Lynne Featherstone

MP for Hornsey and Wood Green

my blog
Lynne's Parliament and Haringey Diary, established 2003

Gay Marriage – and the Season of good will!

The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols and The Rt Rev Mark Davies of Shrewsbury are both quoted in The Independent today as using part of their Christmas messages to oppose the government’s proposals on equal marriage.

I profoundly believe and fight for freedom of speech and I defend their right to say what they have said. So I pen this not in anger – but in sorrow.

Of course you can disagree with equal marriage. You can believe that it can only be between a man and a woman. You can ultimately resist getting married to someone of the same sex if you don’t want to when this becomes law. What you surely cannot do is simply rail against the fact that not everyone subscribes to your point of view and then try to stop others living life in a different way than your religion dictates.

And it is quite shameful to argue against equal marriage on the grounds that religions will be forced to conduct such marriages. The Government’s intention to make it possible for those religions that wish to conduct such services to have the freedom to so do -  and the Government is bending over backwards (some would say too far) to ensure any fears of religions being forced to conduct such marriages are unwarranted.

It is even more shameful when that argument is lost to simply shift to the next argument as being the most important – that there is no mandate (The Rt Rev Mark Davies’ Christmas message). Good grief! Not only did all three leaders at the time of the election and since make clear that they all supported equal marriage; not only is it in the Conservative Equality commitment document; not only is it Liberal Democrat Party policy; not only do all polls show the majority in favour of equal marriage; not only did the largest response to a consultation by government in all history also show a majority in favour – but since when did any government do only that which was in a manifesto? A manifesto is a prospectus of what a government will do – not a prospectus of all it will do. The Coalition agreement is a compromise of the two manifestos. That does not preclude – and never has – the bringing forward of further proposals which are then democratically decided by a vote in the Houses of Parliament.

The other argument brought forth and paraded is that of ‘redefining’ marriage. Well – that depends on your definition. Mine is exactly what the Archbishop of Westminster decries in his statement – that where there is love and commitment between two people that is all you need for marriage. He also argues that these matters have not been given much thought. Oh please! This issue has probably had more thought and discussion than any other issue of the day!

It is very disappointing that religious leaders who object so forcefully to equal marriage seem to have so little faith in their own beliefs. If their religious beliefs are that marriage can only be between a man and a woman – they should have the confidence in their flocks to believe that too. And if it is their own flocks’ potential for disagreeing with them that is their real fear – then that is a matter for religious leaders and their congregations to sort out.

This is all about love actually!

Wed 26 December 2012
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Comments

  1. Marc R. Sherland says:

    A well stated opinion, clearly identifying the issues and providing a balanced viewpoint. well done.

  2. Ampers says:

    I don’t think they are against gay marriage, just not in their churches, could you make this clear if you write about it again.

    Personally, I don’t give a hoot either way, I am more concerned with the mess this country is in.

  3. Tony Hopkins says:

    With regards to Gay marriage; I would argue that it is not right to introduce it primarily because the state has to do this.

    You claim that the Church will be protected against legal action, if they will not marry a Same sex couple; however, this does not rest the case, as there is the rather nefandous EU which will of course say to the Same Sex couple that it’s law in your country, and thus, they have to obey it.

    Furthermore, it will harm children to be brought up with the belief that homophlia is normal, when indeed, it has been considered by many a Psychologist not to be ( including one Traci Hansen ). When you have the state redefining marriage on the premise that it will get votes; it is simply wrong.

    To finish this off, some would say about Equal Rights; however, Equal Rights can never be sought primarily because you would have to have a numeric, generic society – - you’re trying your best to bring this about; however , the majority of Britons do not want- regardless of what your polls say ( which is most likely been done with a rather small population set, and probably those who answered the poll were young – and Liberal ).

    All in all, same sex marriage is wrong not just for the sake of normality and traditions, but also for the mental stability of children in Britain today.

  4. Sid Cumberland says:

    Remind me again – how many votes did Vincent Nichols get when he was elected as Archbishop?

  5. Kilsally says:

    By that definition of marriage being two people living reach other, then what of incestous relationships or for that matter why confine it to two people?

  6. Anthony Hollands says:

    I thought this really hit the nail on the head, well done. You’ve tackled every argument persuasively and with evidence. This isn’t necessarily about whether you believe these proposals are right or wrong. It’s about not imposing your beliefs on others and letting them live their lives, even if you do not happen to agree with it. Cracking blog entry.

  7. Nick Lansley says:

    Thanks for this, Lynne. As a gay person in a committed relationship I was upset that the Archbishop made headline news yesterday – Christmas Day of all days. The following words in the post link are me trying a decent response and try to show the real meaning of Marriage. I hope you like it. Cheers, Nick

    http://www.lansley.com/wordpress/?p=47

  8. Maurice Nagington says:

    A wonderful response. Good to hear someone from the government debunking some of the recent arguments about same sex marriage. In particular the ones around “it wasn’t in the manifesto” arguement.

    Well done Lynn, and thankyou for all your hard work. It’s politicians like you who keep my faith in the political establishment in this country.

  9. Robin Seymour says:

    I can understand your stance on equality, I can understand your attitude on love actually, I can understand your position on the government will do some of its prospectus and anything else it wants to because its the government and after all we voted for it didn’t we.

    The problem with all of the arguments that you put forward are based on the vocal minority and not the silent majority. the reality is that the only time that the silent majority become vocal is when you (as politicians) get pushed into well meaning but destructive polices by the vocal minority.

    Your argument is based on the premise that a legal partnership is not equal to marriage and that it should be possible if religions wish to, marry same sex couples.

    Doubtless you have been besieged by religions requesting permission to carry out such ceremonies.

