19 December 2012

Marriage for all or for no one

That marriage should be open to same sex couples seems to be unchallenged enough now as to allow a conservative PM to pass a bill in Parliament. Whether religious marriage should be open too or not does not seem so clear. A group of senior tory leaders showed their support last week. However, no religious institution would be forced to do so. Some important moves have been done to allow what would be an unheard of step forward for marriage equality in the world. Whitehall wants to “legalise” religious same sex marriage too but on an opt-out basis so each institution can choose. For this is not sufficient enough, under the new proposal, the Church of England and the Church of Wales will be banned for such ceremonies and so want to be other religious institutions from different faiths. A "quadruple lock" will be secured so no one will have to go through the traumatic experience of making some people happy.

Since all this fuss about gay marriage came in, some are worried that religious institutions could be forced to marry homosexuals by some eccentric court on the basis of discrimination. All in all, in the end this is proving to be not only a step forward but the re-assurance of  discrimination and the deeply rooted prejudice behind it. For many people religious same sex marriage is simply out of the question. And this is not even a conclusion. It's just a “natural” thought even before thinking about it. But if you think about it, this is excluding people from an institution on the basis of who they are. On that respect, it is equal to banning interracial marriage or banning women from public office posts... And allowing it for civil marriages but not for religious marriages is forcing homosexuals to sit at the back of the bus (until one refuses). To what extent can a society based on the rule of law and civil institutions allow itself to discriminate people on that basis? How can we reconcile having civil same sex marriage and heterosexual only marriage in religious institutions? If marriage is important enough, if marriage is such a great institution, wouldn't it be reckless to allow those discriminatory institutions to host it?

Let be clear about the battle that is being fought here. On one hand, there is morality (set up by religious authorities) on the other hand there is the law (set up by Parliament and the courts of Justice). The track record in the Western world over the past 200 years is that morality has been losing the battle. In the end is a matter of legitimacy: who should define the law -once defined, applied equally. On this end though many assume that morality should have the last word and discrimination should be permitted -law being applied unequally on a moral basis. Religious despise of homosexuality is therefore deemed more valuable to society than the inclusive non-discriminatory approach of civil marriage. From my perspective, if religious institutions are incapable of marrying homosexuals, then they shouldn't be able to marry no one at all. Since marriage is and should be above all a civil institution enshrined by law, let not allow those who do not abide by the same principles to host such institution.

Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, 11 December 2012


  1. Bueno, como has escrito en inglés, te respondo en inglés.

    I have to admit that until I read this, I was exactly in the situation you describe... Religious sex marriage is completely out of the question. That is due to 2 main reasons: first of all, religion is not a part of my life and sometimes I tend to forget that it's a big part of other people's life, and the second thing is that since i've been raised in a catholic country, it sounds quite impossible to me right now that such a out-of-date and conservative institution allows this.

    And yes, you're totally right, it doesn't make sense and it is indeed discriminatory.

    But do you really think it's possible to force catholics or muslims to change their dogmas? Do you really think that the British government (or any government at all) is going to get into that many trouble with religious people (i.g. religious voters) when civil same sex marriage is regarded as a huge victory of equality? I think this is going to take a long time to be accepted.

    I admit my absolute ignorance about how the Church of England and Wales work, though they look more open-minded than catholics... (you know: divorce, female priests, etc) so it might work there.

    But anyway, you know the real point of getting married is making a fucking huge party :P so who cares about if it's religious or not. Shit, who cares about getting married??? Let's make a fucking huge party!!!! :P

    Hope to see you in christmas!

  2. Hi Carmona,

    Sorry for my late response. I know in my post it is unclear what I would propose as a solution but I would not force religious institutions to hold same sex marriages because, among other things, it would violate their freedom of religion according to rulings of the ECHR as the Equality Secretary pointed out (another thing that unsettles the cabinet).

    I think the legal solution would be easier than expected. Law could be changed so religious marriage is not legally binding any more. This is the current status quo in the Netherlands. That way, marriage would only remain as a purely civil institution accessible to everyone therefore removing discrimination. Religious ceremonies would still be carried out but clear of any legal effect whatsoever. They would be purely private ceremonies.

    I know for many such a reform is unnecessary but it would be just the symbolic solution that would make clear that homosexuals cannot be second class citizens under any public institution.

    It was good to see you for Christmas. Take care!


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