Monday, 19 November 2012

Alex Salmond's Gay Marriage Dilemma

The subject of gay marriage is of little interest to me but it continues to be in the headlines. I supported the Civil Partnership legislation because I thought it only right that two people who care deeply for each other have the choice of making their union legal, but I can't understand the pressure for gay marriage when the substance is already part of our legislation.

Now Alex Salmond's Parish minister as stepped into the debate.  The Reverend Andrew Fothergill from the Strichen and Tyrie Parish Church, Abderdeenshire has given his views on the gay marriage debate.

“My personal position is that I think naturally, we have as celebrants, some concerns about the assurances that have been given by the Scottish Government about the safeguards it intends to put in place to protect celebrants who would hold a different position from what the future government legislation might become. I think many of us 
are a bit nervous about what protection it can actually offer.”

Although the Scottish Government insists no religious group will be required to perform gay marriages, doubt exists in the population as well as within some religious groups.

What I don't understand about this issue is why it's necessary to introduce this legislation when the Civil Partnership Info website describes Civil Partnerships as 'a legal marriage between couples that are gay or lesbian'.

The Civil Partnership Act states 'that it will not allow any form of religious activity to occur during the process of registering the union.  The act does not include a ceremony and any couple that wishes to have a ceremony will need to contact the registration authority, where the union is to be entered, to find out whether a ceremony is possible'.

The only difference I can see between civil partnerships and the proposed gay marriage legislation is that religion can now become involved. Is it any wonder some religious representatives are nervous at the prospect of being accused of bigotry if they refuse to marry a gay couple?

It's not so long ago ministers and vicars (I lived in England at the time), could refuse to baptise, marry or bury people - the usual reason being the person/people involved was/were not members of their congregation.  Usually the people involved did find someone willing to undertake the religious service and there was little ill-feeling between the refusers and their would-be customers.

I appreciate Mr Salmond's minister's doubt. All it needs is - once such legislation is passed - is for one couple to take a minister to court for refusing to marry them and there's little doubt in my mind that someone will take such action in the not too distant future.

Whatever the outcome - although it looks as if the Scottish Government is determined to put it on the statute books - of this debate there will be dissatisfied people on both sides. My wish is that the gay community do not label the Rev. Fothergill a bigot or a homophobe because he questions promises given by the Scottish Government. Such emotive and often unjustified language only denigrates their case.

The LGBT community insist they only want 'equality' but there's no equality for the heterosexual population when they are not permitted access to a civil partnership.  Maybe Alex Salmond should be proposing marriage is done away with and civil partnerships introduced for all.  That would be a solution.



pa_broon74 said...

As I understand it, heterosexual couples can be married in a civil ceremony, its just a register house wedding (or outwith a church and not having any religious tones involved.) In order to have equality in this, a seperate legislation would need to be made which already exists, (that heterosexual couples can get married in a civil ceremony.)

It seems to me to be a hollow argument.

In terms of the civil partnership legislation, that it is required at all is a problem.

Some times I think both sides in this debate can go to far, I don't think AS's minister should be labelled a bigot (and I don't think he will be,) he's not questioning the morality of homosexuality, he's questioning the assurances given about churches not being sued if they refuse to conduct a marriage.

I just find it a wee bit sad that young people going through the process of coming to terms with an alternative sexuality, are having to listen to people bandy around arguments that do down what can become an important (and intractable) part of their life.

Its not a great situation and both sides are now stoking up the background hum of disapproval that exists.

I also have to say, many religious types do themselves no favours by denying the facts behind homosexuality, they still think its some sort of immoral life style choice when it just isn't.

For that reason I tend to side with the gay lobby groups in this issue.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Well argued Pa Broon.

If faith has any purpose at all it is tested by its charity.

Elby the Beserk said...


Re your opening para - this is about the tyranny of minorities, an outrider that always comes with identity politics. I have pointed this oout in many places; what is proposed is no less than that gay folk should have more rights than straights. Ille est - they can have civil partnerships and get married, whilst straights can only get married.

Like you, I was and am in favour of Civil Partnerships. Absolutely. But equal rights is never enough for minorities (viz. our Muslim friends), so here we are with idiots like Cameron behaving as tho' the matter of Gay Marriage is more important than the EU, the economy, the disaster that is the BBC, you name it.

What I do know is that if they go through with this it will blow the Conservative Party to pieces - and they will deserve it for this.

The bones of this matter is that what is happening is that legislation will be used to change the meaning of a word. Orwell, where are you?

William said...