    Once this is passed there will be legal challenge after legal challenge by those with a vested interest to force all religions to conduct such “marriages”

    For the avoidance of doubt I am not Homophobic and do believe in equal rights, I also believe in difference and do not believe that all can be shoe horned into a one size fits all.

    Surely a much better way would be to strengthen the civil partnership to achieve par if it is not already.

  10. Keith Hebden says:

    Thank you Lynne, as an Anglican priest I, like many of my colleagues are disappointed and saddened by the entrenched homophobia among the ‘decision makers’ in our denomination.

    However, Like Peter Tatchell, I look forward to the day when straight couples are also offered ‘civil partnerships’ if the want it. When do we get to that?

  11. Michael Smith says:

    In truth, your position is shameful. The government actually has no mandate to act on issues such as this – and it is YOU who are forcing your own misguided understanding of marriage on this country. You criticise the Bishops for teaching their congregations but actually, you depend on your liberal lackies to mop up every word and do your bidding. Now in government, it seems you have taken on the mind of a cult, where people must obey every word on all issues of life, be it finance, leisure, morality, whatever, it now appears to be the government’s prerogative; and woe betide any individual who dissents, for they shall be cast out and thrown before the kangaroo courts of extremist lobbyists and malignant, metropolitan media goons who are also spellbound.

    Why is this the season of goodwill? Because of a man called Jesus, Christ. But He teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman and is an institution founded by God. Don’t you think it would be much more honest if you a) were consistent in your citation of scripture, and b) up front about your intentions for altering this country’s foundational institutions, BEFORE the election?

  12. John Haynes says:

    Frankly, you are wrong at so many levels, it would be hard to know where to start. Yes I am RC and ‘straight’ but that does not totally ‘define me as a person’ any more than it defines someone who is ‘gay’ of whatever gender. For a bit of my personal background, if you can be bothered, read the following: http://baldysblog.co.uk/2012/02/24/gay-marriage/#more-3440

    As someone who had to (chose to I guess), deal with chaps dying as the consequence of AIDS and dealing with their ‘straight relations’ finally having to acknowledge what they always knew but never until then faced, I felt that Civil Partnerships were a much overdue necessity. Yes, I had to deal with the ‘brother’ over the top on ‘not being gay’ whilst them not ‘giving space’ to the man their brother had spent his last 5 years living with and that person not legally being considered ‘next of kin’.

    In cooking we talk about ‘marrying’ things, tastes and flavours together, we do not talk of ‘marrying’ this sprout with another or one King Edward potato with another, do we ?

    I do not write because I am ‘anti-gay’ or have no knowledge of such things, I do not even write because I am Catholic, I write because it is a cultural nonsense and you should really own up to that. I much admire Cameron but he has fallen victim and no doubt the result of “de-detoxifying’ the Tory Brand to being ‘uber-liberal’ and that is a real mistake but worse, what happened over ‘Catholic Adoption Agencies’ has also been forgotten by the political classes such as you. That too was a very minor issue that could have been dealt with and ‘nuanced’ but wasn’t.

    Do you seriously not realise that sooner rather than later, there will be a case before the ECHR on any British exemption for “Religious Establishments” NOT to be forced to hold same sex ‘marriages’ under this legislation ? In which case, don’t worry about the RCs, worry more about Muslims.

    Nicholls is quite right, there is no ‘mandate’ and more importantly, you have not considered the “UN-intended consequences”, consider the following: http://baldysblog.co.uk/2012/03/21/that-human-rights-act-again/

    As the straight doorman at a busy gay bar, I heard many ‘stories’ but from some 3 years in the job, the loudest message concerned people “being accepted”… As far as I was concerned, the vast majority of my customers were decent people I could empathize with but mainly because I remembered my own ‘boyhood’. I don’t think that there is a ‘gay gene’, it is more complex than that but I am aware because I have heard the same tale many times, that from a very early age, some lads knew that they were ‘different’ and felt the need to hide it from the majority of their classmates.

    All the really important ‘battles’ over gay rights in the UK have been won long since, Peter Tatchell (a good guy in my experience), now has to go to Moscow to get beaten up, but “gay rights in the UK” is very much a minority interest and even more so today.

    Gay marriage is just ‘dressing up’ in Mum and Dad’s clothes, it is a nonsense that just belittles gay people and their right to be accepted in society as something more ‘normal’ than having to be an Elton John, Larry Grayson or Graham Norton . Being gay was always meant to be subversive, any attempt to ‘normalize’ what must be a difficult personal journey on the road to accepting yourself as you are is total rubbish. Do get out of the Westminster Bubble and stop talking to the “Metropolitan Luvvies” they never did know anything but like many things “you disconnected people” believe are important, this one really isn’t.

  13. Patrick Martin says:

    Despite what you say, the problem is that there has not been a proper philosophical discussion about the nature of marriage. On such an important and controversial issue one might have expected a full consultation setting out not only the pros and cons of these proposals, but also the impact on the existing institution of marriage. Instead, we have been presented with a fait accompli – the consultation was about how and not whether – with very little opportunity to discuss in full the many and substantial objections to these proposals, which by no means only derive from religious principles. While I agree that not everything has to be set out in Party manifestos, it is certainly the expectation that major proposals should be, and this wasn’t.

  14. Philip Springham says:

    Thank you Lynne – it’s nice to hear a voice of reason amid all the hate from some of the clergy in recent days.

    Marriage is a commitment of love and fidelity. The word ‘marriage’ conveys far more meaning than ‘civil partnership’, and truly reflects how I, and all my friends and family, view my relationship with my partner.

