Saturday, 25 February 2012

Secularism and gay marriage

"Who owns marriage? It’s an interesting question and a pressing one in the debate around equal civil marriage. It is owned by neither the state nor the church, as the former Archbishop Lord Carey rightly said. So it is owned by the people."

Lynne Featherstone, the Equalities Minister
That settles the question very neatly and easily, of course.

But it solves it with a blunt assertion of humanistic secularism as if it were a settled fact.

What if humanistic secularism is not a settled fact?

What if marriage is owned by the Creator of marriage?
"it is the Government’s fundamental job to reflect society and to shape the future"
As Jim Hacker said, it's my job to find out where my people are going, and lead them there. Does the minister have a sense of irony, or is the Rt. Hon Hacker her role model? Oh dear.

However, if this is her true feeling, then the case is settled: opinion polls keep finding out that people don't want the government to redefine marriage.
I believe that if a couple love each other and want to commit to a life together, they should have the option of a civil marriage, irrespective of whether they are gay or straight.
What do the minister's beliefs have to do with it? She's just told us that what matters is the beliefs of the country at large, not her own ones. Is she projecting her beliefs onto everyone else?

This belief also begs the question. If marriage is the God-given lifelong union of one member of the mutually complementary sexes, then the assertion is a nonsense. Marriage is by definition impossible to two members of the same sex.
I want to urge people not to polarise this debate. This is not a battle between gay rights and religious beliefs. This is about the underlying principles of family, society, and personal freedoms.
This is political triangulation and double-speak. Those underlying principles are the very ones that we are polarised upon.
Marriage is a right of passage for couples who want to show they are in a committed relationship, for people who want to show they have found love and wish to remain together until death do them part. Why should we deny it to people who happen to be gay or lesbian who wish to show that commitment and share it with their family, friends and everybody else? We should be proud of couples who love each other and a society that recognises their love as equal.
This begs the question at several levels. What is marriage? The minister supplies her own definition; which is not the historical understanding. If homosexual activity is perversion, then there is nothing to be proud of. Love can exist between friends of the same gender; but whether it is a true expression of love to jump into bed with them is the matter at issue.

The minister does not engage with the real issues. She simply asserts her set of secularist and humanistic assumptions as if they were indisputable facts. That's not the meaning of "equality", except in Orwell's 1984.

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