Wednesday, 19 January 2011

How we got same-sex marriage without a proper debate

What the Cornwall B & B case, and the judge’s remarks in his decision, seem to show is that the Civil Partnership Bill effectively gave us ‘same-sex’ marriage without a proper debate in the legislature. As Judge Rutherford put it, “There is no material difference (for the purpose of this regulation) between marriage and a civil partnership.”
Yet the words of the Bishop of Chelmsford from the debate on the Civil Partnership Bill in the House of Lord’s, 17th November 2004 would suggest this was not supposed to happen and that the government was giving the impression that there was no danger of it happening:
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: Perhaps I may say to the Minister that it would be good to have on record that the public understanding of marriage held in the law of this country is not affected by this Bill.
The later words of the Bishop of Chester, however, now seem prescient:
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, perhaps I may briefly make another penultimate speech in your Lordships’ House. I am grateful for the assurances of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Chelmsford that the Bill before us does not introduce same-sex marriage. I am grateful for the assurances of the Government at earlier stages. But the difficulty is that the details of the Bill as it stands so closely parallel the arrangements for marriage that there is a real danger of a de facto introduction of same-sex marriage by that process.
The history of social legislation in this country is often that the consequences are not quite those that are stated as intended. One sees that in all sorts of areas, including divorce and abortion in family law. In some ways, that makes it difficult to accept the amendment before us. The range of relationships that ought to be dealt with under a Bill, as has been stated so eloquently, not least by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, is very persuasive.
However, if the Bill is left standing alone, without any other measures being introduced at some point, paralleling so closely the provisions for marriage, de facto we will have a perception of same-sex marriage.
How mistaken was the Bishop of Chelmsford, and how far-sighted was the Bishop of Chester?
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  1. When David Steele introduced the Abortion Bill in 1967, as a means to save a mothers life, he never envisioned a time when Britain would have destroyed nearly 7,000,000 babies at a current rate of 200,000 a year. After forty years he seems to have only just woken up to the nightmare of a genocide taking place on an industrial scale - that was of his designing. Obviously there are those who would accuse me of not only being a right wing, narrow -minded, homophobic bigot but of being an alarmist; but as Lord Monson said, during the debate, on the 3rd March, 2008, in the House of Lords, recounting a previous debate, fifty years ago, when the Wolfenden Report resulted in a relaxation of the homosexual laws, there was a voice of disquiet then:
    “Yes, the Wolfenden proposals are all very well, but they are the thin end of the wedge. The pendulum is bound to swing too far in the other direction. Mark my words, before many years are out, they”—the more militant homosexuals and not, of course, the ordinary discreet sort—“will demand not merely toleration for their sexual activities—no problem about that—but positive respect, even admiration, for them”. ‘To which I ( Lord Monson) replied, “Oh, come on. Nonsense. You’re being alarmist”. ‘With hindsight, I have to say that I was wrong and they were right.’
    With regard to the Wolfenden Committee Report, H.L.A.Hart, Professor of Jurisprudence Oxford Unversity, wrote, in 1959,
    ".. it does not follow that everything to which the moral vetoes of accepted morality attach is of equal importance to society, nor is there the slightest reason for thinking of morality as a seamless webb; one which will fall to pieces, carrying society with it, unless all its emphatic vetoes are enforced by law.”
    “Surely even if in the face of the moral feeling that is up to concert pitch - the trio of 'intolerance, indignation and disgust' (Patrick Devlin - my speech marks) - we must...ask whether a practice which offends moral feeling is harmful, independently of its repercussion on the general moral code.”

    “Secondly, what about repercussion on the moral code? Is it really true that failure to translate this item of general morality into criminal law will jeopardize the whole fabric of morality and so of society".
    (Wasserstrom (Ed) Morality and the Law Wadsworth, 1971 and in R.M. Dworkin, (Ed) The Philosophy of Law, Oxford University Press 1977 pp83-88.)/

  2. Anonymous, interesting quotes. I do like people to give a full name and location when commenting. It rarely happens, but I still like it when they do!

  3. Pete Haynsworth RI-USA25 January 2011 at 22:34

    Re: “There is no material difference ... between marriage and a civil partnership.”

    The word 'marriage' has been thoroughly beaten up, emasculated, and co-opted by agenda-driven forces. Perhaps those who'd like to have a 'traditional' rite in the next (U.S.) Book of Common Prayer might legislate for a separate/additional service that entirely avoids the word.

    B-O-O-K O-F C-O-M-M-O-N P-R-A-Y-E-R 2-0-x-x

    P.A.S.T.O.R.A.L O.F.F.I.C.E.S

    (formerly, Celebration & Blessing of a Marriage)

    ... replacing every instance of 'marriage' (and variations) from the former service with variations of 'nuptials', 'wed' and/or some other term.

    I'm sort of serious. What else can keep the next BCP from totally blowing up? I personally have given up on 'marriage' as discretely describing "the union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind (as) intended by God."