    I hope the legislation is passed and then we can all move on. We’ll all look back and wonder what all the fuss was about when society doesn’t collapse!

  15. Paul says:

    Gay marriage going against nature. Men and Women were made for a reason. If two men or two women were meant to be a couple then you would me made like a snail, with both male and female organs.

  16. Peter says:

    Dear Mrs Featherstone,

    You only get a majority of people in favour of this if you discount the 600,000 people who signed the petition against it. This, strangely, you forget to mention. A person with more integrity would at least acknowledge that of the people who have bother to write about this or sign anything, the vast majority are against it. Do you have the guts to acknowledge that?

    You can call it what you like; you can try to redefine marriage if you wish; you can use words like ‘shameful’ to tarnish the genuinely held beliefs of others (after all, your opinion on this is also a belief – it just happens to be a secular one) but what you cannot do is change the reality. A huge number of us will never acknowledge this farcical notion and will be more than happy to stand up to the shallow demands of the liberal agenda – even if that means going to prison.

    Remember; the UK Parliament passed a law that said prisoners couldn’t vote and we are now told that if we don’t change that law we will be in breach of our international obligations and will be fined. Do you seriously believe that if the ECHR decides that your so called protection for Churches breaches their ‘equality’ legislation that your ‘quadruple’ lock will be worth anything?

    Don’t resort to words like ‘shameful’ when responding to your opponents. A genuinely held view from a position of integrity is not shameful – it’s just different from your view, that’s all.

    On the wider point, to borrow a phrase from another organisation, “Some people are Catholics – get over it.”

  17. Andrew Brown says:

    Excellent piece – especially at debunking the nonsense about this not having been in Manifestos: a desperate clutching at straws.

    I’ve also written a piece based on Archbishop Nichols’ comments: http://oneexwidow.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-grinch-who-stole-christmas.html – he could have used his message as an opportunity to reach out and help heal the terms of the debate: instead he drove a further wedge between the RC Church and Gay People within and outwith its walls.

  18. The recent government announcement represented a significant diversion from original proposals – and widely publicised public consultation – on CIVIL marriage.
    It was inevitable the debate would get hijacked by religion and the church – as issues concerning equality and the right to marry are fading into the background – and that is indeed shameful. The government should not have moved away from the original – and workable – proposals.

  19. Manuel Fernandes says:

    Wonderful piece, debunking the “no mandate” lies. However equally enjoyable are the desperate, empty hilarious bleatings here that equality for all is just a “vocal minority interest” or a straight man telling us that “being gay is meant to be subversive” or being told that it is “not natural” the week after scientists have discovered the biological basis for orientation, or that there are some mythical “substantive objections” that perpetually elude being mentioned…..EVER, or that the ECHR will sue churches like they don’t do over women, when Article 9 protects them, or that the polls are just wrong, just because! Or that they only want to keep equality out of churches when they have been campaigning to keep it out of secular civil service registry offices, and rained down exactly the same disingenuous spite on the idea of civil partnerships. Pathetic.

    Thank you Lynne x

  20. Tom says:

    But do the 80% of the Catholic LibDem MPs who are currently not supporting equal marriage in agreement with you, Lynne or with their Catholic masters?

  21. Deano says:

    As Lynne says, the Govt proposals are the result of an enormous amount of consideration and consultation. The resulting proposals are the logical and sensible outcome from all that thought.

    Of course, the opponents will always want to make this
    - all about them, and
    - not about ‘Marriage’ but a question of whether homosexuality should be tolerated at all

    It is marvellous to be living in an age when government has moved on from that – following a trend that is happening all around the World. France, NZ, USA and many others are currently going through the same process. In each country the same campaign is raised by the local branch of the international Catholic Church. But the opposition fails because it has no sort of rational, convincing argument.

    Very pleased to see so many individual catholics supporting the change and ignoring their leaders.

  22. Jay says:

    Will Self on Question Time the other day said that, just like people who are opposed to immigration (mass or smaller scale), people against gay marriage are essentially bigots. It’s as simple as that.

    When people talk about nature or what is natural and what isn’t, have they ever thought about whether flying an aeroplane is natural? Is vaccination natural? What about using mobile phones? Why isn’t the church opposed to divorce if they care so much about marriage? Humankind is now so advanced that marriage is not only about procreation and advancement of the species. There is no reason why 2 consenting men or 2 consenting women cannot get married if they love each other and harming no-one else. If you are going to equate gay marriage to bestiality and incest, then you are getting desperate for arguments against gay marriage. If you can’t see how heterosexual love and homosexual love are the same thing and acceptable by the overwhelming majority and how incest and bestiality are extremes which are not wrong because of religious books, but because of obvious social and biological reasons, then your judgement is worrying.

    I am not even going to get into the whole “lack of mandate” angle. The author of the article above made it clear why it’s utter rubbish. I would just add that if you think the government requires a mandate to establish equality, then it’s a really sad state of affairs.

    Finally, this whole thing about redefining marriage or how marriage has been between a man and a woman for millennia, how religion defines marriage,…etc. Just because something was defined in an old book written in a time when people essentially didn’t understand the world (and what surrounded our planet) and hence invented God, it doesn’t mean we can’t change it if it no longer applies to a modern progressive world. Slavery, championed by many religions, used to be common place. What happened there? Is the church against the ban on slavery? Women used to be deprived the right to vote and a whole load of what we now consider as fundamental rights. What about those? Change happened there. Why can’t it happen for gay marriage when it seems like the right thing to do?

    Ultimately, whatever the resistance from religious groups, gay marriage will happen. It’s inevitable and not only in the UK, but in most parts of the world. And whether you like it or not, religion will disappear and is already dying a slow death. It will be a great day when the government finally stops listening to religious groups and makes bold (and the right) decisions.