The minister is right. The assurances of politicians on this issue mean nothing. As we've seen, the courts can, and will, overrule them.

For a church, marriage is not a service offered as a favour to the public or for a laugh. It has a particular meaning within the Christian church and the concept of gay marriage is something that is theologically impossible for it to do.

I don't understand why anyone who wants to get married in a church, and presumably then believes, can say they have no interest in what the church has to say about it.

subrosa said...

Pa Broon, I reiterate Crinkly's comment.

It may be hollow but the gay lobby certainly know how to achieve their aims. It's their campaign style, on this issue, which has made me feel uncomfortable at times.

subrosa said...

A good argument Elby and yes, I believe this will blow the tories apart. Many of my generation consider marriage to be a legality to procreate children. Mind you, within a couple of decades we'll be gone and so the meaning of marriage will be changed forever.

It's changing now because I see so many weddings in which the children of the couple take a starring role.

Society's definitely changing and I can't decide if it's all for the common good.

subrosa said...

Well said William. I agree it will only take one court case for all the promises to be broken.

I don't understand that either. Rather than insult someone who disagrees with you surely it would be better to attempt to understand their viewpoints.

It's so sad tolerance is thin on the ground where this issue is concerned, but the gay lobby do themselves no favours by responding with insults.

pa_broon74 said...

I think in terms of campaign styles instilling uncomfortable feelings, the religious lobby groups are far more disturbing than Stonewall (for example.)

I've said it before and I'll say it again, you don't get young people commiting suicide because of their religion, but you do get young folk killing themselves because they are made to feel so wretched about their sexuality, part of that is the ambient disdain that exists in society which is (in part) fed by the religious lobby groups in this debate and flamed by the gay lobby's responses, who I don't think have young folk as their main priority here.

No one in the gay lobby is telling religious people that a good section of who or what they are as a people is immoral, evil or something to be fixed, supressed or ignored, yet the catholic church spout those views as a matter of course, it really is their default position.

I can understand why people who are religious might have reservations about gay marriage but if I'm being honest, we are comparing belief with biology.

And I maintain the point, hetero couples do have access to civil marriages, its not called a civil partnership but it is the same thing.

Frankly, to say straight people don't have access to something gay people now do is bizarre. Straight folk have always had access to a civil marriage that encompasses all the trappings of a religious marriage but without the hokum.

I would say, that they had to create this civil partnership heehaw at all says all that needs to be said about society and where we are in terms of equality.

And finally (I can hear people sighing with relief) I don't really care about gay marriage as such, my concern is the signals we send to young people growing up, personally, I'd rather we didn't need laws governing who marries who, where and whats said during the service. And in this, its not about minorities, it matters just as much that heterosexual young folk get the right message as it does the minority homosexual young folk, they all have to rub along together (so to speak.)

English Pensioner said...

As an aside to your main theme, I am always surprised at the number of couples who don't wish to get married (Registry Office or Church) who then bring their children to our church for baptism.
What logic causes people who claim that they don't believe in marriage to believe at the same time in baptism?

William said...

SR, we saw with the Abu Qatada case that even where there is political and legal will for something to happen, the courts can decide the complete opposite.

I think it's inevitable that a church will refuse to conduct a gay marriage ceremony and will be taken to court and will lose despite what politicians say.

All the main churches are opposed to this so are we going to see the Moderator of the Kirk in jail? Cardinal O'Brien?

William said...

EP, our church doesn't believe in infant baptism. We don't believe it's supported by Scripture.

If someone complains, will we have to do it? If someone says they have a right to have their child baptised in our church and that's it? Will the courts tell us that our view on it is irrelevant, that we should conduct services contrary to our own beliefs?

Interesting times.

Disenfranchised of Buckingham said...

What has marriage got to do with the Government?

The only thing the Government has an interest in is things like inheritance and benefits. And I've never understood why fornication should put you in a better position than a pair of aging spinsters living together.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Long time, no comment - an apologies for that SR.

One point that seems to be missed here is the one about what business is it of government to legislate in an area in which they have no authority.

When were politicians ordained to pronounce on matters religious? If Roman Catholicism is an 'accepted' religion of the land where is government's right to decide that one of that religion's beliefs are no longer acceptable?

Where matters religious are concerned just who the hell (to use what is, one could argue, a rather apt word when discussing religion) do these people think they are?

Just asking......

JimS said...

