Britain’s only independent gay humanist organisation, the charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) – owner of this blog – has rubbished the latest attack on same-sex marriage by the Church of England in its submission to the government’s consultation on this issue.
Commenting on this, PTT secretary George Broadhead said: “This is part and parcel of the Church’s long-standing Bible-based hostility to gay rights. It is fatuous to claim that the Church or its places of worship will be badly affected by this progressive legislation since it concerns only civil marriages in register offices. Moreover, as the courts are well aware of the distinction between civil and religious institutions, it is equally fatuous to claim that these marriages will result in legal challenges that will force any church to marry same-sex couples.
“As usual, the Church is out of touch with public opinion which, as polls show, is overwhelmingly in favour of same-sex marriage. No wonder the Church’s members are deserting the pews in droves.”
I think I agree, mostly, with George. However, there may, just may, be a successful challenge in the European courts, but that would just put the Church where other employers are at the moment, and we know that, for instance, a registrar lost her case, as did a marriage-guidance counsellor, because each refused to treat gay people the same as heterosexuals. One has to ask: why won’t it be the same with a minister of religion, carrying out part of the duties for which he receives a stipend and for which he is, in this case, licensed by the state to carry out marriage, as is a registrar?
So I can see that the Church may be worried, although I suspect much of its “concern” is born out of bigotry. If you want to win an argument, you reach for all kinds of things to bolster it.
If it does go to a European court, it will be an interesting case to follow.
And one of the issues the Church has raised is consummation of a marriage. On the BBC News website, the Beeb’s religion guy, Robert Pigott, writes: “For the Church, a marriage – with its focus on procreation and the need to be consummated – is something that is simply not available to gay couples. By creating different understandings of marriage, it insists, the whole institution will be weakened – something the nation should not be allowed to sleep-walk towards.
Er, how does an opposite-sex relationship differ from a same-sex one in this respect? My Concise Oxford defines consummation simply as “make (a marriage or relationship) complete by having sexual intercourse”. Don’t gays do nookie? Sorry, I thought they did. I must be missing something.
As for the focus on procreation, well clearly the Church doesn’t say a marriage is null and void if procreation doesn’t happen, because there are all kinds of reasons why it might not: family planning, a woman’s infertility, husband firing blanks. But the Church presumably doesn’t believe that childless marriage has any less worth than one that irresponsibly produces six or seven sprogs.
And, unlike the Catholic Church, the C of E doesn’t get uppity about people who want to use condoms and other forms of contraception, so, by implication, it’s cool about people who actually choose not to have kids.