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Gay marriage – for better or for worse?

Marriage is the union of a woman and a man. Or possibly in future, a woman and a woman or a man and a man.

Alan Air photo
Alan Air

Later this month the Government will launch a consultation on making marriage available to same-sex couples.

Some religious leaders have expressed unease at the proposal. The most senior Roman Catholic cleric in Britain has been particularly strident.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the Catholic leader in Scotland, said the plans were a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”.

He said the idea of redefining marriage, which David Cameron has said he supports, would “shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world”.

Cardinal O’Brien added: “Since all the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples, it is clear that this proposal is not about rights, but rather is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists.”

The Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu – who is also the University of Cumbria’s vice-chancellor – has insisted ministers should not allow same-sex marriage, saying David Cameron would be like a “dictator” if he lets gay people get married.

Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said: “We’re not seeking to change religious marriage and we’re not seeking to impose it on religious groups.

“What we are saying is that where a couple love each other and they wish to commit to each other for their life then they should be able to have a civil marriage irrespective of their sexual orientation.”

Civil partnerships were introduced in 2005 to give same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples. The law does not allow such unions to be referred to as marriages.

John Libby, vicar of St James Church in Denton Holme, Carlisle, feels that same-sex relationships cannot be a marriage – unless the meaning of ‘marriage’ is changed.

“Marriage is an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman, ’til death do part them.

“If we lose that definition, we are losing a certain seam of what we are and who we are culturally.

“That would be a shame because marriage has an awful lot to give to a family and a community. If you define it differently you’re going to lose the structure behind that cohesion.”

Rev Libby is not surprised by the calls for gay marriage.

“In terms of a rallying point for militant gay campaigners then obviously marriage is something they would seek to change. The proportion of people involved in that campaign is tiny compared with the size of what’s at stake.”

Glenn Anderson is the manager of Carlisle’s gay-friendly cabaret bar Outrageous.

“From a political point of view I’m absolutely for gay marriage,” he says. “It’s the whole point of what Outrageous strives to do, to make it all one society. Having distinctions just causes more problems.”

Glenn has been in a relationship for nine years and is considering a civil partnership. But he has no desire to get married.

“I don’t want to get married in a church. I don’t feel I need that type of ceremony in my life. In a church wedding, attention should be focused on the bride. If two gay men want to dress up, for me the church is not really the appropriate place. I’m respectful of that.”

Glenn says gay people should be free to make decisions about marriage, and that the church should not have the power to dictate who can and can’t wed.

“At the end of the day the people making decisions now are not the people who wrote the Bible. They’re just interpreting an old text.

“I don’t think people with such extreme views as Cardinal O’Brien should be given airtime. I think his views will be rubbished.

“Life has changed from even 10 years ago. The success of Outrageous shows that.

“People generally don’t care about other people’s sexuality. There are extremists on both sides. But in the middle ground it’s very safe and secure.”

Outdoor writer Vivienne Crow lives in Carlisle and has been with her partner for 25 years. They have been in a civil partnership for more than five years.

She says: “Cardinal O’Brien talked about human rights. To limit marriage to heterosexuals only is a subversion of human rights.

“I think Britain is, generally speaking, a very liberal country. People like the Cardinal show there is still a significant minority of people out there who are bigoted and want to impose religious dogma on the rest of society. The rest of society is moving on.

“I think he’ll reinforce the opinions of people that are already anti-gay marriage.

“Hopefully he won’t have any impact on David Cameron’s thinking. Whether he has an impact on the rest of the Tory party remains to be seen.”

Vivienne agrees with Cardinal O’Brien on one point: that legal equality already exists through civil partnerships. She feels the issue is one of wider equality.

“Civil partnerships pretty much give gay people the same rights as married couples. The issue is largely about the word ‘marriage’. It’s making sure the language reflects equality so people don’t have to use words that are invented especially for them, like ‘civil partnership’.

“I wouldn’t get married because I’m not a Christian. Marriage has no relevance to me. That’s not to say it’s not relevant to a lot of people I know. There are plenty of gay Christians who would like to have equal rights.”

Carlisle-based PR consultant Alan Air has no desire to get married, and wonders why other gay men would want to.

“In liberal Europe gay men generally have a much better time of it than their heterosexual counterparts.

“My straight mates always complain they don’t understand their girlfriends and wives, they can’t look at another woman without being accused of having an affair, the mother-in-law and kids drive them mad and they never have any money or spare time.

“Liberation from straight norms such as Church- and State-sanctioned marriage, which often turns into an emotional and financial straitjacket, is surely the greatest advantage in being gay.

“Pro-marriage gay guys should be careful what they wish for. Divorce lawyers are already rubbing their hands together. Imagine the histrionics when it comes to dividing the IKEA units and Kylie CDs?”

Rachel Kilpin-Miller lives near Wigton and is in a civil partnership. She has no desire to get married.

“I have no need to have equality in the eyes of other people. I’ve seen prejudice. Being married wouldn’t change that. It’s merely a title.”

Rachel feel marriage is a religious institution which should be left to people who are religious, regardless of their sexual persuasion.

“Civil partnerships, yes. Religion is something different. I’m not a religious person and I think marriage should be left to people who are.

“Two people who are gay and go to church every week can’t get married.

“Two heterosexual people who don’t go to church can get married. I think that’s a shame.”

Have your say

@Ian. "In that context, being a slave or a king for your time on earth doesn't really amount to much." and that, right there, is the harm of religion. It makes you satisfied with injustice in the here-and-now with the promise of jam tomorrow.
Special privilege? We still have Sunday trading laws. Wearing a crucifix when there is a no jewellery dress code, yes that's special privilege. Faith schools? The very manifestation of privilege. Have you religious indoctrination paid for by the tax payer! Of course that is privilege.

Posted by Bob T on 10 March 2012 at 09:02

@Ian. When two people love each other and want to declare their commitment to each other before their community there is a perfectly good word to use. That word is marriage. Why invent a new one? Unless you are trying to say that the union of two gay people is in some way inferior to our heterosexual marriage.

Posted by Bob T on 10 March 2012 at 08:17

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