Subrosa, you are right, the politicians cannot be trusted as when Civil Partnerships were introduced we were assured that it would not lead to same-sex 'marriage. Further it cannot be an equality issue in that a) essentially ALL adults can get married, whether they choose to is another matter, and b) Civil Partnership is denied to mixed-sex couples.

A gross inequality within Civil Partnerships is that sexual attraction doesn't come into it; two people of the same sex, not necessarily cohabiting, can gain joint property rights, rights denied to cohabiting 'couples' be they siblings or 'just friends'.

The claim that these new 'marriages' need never be celebrated within churches is disingenuous; the political class know full well that this is the whole point of supra-national organisations like the EU (Oh it isn't us [snigger, snigger] we are forced into it by the EU, ECHR etc. [snigger, snigger]). Screw democracy.

As to 'what has marriage got to do with government?' [DoF], well everything! Yours is a completely modern idea that somehow marriage is all about the couple. The whole point of marriage is/was about the needs of society not the individuals. It is highly desirable for society that people are 'grouped', it saves a lot on administration, one 'family', one home. It works for the rest of society too; one bill, one invitation, one contract etc. This idea of it all being about the individual causes no end of problems. [Some daft biddy on the radio was trying to make out that she should get child benefit in full because her cohabiting, high-earning cohabitee was independent of her. (We live in the same house, eat the same food, share the same bed, but our relationship is 'private' and not the concern of the state. But give me the money).

Demetrius said...

It is all an unholy (sic) muddle. But then down the centuries most marriage etc. laws have been. One of the staples of past Opera and Ballet is chaos about the marriage settlements necessary in those days. And what about the particular minorities whose ideas about marriage are rather different from those of the majority?

Joe Public said...

I'm married; and, I have a wife.

My wife's married; and, she has a husband.

Neither of us want anyone else to be in any doubt that not we're queer, bent, gay, homosexual or any other permutation of genders.

Marriage is a relationship simply between one man & one woman.

JRB said...

When I was a wee laddie in short trousers and hand knitted jumpers life was wonderful carefree, happy full of ice cream and Enid Blyton adventures – in short life was ‘gay’.

But those of the same-sex community have purloined that word, and now, in modern English, gay refers …”to the people, especially to males, and the practices and cultures associated with homosexuality.” [wikipaedia]

Now one can envisage the same happening to the word ‘marriage’, a word with strong social and religious connotations. In future, will ‘married’ simply come refer to a stable same-sex relationship?

Already we see authorities and public bodies afraid to use the words ‘mother and father’, or ‘mum and dad’ for fear of offending same-sex couples. Are we all to become just generic ‘parents’?

I used the word ‘couple’, above, deliberately for if it is the desire of two people of the same sex to be recognised as a loving couple, legally and by all in society, then I am happy to celebrate with them in their civil partnership.
But - for it to be called a “marriage” does not rest easy in my heart or in my head or with my concience.

J. R. Tomlin said...

It is fairly simple, Rosie. Churches are FORBIDDEN to perform marriages for LGBT couples.

WHY? If the "civil partnership" is a marriage, as you claim, why can it not be celebrated in a church which recognizes it?

If the right of churches to NOT perform them is to be protected, what about the right of churches TO perform them?

subrosa said...

Auch pa_broon, the gay lobby are forever criticising the Catholic church and any other church that disagrees with them.

Now that's a good point - we already have civil marriages for hetersexual couples. It's actually a slightly different ceremony but I won't split hairs.

No, I don't think that's bizarre. It's all about 'equality' doncha know?

Your last paragraph could have come from my own keyboard. Excellent.

subrosa said...

EP, in a wee town in England, the local vicar refused to baptise, marry or bury anyone who wasn't a member or attendee of his church. Same with my the vicar in my parents' village. I doubt if they could do that today.

subrosa said...

I agree with your view William. That's what makes me uneasy about so much of this popular social legislation being introduced - it's bound to be reversed by a high justice system.

subrosa said...

Well, I believe government became involved in marriage with the promise that they would give tax benefits to couples. Those days have gone now DoB.

I've never understood that either and always thought it quite unfair.

subrosa said...

Good to see you WfW. I know you've had more important things to do other than read blogs.

As I said above government got into the marriage business on the promise of reducing taxes for married couples.

Religion should be removed from the marriage service. Let people then find a person of their religion who is willing to carry out a service.

That would suit all concerned surely.

subrosa said...

Jim an excellent comment and raises some very interesting points.

subrosa said...

Jim an excellent comment and raises some very interesting points.

subrosa said...

Some minorities just go about their business quietly Demetrius. A few years ago a couple I know had a 'handfasting' service and although it is not acknowledged in law these days, that was enough for them.

