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Marriage is under scrutiny, but for the wrong reason. The issue of same-sex marriage is, it seems, of consuming interest, especially to those who want it (the minority of homosexuals who feel that civil partnerships lack the dignity of matrimony) or those who fear that they will sooner or later come under pressure to solemnise it (the churches and other faiths). This debate has revealed widespread uncertainty about the definition and value of this most ancient of institutions. In this month's issue, David Green and Douglas Murray write from opposite sides of the argument; next month Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali will consider the question of what we mean by marriage.

Yet the question of whether the rights already enjoyed by same-sex couples should be redefined is really rather arcane. Only a minority of people are homosexual; of those, only a minority choose to live in civil partnerships; and of those, only a minority are actively demanding that their unions be recognised as "marriages": a minority of a minority of a minority. The real reason why we should be thinking about marriage is that it has been undermined over the last two generations by a culture that is inimical to matrimonial bliss and the virtues on which it thrives. Our civilisation has depended and will continue to depend upon the legal, social and spiritual framework in which children are raised. Marriage is about much more than procreation, but it matters above all because children matter. Without the civilising effects of marriage, the history of humanity would be so different as to be unrecognisable. 

Yet we are living now through the first period when it has become not merely common but normal for unmarried women to have children, supported not by a man but by the welfare state. Those who never marry and those who divorce now outnumber those who stay married. The "honourable" and "holy estate" eulogised by the Book of Common Prayer remains a desideratum for almost everyone, but it is no longer an expectation for anyone. Whole communities have allowed marriage to fall into desuetude. Husbands and fathers are rare in a society raised by single mothers. Deprived of their role as protectors and providers, men become predators instead. 

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jackie
April 2nd, 2012
8:04 PM
There is absolutley no reason why people who are homosexual should not be allowed a civil marriage. I am very much in favour of it being legalised. The catholic church along with any other christian denomination who do not agree with it should of course be allowed to exempt themselves from performing same sex marriage ceremonies but they have no right to impose their own particular prejudice on society as a whole.

Anonymous
April 1st, 2012
1:04 PM
The Catholic Church has said none of the things you attribute to it. It really would help if critics would take the trouble to read and understand what others say before flinging accusations of 'wickedness' at them. The question is not one of rights or discrimination at all. It has to do with the nature and status of marriage. In so far as people in homosexual relationships do not enjoy the same legal rights as those in heterosexual relationships, they should do, and the Church does not oppose such rights being enacted into law. But marriage is NOT merely a loving relationship between two individuals. It is indivisible from the family, which (since it is the source of the next generation of citizens) is the fundamental building block of society. It is therefore prior to all political or, for that matter, religious organisations. For that reason, neither the Church nor the state can presume to tinker with its definition or nature. The Church does not do so, choosing to recognise as valid many non-religious unions. the state should show the same respect for this fundamental human institution. To complain about discrimination in this context is as fatuous as if I were to complain that I am unjustly discriminated against because I am unable to receive a state pension at the age of 57. The fact is that the state has a legitimate interest in upholding marriage for life between one man and one woman as the best means of maintaining the stability of society and the proper upbringing of each new generation. It does not have such an interest in other forms of sexual relationship, because by their nature they do not perform the same useful function. That is not to say that they should be banned by law, or that people in relationships other than marriage should be legally disadvantaged in terms of property and other legal rights, merely that they have no legitimate ground on which to demand the special status and protection which the state ought to afford to married couples. This is essentially the argument advanced by the Catholic and other Christian churches. It quotes no scriptural or papal authority and relies upon no appeal to religious faith. It is based upon right reason. It is neither 'wicked' nor 'unchristian', accusations which are easily made but are false and, in any event, do not amount to an argument. Please take the trouble to find out what those with whom you disagree are actually saying before resorting to ugly 'ad hominem' points.

Nicodemus
March 31st, 2012
2:03 PM
If by natural and normal it means that the relationship can normally and naturally produce children that reflect and only reflect their genes then most people would disagree. If by those terms it means that there are minimal differences between men and women and that any highlighted are merely a stereotype as one of the Justices I understand stated in the Ohio Supreme Court and so the well being of a child to be connected with it's genetic parents and for those ties to be strengthened, male and female is neither here nor there then I think there are a lot of people who would disagree. The inability to discuss in a reasoned way the needs of children and the good of society from differing viewpoints is the real story here although I think the use of the word "hateful" and others has become emptied of meaning. This subject is not the preserve of the religious (just take a look at many libertarian views on this subject)and there are reasoned arguments for respecting a definition that is different, for whatever definition you come up with you will exclude someone or some combination and so the issue is not about exclusion. The Christian faith is centred on one person and the message He brought was by many hated; he himself was reviled, spat upon, whipped and eventually crucified. But why, because they hated His message? Marriage is dying in Sweden. I look forward to Standpoint producing the alternative views.

Anonymous
March 28th, 2012
11:03 PM
Surely everyone understands by now that homosexuality is a natural and normal feature of humanity. Once we accept gay people then marriage naturally follows. Can't The church and other in our society understand how hurtful the current highly publicised comments from church leaders are? How would someone feel if his own relationship with his wife were the subject of a public national debate, lead by supposedly caring people, focussing one whether it is abnormal, an abomination, immoral, unnatural. obscene, grotesque and a shame on the UK etc etc? And whether it is a threat to the family, children and the whole of society? And where in the Bible does it sayd that it is the role of Christians to judge other people and exclude them from "normal" society? The fact that it has been traditional to persecute gay and lesbian people is not a valid reason for continung it, anymore than racsim etc. And the fact that some people don't feel quite ready to refrain from doing so is not a goor reason for continuing to demean, decry and abuse a minority of people who do no harm to anyone. A successful marriage between two people of the opposite sex can be a wonderful thing. If it is made in a Christian context that is great. Likewise a marriage of two people of the same sex can be a wonderful thing. It is nonsense to suggest, as is being done, that same sex marriage can in any way threaten or damage opposite sex marriages. The Church should be welcoming everybody and not perpetuating poison and hatred. These ideas are wicked and unchristian.

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