  23. Paula says:

    Many married trans folk are very surprised that over recent weeks there has been no mention by government on how the proposed Equal Marriage Bill will end what amounts to State enforced divorce.

    Given that the consultation identified the married trans issue as a driver for change, perhaps some of the debate should consider the trans perspective?

  24. Chris McCormick says:

    Very nice piece Lynn, unlike much of the opposition commentary on this subject it has a pleasing lack of hyperbole and logical fallacies.

    There are number of points raised in some of the previous comments that I would like to address.

    @ Ampers: First of all, I think it is fair to say church leader are, quite clearly, against same sex marriage in their churches but it is also fairly obvious that they are against it in more general terms. One only needs to look at the Pope’s recent proclamations on the subject and how it will bring about the fall of civilisation as we know it.

    @ Tony Hopkins: With respect to potential legal challenges in Europe, this is a tricky one. There may well be legal action, but the European Court has already said that same sex marriage is something that it believes falls within the member states area of responsibility and it seems unwilling to interfere. Of course, there is nothing to say this won’t change, and once same sex marriage is available I expect Europe will be more willing to look at it. Even if they do I expect they will still be reluctant to interfere in the internal working of the churches.

    You claim same sex marriage will be harmful to children is said as if it is a fact, when in actuality it is completely without foundation. I can’t find any published article by Traci Hansen (though I must admit I did not look overly hard) so I can’t really comment on her. I have, however come across many papers and opinions by eminent and widely published psychologists that would suggest that there is no harm.

    I would also suggest that if you are going to call the result of polls into question you should probably look at the methodology used in the poll to see if any of your objections are valid; in fact, given the comments you have made about the poll, one might be forgiven for suggesting it appears that you haven’t looked at the results let alone the methodology.

    If what was normal and traditional never changed we would probably still be living in caves. Slightly more seriously, if we refused change because of normality (and who knows what that is) and tradition, we would still have blacks sitting at the back of the bus and going to different schools than the white folk. Appeals to tradition do nothing to strengthen the argument against same sex marriage.

    @ Kilsally: Ah, the good old slippery slope argument. We have all heard that same sex marriage will lead to people marrying their cars, their dogs, their siblings and all the people in their dance class, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. The animal argument is easily dealt with. Marriage should be a voluntary union between two consenting adults. Admittedly, that does not specify human adults, but most people would agree that an animal lacks the capacity to consent and would, therefore, be ineligible to be married off. One’s car would be unable to avail of marriage for similar reasons.

    Incest and polygamy are general restricted for their own reasons. It is generally considered that they are harmful to society and therefore in practice they are restricted. There is no reason to suppose this would change.

    @ Robin Seymour: The main issue with civil partnership, even where the legal rights and responsibilities are identical to marriage, is that it makes a distinction between the two. Where the state tells us that these two things come with all the same rights and responsibilities, they are legally identical, but they are called different things, then the state is effectively endorsing the believe that one of them is somehow more right than the other.

    By giving same sex couples all the rights and responsibilities of opposite sex couples but withholding the title of marriage the state is saying that these relationships are not as “good”. They are almost legitimising discrimination against this group, because they are discriminating against them themselves.

    I am not sure about the legal challenge bit, to be honest. The courts can’t, as far as I am aware, force a church (not CoE anyway) to marry someone. I, as an atheist could not go to court to force my local Catholic church to marry me. They, as an institution, have a legally protected right to run their business as they see fit. They can already discriminate, perfectly legally, in other areas where they would run foul of the law where they anything other than a religion, why must this be any different?

    @ Michael Smith: No church owns marriage. Marriage ceremonies were being carried out long before Jesus was born. This argument that there is no mandate seems to be the desperate clutching of straws of an out of touch minority refusing to realise or acknowledge that the world has moved on.

    Governments make legislation that did not appear in their mandate all the time. Did you protest at government restrictions on dangerous dogs after a number of attacks on children? That legislation was not in any manifesto, nor was it in the Queen’s speech?

    @ John Haynes: I’m afraid I don’t really know where to start with your comment… There are plenty of statements but little to actually engage with. Whilst your anecdotes are lovely to read they are of little relevance to the debate.

    Europe seems to come up quite a bit. I understand that there is a lot of suspicion about the EU, and they may very well stick their nose in, but I would be really surprised if they interfered in the internal operation of religious institutions. Religious freedom is a protected right and I would be surprised if the EU tried to force religions to operate in conflict with their doctrine.

    With respect to your point about acceptance, do you not see that having civil partnerships for “the gays” and marriage for straight couples is a state enforced example of non-acceptance?

    @ Paul: Nah, I won’t even bother…

    I have to admit, I am somewhat liberal in my outlook and I have a really serious dislike for discrimination. I understand that in some cases there can be justifiable reasons for discrimination, and in those cases it may be ok. In regard to same sex marriage I have yet to hear a plausible reason for the discrimination that is not rooted in some religious doctrine or a logical fallacy like an appeal to tradition, slippery slope or appeal to fear.

    If you want to argue rationally against same sex marriage, which you will need to if you are to have any hope of success in the continued discrimination, then you will have to come up with some arguments that are accessible to people that don’t share your belief. That your God or your religious leader says so is merely another logical fallacy, an appeal to authority, and does nothing to engage those that don’t follow your belief.

  25. Boudicca says:

    “What you surely cannot do is simply rail against the fact that not everyone subscribes to your point of view and try and stop others living life in a different way than your religion dictates.”

    No one is complaining about people living their lives in a different way. What we are against is the whole interpretation of marriage being changed to suit a tiny proportion of the population.