It was a braw do too. :)

subrosa said...

That's the definition with which we were brought up Joe. It will be changed no doubt.

subrosa said...

Thank you for your contribution JRB. I think many of our generation are uneasy, however we won't be around long enough to complain when society changes the definition of marriage.

subrosa said...

Jeanne, there are religious representatives here who will perform religious services, but they are under no obligation at present. Quakers do it regularly and I know of two Church of Scotland ministers who are happy to give blessings to same sex couples after their civil service. Many ministers here do that for hetero couples who, for one reason or another, do not wish a full religious ceremony.

Are you suggesting the law should be changed to insist all churches and religious groups must carry out same sex ceremonies?

JohnB said...

It's a pity we can't follow the French system.

Marriage is different from civil partnerships in Scotland: heterosexual couples cannot have a civil partnership with the same rights as a couple of the same sex.

In France, marriage is a legal union. If you want to be blessed in a Church/Mosque/Synagogue that's between you and your partner, and depends whether said religious body will perform such a blessing.

The current legislation is a minor amendment.

I don't see a huge amount of folk taking the Catholic Church to the courts because a priest refuses to recognise thus marry a divorced person!

As long as religion keeps to itself, doesn't poke its nose into secular matters (let's face it: marriage is a very secular construct these days. Read Jane Austin if you don't agree...) then the state has no right to interfere with religious sentiments - unless they are inimicable (female genital mutilation, for example.)

There are a fair few Christian-demoniated Churches that already perform religious ceremonies for gay couples.

I really don't see "churches forced to perform religious marriages" happening at all due to a minor deletion of a section of an act from the 1960's.

subrosa said...

The French system is similar to what I was suggesting John B - remove the religious element.

It doesn't require a huge amount of people to take a church to court - only one, and there are plenty 'human rights' lawyers who would be willing to take on the case.

I'd disagree with you there. I think this new legislation will eventually be changed by courts so as religious representatives are forced to perform these services.

We have businesses which cater only for the LGYB community such as hotels and clubs, yet other businesses which prefer not to cater for them are severely penalised.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Rosie, there was absolutely nothing in my post to indicate that churches should be forced to do anything. At the moment churches that SUPPORT gay marriage are forbidden to perform them and a "blessing" after the fact is NOT the same thing.

I defy you to give me a single defense that I am forbidden to marry the person of my choice in the UK or in certain states in the US. Just how would my marriage to someone of the same gender harm YOU?

J. R. Tomlin said...

As for the Catholic Church, the day it stops attacking me, I will stop attacking it. It doesn't have to like me. It doesn't have to stop saying I'm going to hell. That's fine with me. But spending billions to attack my Civil Rights is NOT all right.

subrosa said...

The Quakers and Humanists do services here Jeanne and I know of individual religious representatives who do too. Those are usually not on church premises but many folk here prefer to get married in a hotel rather than a church.

I've certainly never said it would harm me at all. It would change the meaning of marriage as I know it but that's a mere detail.

Jings Jeanne, the Church of England have just voted to ban women - once again - from becoming bishops. That's how behind the times these individuals are here.

But same sex services do occur here and with a religious representative officiating - by choice obviously.

J. R. Tomlin said...

That certain church officials skirt the law does not change the fact that it is illegal in the UK for a church to officiate at a wedding. That is simply a fact. It is not the first time Quakers have evaded laws they felt were unjust. How does that justify the unjust law?

J. R. Tomlin said...

By the way, I don't know ANYONE in the LGBT community who would object to heterosexual access to civil partnership, but it is certainly not up to us to campaign for it. If that is what people want, they have access to their MPs. Contact them. Start a campaign.

This argument is very similar to the English who whinge about not having an English Parliament but expect the Scots to do something about it instead of campaigning themselves.

subrosa said...

Jeanne, these ministers are not skirting any law because it's perfectly acceptable for anyone to have a religious service if the minister agrees. The only 'law' is that certain religions cannot use their church buildings.

I don't see that as an issue really because many more people these days get married in all sorts of places rather than a church.

What is unjust is the law supposedly coming into force. Everyone knows that eventually some religious representative will be taken to the European Court because some LGBT couple can't get a ceremony in their church.

That's the sad fact. It's nothing about equality but all to do with power.

subrosa said...

Jeanne I'm far too old to be campaigning for something I think unnecessary in my life, but it's certainly something which should have been included in the civil partnership act at the time.

Related Posts with Thumbnails