Monday, December 19, 2005

"Gay weddings" begin here

The first "gay weddings" in the UK took place today as the Civil Partnerships Act took effect.

I'm honestly not sure what I think of civil partnerships. It is indisputably good that same sex couples can have their partnership recognised in law, given how often they are locked out, but fundamentally they are not marriages. Legally they are transacted by contract, not public affirmation (although a public signing ceremony can take place), whilst also they can only be conducted by registrars and not by clergy. This is very much a two tier system and the calls for civil partnerships to be extended to heterosexual couples (who don't need them - they can get married) will only serve to undermine the institution of marriage. It would have been far simpler and a better step to equality to remove the gender distinctions in marriage law and to hell with the bigots who cling to ancient dictionaries.

8 comments:

Contemplative Activist said...

You preach it Tim!!!

I'm wondering - I know several straight couples who feel strongly about marriage equality and hence are unsure whether to go forward with marriage while the same privilege is not extended to same sex couples.

Thoughts??

xenon said...

Whilst I understand your sentiment Tim, I think that the current system is good. It allows all couples the opportunity to declare a commitment. Whilst it is right that all people are tolerant towards gay people and how they live there lives, surely there must be some tolerance flowing the other way. Religious belief is deeply ingrained, we may not agree with it but I think we must at least be tolerant towards it.

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

I've never been swayed by the argument that gay marriage is barred because of religious belief. By the same logic non-religious registry office marriages should be barred. There are some people who are offended by them.

Contemplative Activist said...

Xenon,

I am a Quaker. Recently I invited a friend of mine who is a gay activist to hold an event at our meeting. It went down a storm. I don't know anyone in our meeting who doesn't have at least some sympathy with gay rights movements, and I know several Quakers who are very active gay rights activists, including one who is often on American TV engaging with some of the public faces of the American ex-gay movement.

However, same sex couples are still not married in UK Quaker meetings. We can have a different ceremony called a 'Celebration of Commitment' but as it is we stop short of calling it marriage. Personally, I don't see why we shouldn't call it marriage and think it is a symptom of continuing non-equality amongst my religious community and I am happy to challenge it as such.

Earlier this year, I spent time with Quakers in New York where they've been breaking the rules (including State law) for many years and holding same-sex marriages. No-one in that meeting bats an eyelid any more at gay marriage. For me, as someone who comes from a rather conservative background, it was a happy surprise to see gay couples sitting together in meeting looking obviously couple-like :).

I think this is the way forward. Perhaps the onus is on those of us who practice a religion to push for change within our respective groups. Its not something that can be legislated by the government, I don't think.

Gay couples who are religious should be able to have a religious ceremony imho. I think it would mean a tremendous deal to some people to know that their religious community fully accepted and affirmed their relationship.

While there are some who will never change, I think there is potential for the beginning of same sex marriage within some religious groups. Tim, thoughts?

CA

xenon said...

If religions wish to reinterpret the tenets of their faith, then that is entirely up to them. However I think it should be a given that religious groups should be entitled to define their faith themselves. It is not up to those from outside that group to impose views on them. I really do believe that tolerance should be a two-way street!!

Contemplative Activist said...

Which is more or less what I was arguing. You can't impose on religious groups, but those of us that are part of religious groups in one way or another, can work towards change from within.

However, I have to admit, I find it rather difficult to have respect for any groups whose words or actions I see as inherently hateful. Like the Free P protestors outside the city hall in Belfast.

CA

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

CA: While there are some who will never change, I think there is potential for the beginning of same sex marriage within some religious groups. Tim, thoughts?

I entirely agree. Some individual religions are changing their stance (or never had one in the first place) and it would be absurd for them to be stopped.

Xenon: If religions wish to reinterpret the tenets of their faith, then that is entirely up to them.

I agree that this is not something that the state can impose on a religion (although as the Church of England is established it may have to go through Parliament) but you seem to be supporting the rather spurious argument that "gay marriage" is wrong because religions define what marriage is. Marriage is a legal concept in secular law. Registry office marriages have virtually nothing to do with religion - indeed some faiths refuse to recognise them or drive some worshippers to the registry office (e.g. second marriages). Why should state provision of secular marriage be witheld because of a religious veto?

CA: Like the Free P protestors outside the city hall in Belfast.

And yet as the Paul Berry saga shows, even the Free Ps may have some potential takers amongst them! Or is that too hard to swallow?

Contemplative Activist said...

Oooooh goodness, what a scandal :O!

Gotta love the Portadown News ;)

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