    Since well before Christian times, marriage has been the union of a man and a woman, primarily to give children a stable family and recognisable legitimacy. Marriage is a legal contract that is recognised in law, which underpins society and (amongst other factors) relates to the rules of inheritance. Until fairly recently, it was understood as the uniting of two families not just the two individuals involved.

    Marriage is not, and until recently never was, about a man and a woman being “in love” and wanting to have sex.

    I am not religious, but I do not believe homosexual ‘marriage’ is appropriate. Homosexuals and Lesbians have the same legal and financial protections in Civil Partnerships. This is about pretending that homosexual and Lesbian unions are the equal of heterosexual ones = and I don’t believe they are.

  26. Rosemary says:

    This debate really is not necessary. There is already a state-recognised mechanism for people of the same sex to register their commitment, and love to each other, and to obtain equal legal rights to those in a married relationship. I don’t have a problem with civil partnerships.

    Marriage is not just about love. I feel sorry that those of you who believe that the proposed change is so simplistic, and are not aware, or not willing to acknowledge the different role that marriage has. For sure, many people who get married do not have families as a result, but the primary purpose of marriage is to provide a strong foundation for any children who may be created through the union of the one man and one woman who have bonded through marriage.

    Opposition to the redefinition of marriage does not come just from religious bodies. It is deeply unpopular, as you can see from the petition “Coalition for Marriage”, currently standing at almost 624,000 UK citizens, which has been signed by people of all faiths, and of no particular faith.

    In countries where same sex marriage is legal, for instance, Canada, ordinary, law-abiding people are being prosecuted for so-called “hate speech”, if they express any objection to same sex marriage. Is that really what we want here, or do we value our democracy, freedom of speech, tolerance of each other, and our diversity?

    On the subject of a mandate – I don’t remember this ever being discussed during the election campaign. It seems to be more of a mandate promoted by a highly organised, highly funded international minority group. The UK consultation on this is a sham, since there was no requirement to evidence UK citizenship, and since there was nothing to prevent a person from submitting multiple responses.

    I believe that we in the UK have our own way of deciding for ourselves what is right for us, and I totally object to international campaigns attempting to impose their views and beliefs on us. Ask the people! And do so honestly, and broadly. Let us be the leaders of the world in this respect – the rest of the world will respect us for it.

    I believe in equality, but I also believe in differentiation. Anyone has the freedom to marry, anyone has the freedom to form a civil partnership, anyone has the right to do neither. Goodwill arises when each of us can recognise and support each other, whichever of these lifestyles we have.

    I believe that the government can do a lot more to encourage marriage in its current form. Of primary concern to most young people nowadays is that unemployment is rife, and thus no incentive for them to commit to another person. This is what people want the government to change, not the meaning of marriage.

    I truly hope that 2013 will herald an end to this, and a renewed focus on the benefits of monogamy, and marriage as the voluntary union of one man and one woman, for the benefit of future generations.

  27. Troy Tester says:

    Well done Lynne and thank you for continuing to fight for equality and human dignity. My partner and I have been waiting for years to be able to enter a marriage equal in status to that of our heterosexual friends. This legislation is long overdue. The point that so many people miss when they protest against this change in the law is that if you don’t believe in same-sex couples marrying then you don’t need to enter such a marriage yourself! But it is wrong that people (or the religious institutions) should seek to deprive others of their basic human rights. Surely the right to love is a basic human right? And to those who claim that the European courts will somehow force churches or clergy to conduct same-sex marriages – 1) if that is the case then why has it not happened already in those eu states that already have equal marriage? 2) why on earth would anyone want their marriage ceremony conducted by someone who was being forced to do it?

    Keep up the good work.

  28. Laurence Boyce says:

    “If two men or two women were meant to be a couple then you would be made like a snail, with both male and female organs.”

    That’s a brilliant argument Paul. That will be a devastating blow for the supporters of gay marriage. Certainly puts all those lame “no mandate” arguments in the shade.

  29. Peter Cook says:

    The governments promises not to force churches to conduct gay marriages need to be measured against previous promises not to discriminate against the Christians. The huge queue of cases against the government waiting to be heard in the European courts and the way in which Christians have found themselves in the courts and police cells for upholding traditional beliefs shows us the value of such words.
    The church made massive errors in the way that homosexuals were persecuted. What is sad is in how short a time the persecuted have become the persecutors. The victims of intolerance have become violently intolerant to any to don’t share their views.
    If this is such a clear case of religious bigotry in the face of public opinion then why didn’t you have the courage to put this in your manifesto? If that was an unfortunate omission, then why not call for a public referendum on it now – you seemed happy to do that when you thought it might give you power under PR, this is far more fundamental to national life. Bigotry is a terrible thing, even if it is dressed up as tolerance.

  30. Tony Sargeant says:

    Talking of mandates where is these religious leaders’ mandate to address the subject on Christmas Day. Where in the Christmas story of the virgin birth does marriage appear.
    Where does it say marriage is only between a man and a woman?
    If marriage is only to produce children – do childless couples cease to be married?

  31. Rosemary says:

    Dear Troy,

    I can sense the passion behind your belief that this legislation is needed, and I have a certain sympathy for you. What I do not understand is why you believe that a civil partnership would not give you and your partner equality of status to that of a married couple, and why you do not view that as a dignified solution.

    There is a certain irony that civil partnerships are generally recognised as relationships which are just as meaningful to the couple concerned as a marriage is to a heterosexual couple. If this acceptance is lacking in any way, or if your legal rights are compromised, then it needs to be tackled, and improvements need to be made.

