Anti-Gay Marriage Sign at Values Voter Summit (Photo credit: Talk Radio News Service)
Gay marriage – blanket equality for all or the churches’ choice?
Equality regardless of sex, race, sexuality, religion etc is something I strongly believe in and normally I’m the first to fly to the defence of people’s equal rights. However in the case of gay marriage the more I think and talk about it the more my opinion changes. Originally I thought all people regardless of gender should be entitled to be married and have the same status as everyone else regardless of where they want to be wed. I have since changed my mind.
The issue is of course rooted in the religions of the world shunning same sex relations and therefore not wanting to bring them into their places of worship. As much as I may disagree with this view I have to question non-religious people’s right to impose their view on others. As much as I want gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to have the same rights as straight people and believe that it is right, I am not comfortable with forcefully imposing my view on anyone. As much as I disagree and frankly judge you as a person for not supporting equality, this is a democracy and who am I to force you to adhere to what I say, I wouldn’t like it if you did it to me.
It is a tricky issue and there are a few ways of dealing with it, one of the most obvious is majority rule. Holding a referendum to see what people believe in and want to see happening in the country is supposed to be a fair and democratic method of deciding. However we have to question the flaws of this idea, for example its track record. Their are of course a million examples but one obvious one is the culture of slavery, now of course regarded as an awful and horrendous part of our history, was at the time clearly very well supported and took a long time to abolish. An extreme example I know but a truthful one. So who is to say what’s right and what is wrong?
Of course the issue could be left as it is but I don’t think that could happen for long, the people generally want change and I agree, the policy is outdated and unfair. So what are the differences in the UK between civil partnerships and marriages?
- civil partnership can only be a civil, and not religious, procedure, whereas opposite-sex couples can, in relevant circumstances, choose to have either a religious or a civil marriage ceremony
- adultery is not a ground for dissolution of a civil partnership (as it is for divorce), nor is consummation a criterion for legal validity (as it is in marriage); however, infidelity may be a contributory factor where ‘unreasonable behaviour’ is cited as a ground for seeking dissolution of a civil partnership
- there are differences in procedure: a civil partnership is formed when the second partner signs the relevant document, whereas a civil marriage is formed when the couple exchange spoken words and then the register is signed.
So clearly there is some inequality here, the worst being the grounds for divorce not being the same between the two. Also perhaps both methods of joining a couple together should be given the same names, as I would argue that this distinction is a negative one.
The option for change that I think would help fix this problem would be of course to improve the status of civil partnerships so they have the same legal standing as straight couples, but also to change the way the religious institutions decide what is the best course of action. As it is the head of the Church of England for example decides what all the individual C of E churches do, I think it would be a more democratic and fair method to allow the people in attendance at that church to have a referendum among themselves to decide what they think. That way individual congregations could decide what they honestly think on the matter, speakers from either side could come in to talk about their views and a rational decision could be made at a local level. And if you don’t like the decision made at that church you are free to leave and attend elsewhere. What’s fairer than that? Why should some religious leader somewhere not democratically elected be allowed to decide what a whole religion thinks about anything?
But ultimately the issue is not that big in the UK compared with elsewhere, as far as I’m concerned the legal status should be the same, individual churches should be able to make the choice for themselves, and the terms used in both gay and straight partnerships should be equal to avoid confusion and offence.
I personally am not religious and as much as I can respect those who are for their beliefs (provided they give me the same credit) I struggle to take the opinions religions quite as to heart as others do. As far as I’m concerned if I want to be in any form of partnership with whomever I love I don’t need the Church’s approval to do so. The problem is when same-sex couples do value the opinion of the church, which is of course where this issue originates.
There will always been arseholes in the world who regard not just gay people but other social ‘minorities’ and women as lower than them in the social chain. This is of course the brand of ignorance and stupidity I and others like me hope to fight against, but I am not convinced it will ever go away entirely, or not for a long while. In the end it is important to value yourself and your beliefs, and regardless of your sexuality, gender, religion or any other definition you place on yourself to strive to treat others as you would wish to be treated.
Gay marriage is not a threat (Photo credit: Lost Albatross)