Lord Singh joins the wrong side on gay marriage

More on the issue of gay marriage.  The Network of Sikh Organisations sent me a press release over the weekend.  I can’t find a link online, so the whole thing is reproduced below.  It begins:

Lord Singh, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, supports Anglican and Catholic Bishops in opposing Coalition’s legislation to distort the meaning of marriage.

Along with Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, who is an advisor to the Chief Rabbi, Lord Singh accused the Coalition of launching an “assault” on religious values.

I disagree with Lord Singh on this. I think the “assault on religion” argument is invalid.  It implies that religion (any religion) has a fixed and inmutable view of marriage, which they palpably do not.  The definition has evolved over the centuries within religions, as well as without.

His stance also claims a primacy for religious definitions over secular society’s definitions, which doesn’t hold in the 21st Century.  Why do religions to which I do not subscribe get to define “marriage” for me and my friends. Rather the secular, democratic parliament (if anyone), following society at large.

Lord Singh and the others should make clear that no Gurdwara or Mandir or Synagogue or Church will ever be compelled to perform or endorse a homosexual marriage. He and his co-dissenters know this is the case, but it is missing from their rhetoric.  Not one Sikh marriage will be damaged or changed by this… though lesbian and gay Sikhs will be driven away from their faith, which is a shame.

I also think the parity between Civil partnerships and Marriage is overstated. One has an important social element, the other is merely a legalistic device. Denying gays the social recognition of their love and commitment is, to my mind, wrong – but it seems to be the precise intention of this cabal. I discuss this in the comments on this post.

Since religious communities are supposed to exist precisely to encourage strong inter-personal bonds and social stability, it’s actually odd that they choose to condemn this extension of the marriage “franchise”.

Here’s the full release:


Network of Sikh Organisations Press Release

Lord Singh, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, supports Anglican and Catholic Bishops in opposing Coalition’s legislation to distort the meaning of marriage.

London, Sunday (March 18th 2012): Lord Singh of Wimbledon, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) has added his voice to protest against the Coalition’s plans to permit homosexuals to marry.

Along with Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, who is an advisor to the Chief Rabbi, Lord Singh accused the Coalition of launching an “assault” on religious values. The intervention came when David Cameron’s adviser on family issues, Reg Bailey claimed that the proposed reforms would risk polygamy and marriage between siblings.

In an exclusive interview to the Sunday Telegraph, Lord Singh would vote against the legislation in the Lords. He said:

“It’s being changed and for no real gain because the law rightly gives every respect to a civil partnership. It is more of a sideways assault on religion, that ‘we can dilute your beliefs and values’, and I find that concerning.”

He added Sikh scriptures do not condemn homosexuality and encourage Sikhs to respect “all ways of life”. But added: “In the pursuit of equality one shouldn’t dilute and distort another’s beliefs.”

Rabbi Schochet, the minister at Mill Hill synagogue in North London supported the view, adding that he welcomed homosexual Jews into his synagogue, but redefining marriage to accommodate same-sex couples would “run counter to the fundamentals of our beliefs.”

Under the proposals same-sex couples would be allowed to marry in register offices and hotels, but not in churches, synagogues and other religious venues. Ministers argue the proposals are “civil” and not “religious,” those against the legislation argue it’s impossible to split the two.

[ENDS]

Notes to Editors.

1.      The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) is a registered charity that links more than 100 Gurdwaras and other UK Sikh organisations in active cooperation to enhance the image and understanding of Sikhism in the UK.

5 thoughts on “Lord Singh joins the wrong side on gay marriage

  1. I don’t doubt the initial argument “in the pursuit of equality one shouldn’t dilute and distort another’s beliefs.” – it’s just that the discussion goes stale at that point because silently the belief in question is obviously homophobic, even if it just by omission.

    As an example, if Andrew Lansley decided that the government was going to redefine gravity – but just for internal use, mind – scientists would be quite right in using the same dilution argument, even if no one asked them to skew results for coalition pleasure.

    The difference is that the scientists could argue that the definition of gravity was observational, and can’t be changed unilaterally by any body.

