Tag Archives: gay marriage

Time to frame Gay Marriage as ‘Pro-Family’

It’s encouraging to see that a group of Tories have formed a campaign group in support of gay marriage. Let us hope it hastens the day when the Government put the necessary legislation in place.

At the end of 2012, I assume the Liberal Conspiracy website is not best place to make arguments for gay marriage. There is a sense of preaching to the converted. Far better that the core case is made on places like Conservative Home. But Christmas is coming, which is the perfect opportunity for us all to debate the issue with relatives or friends who may not yet be persuaded.

Over the turkey, then, you may hear a version of the tiresome talking point trotted out by Peter Bone MP over the weekend: Marriage has been defined as “between one man and one woman” for hundreds of years. This really seems to be all the opponents of gay marriage have left – a feeble call-back to historical precedent and utterly discredited religious authority. They fail to follow up with a persuasive “and this is a good thing because…” Any arguments for why exclusively heterosexual marriage might better than extending the marriage ‘franchise’ fail in the 21st Century (for example, no-one these days seriously suggests that marriage is primarily about procreation).

Second, many people try to hide behind religious reasons for their opposition. “It is Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve!” Yawn. To that soundbite, it is worth pointing out that in the Garden of Eden story, the very first thing that God says about His creation, is that man should not be alone (Gen. 2-18). By contrast, the position of the Christian churches currently requires gay people to be alone. It is a pro-loneliness, anti-Genesis position.

The prefixes “pro” and “anti” remind me of the ongoing political arguments over abortion, where the battle is over language as well as facts and values. The campaign for gay marriage needs to be similarly mindful of language. For example, the Coalition for Marriage uses the language of preservation, where in fact their policies suppress the possible number of people who can get married. The opposition to gay marriage is anti-marriage and anti-family, and should be framed as such.

After the Debate

While I certainly stand behind the broad message of my Oxford Union speech, it is only right to acknowledge that the subject of debate – the impact of social media on social activism – is a little more nuanced and complicated than my bolshy assertions would have you believe. It’s worth acknowledging some of the arguments in favour of the motion, and expanding on some of the issues I was only able to cruise by in my eight minutes at the despatch box.

First, I wrote down a phrase from Mark Pfeifle, where he described social media as enabling “the soft power of democracy”. I thought this was a persuasive point. My speech focused on social activism in the UK and the USA, where there is a long tradition of social activism, and therefore ‘reinventing’ such activism is a very tough proposition. By contrast, those countries plagued by dictatorship have a stunted tradition of social action, so any tool that enables any kind of activism might be seen as a ‘reinvention’.
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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”.

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