Gay Marriage (again)

It was reported in Tuesday’s Telegraph that UKIP would “strip Christian weddings of their legal status”. Similarly, ten days earlier, Simon Hughes – Liberal Democrat justice minister – said Christian wedding ceremonies “should have no legal status”. In both cases, an argument was advanced for the separation of Church and State. Under such rules, all religious groups (not just Christians) would be expected to undertake two ceremonies: a state-recognised marriage followed by a religious ceremony if the couple wish. Hughes argued “you would have a ceremony by which the state recognises the marriage, the wedding, and then the faith community has the ceremony which gives that the authority”. The Archbishop Cranmer blog has commented on the UKIP story here whilst The Christian Institute report on Simon Hughes’ comments here.

This blog has made no secret of its position on either Church/State separation (see here, here & here) or gay marriage (see here & here). Rather unusually, one finds oneself in agreement with both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats simultaneously.

For Cranmer, the issue revolves around the disestablishment of the Church of England coupled to his rampant Euro-scepticism. The position espoused by Farage and Hughes would necessitate the disestablishment of the state church which, to His Grace, would be anathema. For the Christian Institute, much of the issue revolves around parity for homosexual marriage. Having previously denounced civil partnerships as “gay marriage in all but name” (see here & here), it is difficult for them to maintain “although the media and some homosexuals like to call civil partnerships ‘gay marriages’, they are not marriages in law or in reality as they have since tried (see here). Their argument revolves around the existence of civil partnerships which, they claim, make gay marriage null and void. In truth, the objection is less about legal parity as cultural equality, an issue on which the boat sailed some while ago.

For the Christian, it is always difficult to work one’s faith out in the public square. What are the issues on which we ought to legislate? Should we seek to implement scriptural commands in civil law? If so, which? How far do we allow for cultural mores that seem antithetical to scripture? Before we can answer the questions surrounding gay marriage, we must first address these basic first principles (my attempt to answer some of these can be read here). 

The non-conformist, dissenting tradition to which I belong has a long history of seeking freedom as a disenfranchised group. How sad it is that many now view evangelicals, most of whom belong to this camp, as limiting to themselves the freedoms for which they fought bitter battles. It is equally unfortunate that those who holds such views often fail to recognise it is precisely those battles won long ago that allow minority groups the freedom to campaign for their own interests over and against the opinion of many evangelicals.

On the issue of gay marriage, the proposals outlined by Farage and Hughes provide an opportunity for Christians to support another minority group’s right to freedom (as we ourselves would expect from others) whilst maintaining a clear, scriptural view of the issue at hand. The State may grant legal, contractual living agreements to whomever it will whilst, with the separation of Church and State, the Church may provide ceremonies for whomever it will too. This solution removes discrimination at state level, the absurdity of certain churches forbidden to carry out ceremonies against their wishes whilst affording no protection to those who cannot countenance carrying them out, and grants legal parity to all whilst making provision for each to carry out their marriage (both institution and individual) in the manner befitting their belief and culture.

One comment

  1. I have considered this long and hard – I see 'same sex marriage' as an oxymoron. It isn't real 'marriage' and can never be. The state has just allowed the use of the word to be applied in this inappropriate way.

    But consider why the state have anything to do with marriage in the first place…

    Its because the state fleece you and mess you around, but 'state marriage' (for some reason) is an agreement that they will mess you around a little less. Its just a little protection against the states own abuse of you. Nothing to do with relationships/love/kids etc…

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