    The concept of marriage is a concept largely defined by religion (with no known origin). This is obvious from a historic perspective. The fact that a civil understanding of what marriage is exists, is just a patina.

    The correct answer is that the government should ONLY recognise civil partnerships, and relegate marriage as a faith based add-on.

    1. The concept of marriage is a concept largely defined by religion (with no known origin). This is obvious from a historic perspective. The fact that a civil understanding of what marriage is exists, is just a patina.

      I think this was true until the 20th Century. But then we had the rise of registry office weddings and the more recent licensing of grand buildings and picturesque venues. Civil marriage is now A Thing. And I think that this fact was a prerequisite for, and has inspired, the push for gay marriage.

      The religions are therefore fighting an argument that was settled against them a century or more back, when divorce and civil marriages became legal, and then commonplace. They lost the argument back then, and the laws were changed against their preference. The fact that they are now crying foul at their loss of privilege and influence, is just pathetic. The marriage horse bolted a 100 years ago, with seclular society riding proudly upon it.

  2. As a scientist I would be quite happy for Andrew Lansley d to redefine gravity for internal use, a would take great pleasure in watching the (no doubt rather messy) outcome of this. Unlike the church, scientists tend to be open to a bit of experimentation.

  3. You can’t have it both ways, Rob. Is there parity, or isn’t there? Does the rise of civil marriage entail or equate to religious marriage, or doesn’t it? I think you need to make up your mind on that one for any of your arguments to be convincing.

    ps Why do you get to define ‘marriage’ for me and my friends? Do you see your inconsistency? If it’s wrong to force people to submit to someone else’s definition, then you need to stop trying to do exactly that yourself. If it’s not wrong, then what are you complaining about? It looks like there’s one rule for you and people who agree with you, and another rule for everyone else.

    1. As I have tried to lay out in a couple of posts, there is this thing called marriage, which has a huge social significance, and now a legal element too. The religions have co-opted the institution into their liturgy, but it is not the invention of any one faith, sect or doctrine.

      But to the question of parity, I would say, yes there is. A (secular) gay marriage does and should carry the same social significance as a religious marriage. The religious don’t like this, because it weakens their monopoly on social approval of other people’s relationships.

      Say someone has a really great lego toy. A second child admires the toy, and so he goes off and builds exactly the same Lego toy, and sits down to play with it. Now the first child claims that he second has ‘spoilt’ his enjoyment of the toy, by virtue of building one and ostentatiously playing with it nearby. “Why couldn’t you have
      made some other toy?” they wail. In this case – yes, the first child is having his enjoyment spoilt by the second child, but that is as a result of his own irrational character and values, which rest not only on him having the toy, but others not having it. We don’t blame the second child for redefining the terms of play, even of his arrival on the scene has had that effect.

      The religious approach to gay marriage seems similarly selfish. They want the social benefits and approval of being married, but they want to deny that social approval to others. When the rest of society is fine with it, these religious hold-outs just look like the dog in the manger. So in this case, I am not redefining marriage for you and your friends – simply, society has moved on, and evolved. Religious leaders, ever out of touch with the people they claim to care about, only noticed that the world has changed when the government finally got off its arse to legislate for equality.

      You’re right to point out that no-one person really has the authority to declare a definition of marriage. If I deny the authority to religions, how can I claim it for myself? I cannot. But that leaves everyone adrift, and we need some kind of resolution or tie-breaker. Orherwise any word that is challenged must fall into immediate disuse or be flagged like a controversial Wikipedia article. To break the tie, I am appealing to the authority of mainstream society, which is now comfortable with the extension of marriage to gay people. For centuries, it was the Church who got to break the tie on such things. No longer, and that what makes them uneasy.

      It bears repeating that no Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim or Jewish ceremony and marriage will be changed or damaged or weakened by the legalisation of secular gay marriage.

      It’s well worth pointing out that the more mature Christians don’t have a problem with gay marriage a few vicars perform blessings of homosexual civil partnerships already. Jesus would surely approve of two people declaring their love and commitment to one another and seeking social approval of that bond. So I might say that The Church has distorted and redefined The Nazarene teachings on this, a greater sin, if I may use that word, than allowing the definition of marriage to evolve.

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