David Cameron wants to level the playing field between homosexuals and heterosexuals by granting the former the right to marry (although interestingly, the latter group cannot enter civil partnerships), whilst representatives of religious institutions in Britain - namely Catholic and Christian leaders – wish for marriage to remain between a man and a woman.
The Catholic Church has been particularly vocal about their anti-gay marriage views. Before his resignation in February, Cardinal Keith O’Brien compared the legalisation of gay marriage to the decriminalisation of slavery. Yes, that’s right, slavery. Because claiming another human being as your legal property and forcing them to work for you is as unjust as letting two people who love each other – but happen to be of the same sex – enjoy the kudos of marriage.
From the Christian camp, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, has claimed that the union of a man and a woman is the bedrock of societies, and that by allowing same-sex couples to marry, Christians will face increased religious discrimination and British children would be forced to learn about new meanings of marriage against many parents’ wishes.
So two men want to get married; big deal! Yes, many holy books state that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but surely the existence of love and commitment between within a couple is of more importance than their individual genitalia?
The ‘protection of definition’ argument is ridiculous. Under the proposals, the word ‘marriage’ will still denote the legal union between two people, only it won’t specify the sex of these individuals. This change won’t invalidate the millions of marriages that already exist; it will simply make more room at the Wedding Inn for ‘alternate’ forms of love.
This argument is also quite offensive. The majority of Brits are not idiots: we are more than capable of understanding marriage even if the goalposts are moved slightly. Likewise, granting same-sex couples the same ceremonial rights as heterosexual individuals won’t irrevocably ruin the moral fibre of this country: excessive consumerism, greedy bankers and a succession of dodgy governments has been taking care of that for years.
One of the anti-gay marriage defences being bandied about is the fact that civil partnerships offer gay couples the same level of legal protection and formal recognition afforded to straight people via marriage, so why do they need more? This reasoning is flawed because there is essentially no equality in refusing a set of people a right granted to the majority, but offering them an alternative simply to appease them.
The Church may be against homosexuality and that is fine. But as they will not be obliged to conduct same-sex marriages under the current proposal, it really is none of their business. Writing bigoted newspaper articles and sending poison pen letters to congregations around the UK – as the Catholic Church has previously done – will only weaken their stance in the debate.
Britain is a free and democratic country – theoretically, at least – and people should be afforded the same rights regardless of what they look like or who they love.
With the current economic downturn and ever-increasing unemployment rates, religion has more than enough worthy causes to get behind, rather than stopping people in love from entering a bond which is based on this very emotion.
*Annique Simpson reports for The-Latest and writes for Backbench.co.uk.