    There is also an irony that there is a lack of acknowledgment from those in favour of this legislation, that a change to the meaning of marriage will hurt the many people who believe in it as a unique institution (whether or not for religious beliefs) between a man and a woman, for the benefit of future generations.

    The challenge is that so many of us believe that if you don’t want to marry someone of the opposite sex, then you don’t have to, and there are alternatives in the UK. This doesn’t mean in any way a lack of dignity or equality for you, or for your partner.

    What you will fail to do is to persuade the majority of people in this country that we can call any relationship a marriage, just because two people love each other. Legislation will not stop there, will it? There will be further legislation needed to remove sexist terminology such as husband/wife, or mother/father, and consummation/annulment become difficult issues to define. Changing marriage will diminish the meaning of marriage for us all.

    Marriage is a precious institution – a voluntary union between a man and a woman, whereby children, more often than not, are naturally created. It is not the same as a civil partnership between people of the same sex, although both types of relationships should be just as meaningful to the individuals concerned.

    I wish you well, but I hope that you will ponder the deep reasons for needing to keep marriage as it is, and to promote it for future generations to come.

  32. [...] but surely it would be a better idea than rushing it through in a shambolic fashion? Over on Lynne Featherstones blog she claims it’s the “governments intention” to let churches make up their own [...]

  33. Deano says:

    What I fail to understand is why allowing couples of the same sex to marry will, as Rosemary says, ” diminish the meaning of marriage for us all”.

    There are all sorts of different marriages ,after all , eg traditional marriages, arranged marriages, marriages of convenience, sham marriages, celebate marriages, short and long marriages, marriages invloving love and marriages where the parties despise each other, not to mention royal marriages. But all are recognised by the State and none of them deminish the way I view my own marriage.

  34. Tom says:

    Rosemary , if you don’t like “gay” marriages or feel they’re not for you then simply don’t marry someone of the same sex. I personally wouldn’t want to marry someone of the opposite sex.

    I think you should be lobbying your MP for heterosexual civil partnerships if you think that they mean so much to you.

  35. [...] a Boxing Day post on her blog, she singled out comments from Nichols and from the Rt Rev Mark Davies, the Roman Catholic bishop [...]

  36. Dorothy says:

    Sorry ‘Rosemary’

    everyone has been listening to the ‘redfining marriage will diminish it for everyone else’ argument for a long time now. But it hasn’t convinced anybody. It’s going to happen.

    You (and the catholic church) will get over it, just like you came to appreciate CP’s, equal age of consent, losing clause 28, & de-criminilisation.

  37. Dave says:

    Thank you Lynn I found the religious bodies comments and the way they were reported hurtful, infuriating and depressing they really had a horrible effect. Thank you for your support and sensible and brave comments. You have really lifted my spirits.

  38. Rosemary says:

    For anyone who doesn’t want to marry a person of the opposite sex, yet wants to show commitment to the person they love, civil partnership is an alternative. To answer Tom’s point, there is no reason I can see to extend civil partnerships to include heterosexuals.

    Marriage is the voluntary union of a man and a woman. If that doesn’t appeal to you, then don’t get married.

  39. Peter says:

    @Tom. “But do the 80% of the Catholic LibDem MPs who are currently not supporting equal marriage in agreement with you, Lynne or with their Catholic masters?”

    Well that’s actually a very simple one to answer. You aren’t a Catholic if you deliberately flout Catholic teaching, any more than I’d be a Liberal Democrat if I was espousing the virtues of National Socialism. Being Catholic means living as a Catholic – not just having been one once. Those ‘Catholic’ MPs who vote for this are placing themselves outside the Church and her teaching. The ‘master’ you refer to is not a Bishop or even a Pope, but Our Lord himself. So the question is, agree with God or with Lynne Featherstone. Of course, if you don’t believe in God then you can believe what you like but if you claim to believe in God then the answer is pretty obvious.

  40. Wyn Thomas says:

    This is a welcome and balanced comment on the issue of same sex marriage. Thank you.
    Tony Hopkins commented that “You claim that the Church will be protected against legal action, if they will not marry a Same sex couple; however, this does not rest the case, as there is the rather nefandous EU which will of course say to the Same Sex couple that it’s law in your country, and thus, they have to obey it.”

    Divorcees are permitted to marry in the UK, many churches do not permit them to marry in their churches. No provision has been made in law to ban the Church of England from marrying divorcees. There has been no appeal to the Court of Human Rights on this issue, neither has any churchman kicked up a row about it. Why raise the fear of churches being compelled to marry same sex couples when the same issue/fear applies to the question of marrying divorced people?

  41. Laurence Boyce says:

    Peter, which God are you talking about? Is this before or after he changed his mind about having multiple wives?

  42. Robin Seymour says:

    I tried to keep my comments to a logical plane and avoid drawing comparisons, I see that some are now accusing “straight” people of keeping society in the dark ages and slavery and Blacks having to attend different schools or sit at the back of buses!! And the churches of simply self interest, pot and kettle springs to mind.

    And somehow this supports the “equality” argument?

    Equality does not mean the same, equality recognises that people (not cars!!) are different and should be treated equally. I believe that the civil partnership does that.

    What is shown by the majority of comments above regardless of sexual orientation is that most believe gays are different and that distinction is made over and over again. Please note I said different not better or worse.

    As has been shown by the recent changes to the European Gender Directive and the changes brought about by the actions of a woman who thought that her son was paying too much for his car insurance, unintended consequences of which are males receiving less pension income despite living on average less than a female. I am sure the woman did not think about how it would affect the rest of society when she pursued her own course of action however right she believed it to be.

    Perhaps I am now “gender bashing” but it seems to be the same type of “law” and all in the name of equality. Its about a one size fits all approach when people are different in colour, in creed, in size, in orientation and a whole amount of different ways.

