treat same-sex and different-sex relationships equally are in anyway a "cynical move to replenish their ever diminishing congregations". For the Quakers, at least, it was a long-tested and discerned process over many years.

      Otherwise, thanks for the main post John.


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