Later today (June 4) the House of Lords is due to due to vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which would legalise gay marriage in England and Wales.. The controversy has been bitter and as we saw yesterday, one peer has even tabled what has been called a ‘wrecking amendment’ which, if passed, would bring the legislation to a screeching halt.
Lord Dear held little back as he urged his fellow peers to vote against the planned legislation:
“It seeks to divide a nation with an argument that hides behind the concept of equality when in reality it is about sameness.”
And t wasn’t long before the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby joined in. He also urged peers to vote against the bill, claiming, bizarrely, that it would mean that marriage is “abolished”.
“The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost. The idea of marriage as covenant is diminished. The family in its normal sense predating the state and as our base community of society is weakened.”
The clergyman added:
“For these and many other reasons those of us in the churches and faith groups, who are extremely hesitant about the bill in many cases, hold that view because we think that traditional marriage is a cornerstone of society and rather than adding a new and valued institution alongside it for same gender relationships, which I would personally strongly support to strengthen us all, this bill weakens what exists and replaces it with a less good option that is neither equal nor effective.”
If I read that rightly, the Archbishop is saying he supports same gender relationships but allowing them to marry would “weaken” marriage.
I’m afraid I just cannot see the logic in this argument. How, exactly, will gay marriage undermine family life? I wonder if the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Archbishop could really explain how, if pressed?
I am a great believer in marriage and I would certainly agree with the Archbishop that the institution is “a cornerstone of society”. It brings as much certainty and solidity to the inherently shifting and uncertain arena of human relationships as it is possible to achieve. And yes, I say that as a family lawyer of many years’ standing! I have helped clients through who knows how many hundreds of divorces over the years.
When – and I do believe it is a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’- the bill is passed, thousands of couples who care enough about each other to want to make a public declaration will suddenly be able to join ther heterosexual friend in making this very public declaration of commitment and stability. That sounds to me like strengthening marriage, not weakening it.
There is a far more genuine threat to the institution of marriage in my view: the seemingly unstoppable rise of cohabitation, with all its emotional and legal uncertainties and dangerous confusions. Take a look back through some of the stories we have run on cohabitation over the years – the news is rarely positive!