    Perhaps the next step will be IQ testing so we will all be treated equally.

    Perhaps trans gender persons will no longer be issued new birth certificates and will have to remain married to their former spouses as they are now a same sex couple.

    It is completely naive to believe that some person will not go off to Europe and fight for an equal right when it is their own interest.

    Surely the job of a politician is to act for society as a whole whilst protecting the minorities.

    I often believe that those who shout loudest rule politicians.

    I think the sad part here is that the civil partnership has only been around for a short space of time comparatively and it is now a past stepping stone in the eyes of the gay community (or so this blog would have you believe) and no longer fits its purpose.

  43. Paula says:

    Unless you experience discrimination it is difficult to understand its impact.

    How would Rosemary react if she applied to the CoE to marry only to be told by the vicar that he reasonably believed that that she had become a legal woman under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act and he therefore was not obliged to conduct the service? Based on appearance alone, such discrimination is perfectly legal. How would she feel if this happened to her?

    Civil Partnerships do give similar rights to marriages. The separate but equal arguments were explored in the US civil rights movement. Drinking fountains had two outlets – one marked ‘Blacks only’ the other Whites only’. Each was fed from the same water supply. On buses black folk were obliged to ride in the back. They were on the same bus as white folk. Was such segregation OK?

    Some heterosexual couples are not comfortable with the patriarchal history of marriage and would prefer a civil partnership and this is one reason that civil partnerships should be opened up to heterosexual couples.

    Gender dysphoria is accepted as a medical condition and is treated as such. Rosemary should imagine how she would feel if she had such a condition and was obliged to annul her marriage to obtain the right to be treated as other males, when she had transitioned to live as a male. Yes, legal marriages must be ended (at cost, risk and enormous emotional stress) and the argument is that a civil partnership is a suitable alternative. Given that a civil partnership is currently for same sex couples, these are assumed to be gay relationships. Imagine how you and your husband would feel being subjected to this inappropriate label as you had no choice but to enter a civil partnership to regain financial protections? There is no evidence that a partner’s sexual orientation changes on ones gender transition even if your sexual orientation did.

    Folk linking rights to the number of folk impacted by the lack of them is fine provided that they can define the rationale for setting the threshold where equal treatment should apply. If the population of non-white folk in the UK was the same as gay folk, would there be any basis for allowing racial discrimination or preventing inter-racial marriages?

  44. Chris McCormick says:

    A few more observations.

    @ Peter: I think you need to check your calculations. If we assume the poll is correct 62% of the population support gay marriage. I will be generous and give the “don’t knows” to those in opposition, giving them 38%. The UK has a population of around 60 million, which makes your 600, 000 around 1% of the population.

    Adding things up the absolutely best position the “nos” are in is 39%, leaving them far behind the supporters for gay marriage.

    In addition, you can’t really hold a belief that a class of people should not be discriminated against equal to a belief that because of a religious belief that you hold people should be discriminated against.

    You have a legally protected right to hold a particular religious belief. What you don’t, and nor should you have, is a right to push those views onto other people. Neither should the government push a religious belief onto its citizens. If the government wants to restrict marriage to opposite sex couples then they need to come up with political reasons for doing so. Pointing to a religious doctrine is nto sufficient to restrict someone’s rights.

    @ Boudicca: Marriage used to be forever. Then came divorce. It is not as if there isn’t precedent for changes to be made.

    You make a good point about it being a legal contract. Religion has no place in law, save that a person’s right to hold a particular belief is protected.

    As I mentioned previously, even where the rights and obligations for civil partnerships are identical, by not allowing the use of the name marriage the state is implying there is a difference and that same sex relationships are lesser than opposite sex relationships.

    Why do you not think homosexual and heterosexual relationships are of equal value?

    @ Rosemary: I suspect you might be in a minority when you say love has little to do with marriage. For many marriage is the ultimate expression of love. Even if what you say is correct, what about same sex couples that want to start families? If marriage is the best place for raising a family then why on earth would you deny it to same sex couples that want to raise a family but allow it for heterosexual that don’t want to, or can’t, have a family?

    I also love this idea that the government can only do one thing at a time. Do you not think it is possible that they could look at unemployment in young people and try to remove unnecessary discrimination at the same time? Since when is the government only allowed to do one thing at a time?

    You don’t understand why Troy believes civil partnership would give him equality of status? I have already explained a possible reason, but let me try again. Where you have two names for something, even where in every other respect they are identical, you are saying that the two things are not equal. The state is saying they are not equal, and the implication of this is to legitimise further discrimination.

    Could you please provide details on how, exactly, allowing loving same sex couples will hurt the people who believe it is a unique institution? In doing so it would be great if you could also explain why, for example, Kim Kardashian being married for 72 days, Britney Spears being married for 55 hours and people being married and divorced multiple times does not hurt this precious institution?

    We don’t need to persuade the majority of people in this country that marriage should be available for same sex couples, they are already persuaded, on board and waiting for same sex marriage.

    Will you also be campaigning for marriage to be disallowed for those that don’t want families as well as those that are sterile to otherwise unable to have children naturally?

    Were there anti-gay marriage side able to give deep reasons for continuing discrimination against same sex couples in this area then perhaps we would ponder them. As no deep reasons are given, little pondering is required.

    @ Robin Seymour: I don’t think anyone is denying that gay people are different. What people are saying is the difference is no an adequate reason for denying them access to marriage.

