Friday, June 22, 2012

The Conservative irony over same sex marriage

‘We will also consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage.’

Where do you think those words come from? New Labour? Liberal Democrats? No, they come from the Conservative party’s Equality Manifesto from the last election. Here’s an easier one. Who said this?

'And to anyone who has reservations, I say: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative’.

Yes, of course, that was David Cameron in his leader’s speech at the Conservative party conference last year.

The point I am making is that the subject of same sex marriage is currently a Conservative policy – no other major party has even mentioned the topic – so it is quite ironic that the greatest opposition to the idea, is coming from many within the Conservative party. Some are even blaming the Liberal Democrats for ‘forcing’ the Tories into it – which would not be the first example of Liberal Democrats getting criticised by the Tories for pursuing a Tory policy!

Liberal Democrats were (rightly, in my view) criticised for breaking a certain policy commitment in 2010. However here, as with Lords reform, many Tories are breaking their own commitments, yet are getting away with it. Some things are not fair.

On the issue of same sex marriage, opinion polls report that people are generally in favour of same sex marriage (with the exception of the over 65s). All the major parties are in favour so it is likely to get through OK.

With the parliamentary vote in mind, our MP, Gordon Henderson, commented that he had not yet made up his mind, that he would decide after listening to the arguments, and that he had two conditions for same sex marriage – that it is banned from religious buildings, and that no-one should be compelled to officiate at such ceremonies. It will be interesting to see what Gordon decides.

In response, here is my letter to the Sittingbourne News Extra

‘Marriage is a wonderful institution whereby two people commit themselves to love and support each other for the rest of their days. Generally speaking, married people are happier than single people. I myself have been happily married for nearly ten years. So it is curious that the topic of gay marriage is causing such an issue.

I was interested to read the views of Gordon Henderson, our MP, with regards to the upcoming vote in parliament. Like Gordon, I am a regular church-goer. I am actively involved with my local church in Milton Regis. And I can agree with one of Gordon's conditions - that people should not be compelled to officiate at same-sex ceremonies if they have objections to do so - this seems reasonable enough.

But I can't agree with his other view - that religious buildings should not be used for these ceremonies. God loves everyone, any Christian church would welcome in gay people and encourage them to get involved. So can we then ban them from using a church for the happiest day of their lives?

I can understand how some may feel uncomfortable with the concept of gay marriage, but the church must move with society. It was not long ago that the church were reluctant to marry divorcees, a viewpoint we find remarkable today.

We have some wonderful churches in the Sittingbourne area, so if a same-sex couple were to choose one of these houses of God to publicly make their vows to each other, under the eyes of God, then is this not something we should encourage?’

1 comment:

  1. I have two slight disagreements. I actually don't think the law should allow Registrars to opt out of officiating at gay weddings. Their job is a civil function, and if society through the law has said that gay relationships are legally equivalent to heterosexual relationships an individual registrar should have to accept that. It's not that long since some religious people thought that interracial marriages were wrong, and we wouldn't allow their prejudice to interfere with their job.

    On the question of the Church, I think it should be up to each Church (as an institution) to decide its view. If I were a CofE member, I'd want it to want to offer gay weddings, but I'm not, so I shouldn't have any say in this (and neither should the government). As the proposed law stands, though, the Unitarians for example, who probably would very much want to be able to do this, won't be allowed to, and that's wrong.