There is a lot going on in the press and in religious institutions regarding same sex marriages and actually there has always been, let’s say “dialogue” or you could say outright war in some periods of our bloody history, in the literal sense, between the state and the Church.
I use the term Church to mean the English Church (which over time was Catholic and then Protestant and now both) in the historic sense but in the contemporary sense I use that term to cover the whole multitude of religious institutions and denominations.
The chasm between the rights of the individual as propounded by the state and the rights of the individual as propounded by the Church has come to rear its ugly head again in relation to same sex marriages – now quite well documented all over the media and in chat rooms and where ever else people communicate.
In case you have been on the Moon until now, there was a free vote in the House of Commons on the second reading of The Marriage (Same Sex ouples) Bill and MP’s voted with their conscience (I use that term VERY loosely) and the final outcome was 400 in favour of the Bill and 175 against the Bill.
For the sake of completeness, for a Bill to become law it must pass through 5 stages in the Houses of Parliament approved by MP’s and then 5 stages in the House of Lords approved by the Lords. It has passed through the second of those 10 stages – but whilst that may seem as though it has a very long way to go and may not get passed as an Act, one of the main hurdles has just been passed so it is truly a historic moment, even if the game is not over yet, so to speak,
The Catholic church has campaigned against the Bill, which is also strongly opposed by the Church of England, the mainstream Protestant denominations and by Jewish, Muslim and Sikh leaders.
I approach this issue from a neutral perspective because that actually is where I stand. I completely believe in fairness and equality for all.
The 400 Ayes
On the one hand, for the ayes, I completely accept that LBGT’s need to and should have the right to show their love and commitment to their partner in a way that feels appropriate and legal.
If that means that they wish to marry, as I can as a heterosexual male, then I see no reason why two loving people of the same sex cannot do likewise.
I am a happily married. I wished to cement my relationship to a level of permanence with my then fiancée that I felt was only obtainable by the vows of marriage and I see no reason why others, including those of the same sex would not want the opportunity to do likewise.
I feel in some ways that the resistance that I felt (and yes I admit I was initially opposed to same sex marriages) must have been akin to me being a white segregationist in 1950’s and 1960’s America. LBGT’s must feel how African Americans felt not that long ago when segregation was in full swing and Blacks felt when they were treated as second class citizens. That cannot be right.
I had to learn to understand that and I now accept it.
The 175 Nays
However, as an atheist, I also had similar issues with understanding the plight of those who have Faith. I could not understand why those who are riddled with religious dogma were so averse to accepting that the love of two people of the same sex was incompatible with the love of their religious teachings, whatever that religion may be.
However, even as an atheist it feels morally repugnant to me (however wrong the Church may or may not be) to impose the will of same sex marriages on those who find it unacceptable for their religious beliefs.
However, as much as I am not gay and had to learn to understand and accept what LBGT’s must have been going through, I have also accepted that I do not understand what those of Faith must be going through either.
But I have had to learn to understand and accept what those of Faith must be going through too.
To me, that was the only fair and equitable thing to do.
The Ayes Have It?
I am not sure that the outcome of the second reading of the Same Sex (Couples) Bill is the right one. Aside from the massive legislative changes that will need to take place now – and be under no illusion that the changes needed to collateral legislation will be vast, not just huge, but vast; in a time of austerity I think the legislation should be made law but not implemented for a period until we have the appropriate fiscal security to make sure that those who will be seized of making the necessary legislative changes do not make a hash of it.
To avoid politicking, there ought to be a long stop deadline by which such changes must be implemented. I appreciate the sadness and upset that this would cause many of the same sex who are desperate to show their love in a marriage but at present cannot.
I am also of the opinion that the quadruple lock that the government has promised the Churches will not endure. Over time it will erode and it will be subject to legal action and I have a very strong suspicion that it will be overturned on Human Rights and Equality grounds in due course. I do not think that will happen overnight, but I suspect it will happen.
Rightly or wrongly, the LBGT movement, if I can call it that, is becoming more militant as they rightly stand up for their rights. It is that very same militancy that I suspect will lead to challenges to the quadruple lock that will erode the expected Churches’ rights not to engage in ceremonies involving same sex couples.
I think that will serve to alienate hitherto pro LBGT rights individuals to becoming less so and that cannot be a good thing.
Perhaps I am being naïve and I accept that I may just simply not grasp the heart felt feelings of the LBGT community or indeed the Faith community (being a heterosexual atheist!) but I understand some Churches (and remember I use that term loosely to encompass all faiths) are already willing to allow LBGT couples to marry in any event.
The secular right for same sex couples to marry will (and should) always be available but the non-secular option for same sex couples to marry in a Church should be one that is negotiated religion by religion, denomination by denomination, city by city and town by town.
We must all have free will and not be compelled to marry those whom we choose not to marry if our Faith does not condone it. After all, a Muslim heterosexual couple would not be entitled to marry in a Catholic church either.
The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and each relationship breakdown requires careful consideration in our view by a fully qualified Solicitor before decisions are made and before you embark on a certain course of action.
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© Shak Inayat 2013