  45. Rosemary says:

    There are various reasons why a church may not agree to marry a certain couple, and we should respect those reasons. In my case, I did encounter discrimination, since my future husband was not a member of the church I belonged to at the time. My marriage is therefore a civil marriage, and some would say this is not marriage in the eyes of God. I don’t mind at all – God is omnipresent, and will have recognised my marriage in any case, so I am not complaining.

    I do wish that the subject of race would not be brought up in this debate – it has nothing to do with the fact that male and female are different, and that it does matter that marriage is a union between one male and one female – for the sake, primarily, of any children they produce together.

    Gender dysphoria must be a very difficult and distressing condition – but the issues involved with it still do not mean that marriage for the majority should be changed. It seems to me that the proposed legislation is an attempt to say that gender is not important, when, in marriage, it is hugely important.

    I am not catholic, but agree with the ethics they are promoting on this. The folllowing video sums it up really well for me:

  46. Tom says:

    Peter – thanks for the reply directed to me.

    I suspect those Catholic MPs who are supporting same sex marriage are far closer to God than those who aren’t.

    If they or Lynne or even I want to know what God thinks then we could probably ask him ourselves. We don’t need the Pope or the Bishops or even you to talk to him on our behalf. God did after all give us each a brain as well as making some of us gay to his divine glorification.

  47. Peter says:

    @Tom. My point is that if they support it, they are not Catholic. They may believe in God in their own way but not in the Catholic way. Catholicism has very clear teaching on this and you either choose to sign up to it or you don’t – entirely your choice of course. But what you may not do is pick and choose from Catholicism based on your own personal fancies. If a Catholic MP votes for this then he should leave the Church and do it with integrity.

    I have no problem with people having secular views – I think they’re wrong but they think I’m wrong so we’re quits. What I do have a problem with is claiming to hold a set of views and then discarding the ones that don’t suit. There is no integrity in that – it’s just dishonest.

    On the wider point, the problem here, as so often, is people’s perceived ‘rights’.

    One persons right generally means taking away from someone else’s freedom or rights. Here is a case in point. The ‘redefinition’ of marriage changes the institution and all those currently in it who will no longer be married in the way they thought they were. No consideration is given to them.

    Those who propose this have a problem; that is, they can’t get inside my head or any one else’s and force them to ‘believe’ in it. I’m afraid that if a couple of my gay friends rock up one day and say that they have got married a) I won’t be able to acknowledge that and b) I’m afraid I’ll just laugh. When the same two became Civil Partners I was delighted as I felt strongly that they needed equal rights when it came to finance, property etc.

    The only way that this can be made to work is for proponents to redefine what marriage means. I’m afraid that the idea of just randomly redefining a word and ordering everyone to accept it is just ludicrous. I can decide that my dog is, in fact, an armadillo – and I can pass legislation to say that it is. I’m afraid, though, that when I point to Scruff and say “Look! An armadillo!” I must not be surprised when people laugh at me.

    What I want to know is what sanctions are to be brought against those of us who will just laugh and refuse to believe it? Are we to be fined or imprisoned? Or are we to be pointed at and called bigots because we continue to believe what we’ve always believed! Ten years ago, if I said that marriage was between a man and a woman no one would have noticed! Most would have said ‘”Duh! Of course!” and yet, in a year or two’s time if I say it again the whole force of the illiberal liberal hate machine will be brought down on my head as a reactionary ‘shameful’ bigot.

    Can no one else see how mad that is!?

    Finally, on the point of numbers that was raised a post or two ago.
    LF claims that the majority of those (some 200,000) who responded to the government consultation where in favour. This explicitly excludes the 600,000 who responded via the Coalition for Marriage petition – this was, for some mysterious reason, excluded as not being part of the consultation! Every one of those 600,000 signatures was signed with names and e-mails. A large number (and forgive me, I do not have time to look it up) of the government consultation positive responses were anonymous and therefore subject to dispute. LF is correct that the majority of the public are in favour or indifferent. However, the majority of the public also want to bring back hanging and leave Europe – this majority is never mentioned by LF and her ilk who pick and chose which polls to quote to suit their arguments. Intellectually rather shallow, don’t you think?

  48. Brian says:

    A couple of questions following on from a known fact:

    There are an estimated 8.1 non-bacterial species on this planet.

    Question 1. How many of those species engage in same-gender sexual activity?

    Question 2. Why is the word “gay” used? “Gay” means “joyful, laughing, merry”? Where is the verifiable evidence? Or is it just that “gay” is the covert masking of the accurate term “homosexual”?

  49. David White says:

    Well said Lynne! As regular Anglican communicant, a heterosexual and an active LibDem, I support your opinion 100%.

    And well done Chris McCormick. I admire the demolition job you did on the feeble arguments of the gay-bashing homophobes.

    Archbishop Nicholls is a loathsome creature who should be sent back to the seminary for a refresher course on the spirit Christmas (peace, goodwill, etc). Nichols is a canting hypocrite too: if he felt it necessary to preach against any group of people he would have been wiser and more holy had he said a few well-chosen words about paedophilia in the RC priesthood! My understanding of the ‘suffer the little children’ remarks of the Messiah didn’t mean that men in dog collars should interfere with the private parts of altar boys, etc.

    I enjoyed the reminders that 600,000 people signed the petition against civil marriage for gay folk The reason that the total was so low is that everybody else approves of gay marriage (or doesn’t care either way).

    Also very entertaining was the remark about it being impossible for an RC MP to vote for gay marriage and remain a member of the Roman church. Presumably that means that there isn’t a single genuine Catholic who uses any method of contraception other than coitus interruptus and/or the menstrual calendar.

    Keep up the good work Lynne (and you too, Chris McCormick).

    God bless us, every one.

  50. David White says:

    PS: Sorry about the typo: I meant to type ‘spirit of Christmas’.

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