A friend of mine recently published a short parody of the case against gay marriage and I felt that having remained quiet on this subject it was time for me to try and articulate some of my thoughts on the subject.
Firstly, I think the case against gay marriage isn’t about the people or our emotions, or even about homosexuality. It begins with the question what is marriage and that goes right back to our understanding of Adam and Eve both being made in the image of God and together their complimentary differences revealing God’s image to us. It is about marriage being about more than just two nondescript or even three or four nondescript people being ‘in love’ but about a covenant relationship between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all else. It includes the life giving potential of children and assumes that male and female role models are both important for the development of children (this is not to discriminate against single mothers or fathers or even single people, being a single parent may be the best result in a difficult situation, but it is not the ideal).
It’s not a issue of equality, treating people the same way despite the fact that their situations are different is actually harmful to equality (which we all recognise). And redefining a word like marriage in our litigious culture opens the door to further mistreatment of other people (consider Lillian Ladele or Shirley Chaplin) with sincere religious convictions about the nature of marriage. Legal experts suggest that even hospital and army chaplains could find themselves in trouble for expressing on a week day a belief about marriage that they preach and teach on a Sunday. Christian teachers will be on the front line of this and despite verbal assurances that liberty of conscience will be upheld there is nothing to protect a headteacher from dismissing a Christian teacher who wasn’t happy teaching this. Atheist teachers have for over a century had their freedom of conscience upheld by law (it seems people of sincere religious conviction will soon not have this right).
Even the government could find itself in trouble as the legality of their ‘triple lock’, to avoid religious organisations being forced to conduct gay weddings against their own doctrine and understanding, is already being challenged.
In Canada and the Netherlands moves are already in place to legalize three-way marriages, in Brazil a so-called triple marriage has already been conducted, and we already have guardian columnists writing in support of ‘thruple marriage’. Once marriage is redefined once what is to stop marriage being further redefined? Though this is not a foregone conclusion nor would I oppose one redefinition on the basis of where it might go next.
I think the so called Marriage Bill is wrong in and of itself because it already confuses the meaning of marriage. In this country the Marriage Bill would make marriage legal for gay people but makes no mention of adultery as grounds for divorce as in heterosexual marriage (and some legal experts suggest that adultery as grounds for divorce will soon be removed from law on heterosexual marriage as its unworkable). This seems to me to undermine the conservative assertion that this is about the importance of commitment!
All told the complex and three dimensional nature and understanding of marriage seems to me to be being flattened out and reduced to a lowest common denominator. So the very thing that currently means so much (particularly to Christians who see in their marriages an image of Christ and His Church) and is so attractive that people want in on it will be undermined by the changes to it.
This is why I just don’t think my friends easy parody does justice to the complexity of the issue here or to the sincerely held beliefs and motives of those opposed to the changes. In fact it impugns their motives, mocks their arguments and worst of all encourages a culture of fear towards those who wish no one ill. Fear is of course the basis and justification of prejudice and the enemy of liberty and freedom.