Thursday, 13 August 2009

Same Sex Marriage

I'm in favour of same-sex marriage. It occurs to me that the fair society that I want Scotland to be isn't possible while I have a right that someone else with a different sexual orientation doesn't have.

I've heard it argued that same-sex couples have the option of a civil partnership and therefore don't need to be able to marry. I disagree. I'm not right up to speed on the differences between marriage and civil partnership, but I see one fairly major difference quite easily - they've got different names. If I drift this argument off a bit to something the beachcomber said a while back; after the laws banning inter-racial marriage in South Africa were abolished in 1990 there was no different name for inter-racial marriages because that would have meant that the apartheid was continuing in some degree. Failing to call the two unions by the same name would have left them as different entities - and the same applies to same-sex relationships.

I've also heard the contention that permitting same-sex marriage would devalue marriage. Perhaps there's something I haven't perceived but I cannot for the life of me see how my relationship is affected by another couple having the right to celebrate their relationship in a manner which society accepts as normal, and I can't see how anyone's marriage is affected by the marriage of another couple. If there are people whose dignity and self-respect in their relationship depend upon others not having the right to celebrate the same ceremony as they have then I would venture to suggest that there are, perhaps, some self-reference issues to be addressed. What my neighbours decide is appropriate for their relationship does not affect my relationship - I may not share their tastes, but that doesn't impinge upon my ability to enjoy my life.

That brings me to the oft-repeated argument that the purpose of marriage is procreation and that same-sex couples cannot procreate. I can't agree. Surely the purpose of marriage is to allow two people to make a public declaration about their relationship? Surely the related purposes in the legal field allow rights for spouses? Children are often born to married couples, it is true, but it wasn't the marriage that created the children it was, for want of a better terminology, sex - and that didn't need marriage to make it happen, as evidenced by the number of children born to unmarried parents. Nor does it necessarily follow that a marriage will result in children being born, couples may decide not to have children and there are couples who cannot conceive. Neither of these groups is denied the right to marry, offering evidence that the purpose of marriage might not be procreation.

Permitting same-sex marriage won't affect me directly but it will make my country a fairer and more equal place. There will, of course, be opposition to any moves to allow this equality, but there will also be support. I would expect to hear biblical quotations condemning homosexuality, particularly Romans chapter 1 although I doubt whether anyone would continue into chapter 2:
1Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
2But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.
3And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

I also, however, remember that the Quakers - The Religious Society of Friends - have been celebrating same-sex relationships as marriages for some time and recently agreed to redraft "Quaker faith and practice" and to press for a change in the law to allow same-sex marriage. I also recall that the Unitarian and Free Christian Churches will bless same-sex unions and led the calls to allow religious celebrants to perform civil partnerships, so there may well be support from religious quarters for this equalisation of rights.

I believe in a Scotland free from prejudice and fear, a Scotland that ranks each and every one of its people equally and so I believe that it is not right that I should have a right that is denied to others who walk the same streets as me just because I am heterosexual and she or he is not.


Grogipher said...

Very well said!

It's the one thing I don't 'get' about the argument surrounding marriage or adoption or the other various gay rights issue that some religious groups take issue with.

If I get to marry the one I love; how does that affect their own marriage? If I decide to call it a banana instead, does that make it OK? It just doesn't make sense, it's purely symbolic, to show that in our country, we value everyone, and do not discriminate. Basically, it's saying:

"Well yes, here's the same rights as other people.. But shhh! Don't tell anyone."

J. Arthur MacNumpty sums it up better than I can however:

James said...

Agreed all round. Although I have heard moaning from American lesbians who thought they would always be exempt from Grandma nagging them to get married. Cuts both ways..

Anonymous said...

Personally, I favour civil unions for all. I don't believe the state has the right legislate over spiritual matters.

My gf, who is against gay marriage, but okay with civil unions, says that calling it a marriage does effect those who are already married, because it changes the terms of what a marriage constitutes, after they have "singed up".

Of course, the argument is thin, but emotions run high on this, and it's not going to be easy to convince someone otherwise (and believe me, I've tried).

Malc said...


I reckon thats the best way I've heard that argument put in a long time. Good effort.

Indy said...

I completely agree but I think the issue for some people is that they associate marriage as a legal contract with marriage as a Christian sacrament. They (falsely) imagine that equal marriage legislation would mean that ministers and priests would be forced to conduct marriage ceremonies for gay couples even if they did not want to.

Clearing up that misconception would go a long way to achieving the consensus we need to modernise the law in this area. I believe that the proposed legislation allows for a provision that religious bodies and religious celebrants who do not wish to conduct same-sex marriages are under no obligation to do so. Whether that would be enough to satisfy the religious lobby I don't know but it should surely satisfy everyone else.

Grogipher said...

I would certainly approve of the separation of the religious and legal aspects, yes!

Observer said...

This is all very nicey nicey but how do you associate this with the wider SNP? You can't deny that you have taken funds from Brian Souter.

People are perfectly entitled to their religious views but when you take money from someone with such homophobic views every member of your party is going to be put under the spotlight 24/7.

Just don't take the homophobes money.

Caron said...

Great post - Stephen Glenn has answered some of your questions about differences between marriage and civil partnership here.

I'm glad that the SNP has people in it who are in favour of a more progressive, liberal agenda, but I do worry that, given the extent to which you are financed by the likes of Mr Souter, whether the SNP as a party will be able to deliver on issues of equality.

Calum Cashley said...

Donations to political parties don't change the parties - Michael Brown's donation didn't make all the Lib Dems thieves and fraudsters, for example.