It’s time to heed Phillip Hammond’s warning and stop talking about gay marriage. Let’s just say ‘I do’ and move on


Phillip Hammond has complained about the amount of time spent debating gay marriage.

Gay marriageThere’s an irony here. Historically same-sex attraction was the love that dare not speak its name. And now everybody is talking about it.

Next week the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will have its report stage and third reading. For those who support it, not least those of us who are lesbian or gay, it’s about equality.

The democratic case is clear. All the stuff about manifestos and referendums is filibustering. There may be a huge petition opposed to it. But the evidence is that public attitudes have changed, including amongst people with religious beliefs; so the state needs to catch up. Some people will be unhappy but that’s life. Nobody’s rights will be infringed. And there must indeed be other things to talk about. Back in the day when it was hard getting people to take lesbian and gay rights seriously I never imagined saying less would be more.

‘Redefinition of marriage’

For most of those who oppose the legislation the issue appears to be the ‘redefinition’ of marriage. Their objections, often though not always linked to religious beliefs, may be sincerely held. But the result, whether intended or not, is discriminatory. For them marriage is for men and women and its purpose is procreation. Civil partnerships gave lesbians and gay men equality and now they want more. How shocking. The reality is that many of these people didn’t want civil partnerships either, but that’s glossed over now.

In fact there’s another group who oppose gay marriage, or who at any rate are sceptics. Many of them were part of the women’s and gay liberation movements. For them marriage is an archaic and oppressive institution. ‘Wedding hells’ according to the feminist Julie Bindel is something the gay rights movement should run a mile from.

The two arguments are unintentionally closer than it might appear. The fact is that the current Bill will redefine marriage. It may not result in liberation, but it will bring about a fundamental change. That’s the point. But the change is about extending rights not taking them away. If you’re straight and married, you’ll remain married and your marriage will be no less legitimate, no less meaningful. And whatever your sexuality you’ll have a choice.

A public declaration of love

I hope that choice will extend to straight couples having the option of civil partnership. And in time I’d like to see the choice extend to religious marriage, but I think that should be a matter for individual religious denominations. I’m pretty sceptical about the law protecting so-called religious freedoms in this area. As a gay Catholic I’m happy to argue away within the church without the state getting involved. I don’t think it should be any different for Anglicans; but because we have an established church it is. However if the Bill is passed it will be a big step in the right direction. Enough government time will have been spent and religious institutions can carry on talking.

History shows us change is messy. It’s often out of contradiction that lasting progressive change is forged. The blogosphere has revealed some of that contradiction. For the feminist Beatrix Campbell, the line between civil partnership and marriage has already been broken in popular culture – marriage isn’t about procreation, it’s about love. For Matthew D’Ancona, the case for gay marriage is fundamentally conservative – it will strengthen Britain’s social fabric.

I suspect the reality is that for many people both arguments will have some resonance. They simply want to marry, with or without God, and having a wedding – a public declaration of personal love – is a symbol of the ties that bind them and us, one that makes for a stronger society.

So for now I think it’s time to heed Phillip Hammond’s warning and stop talking about it. Let’s just say ‘I do’ to gay marriage and move on.

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  • http://twitter.com/NO_GOD_LGBT NO GOD = LGBT RIGHTS

    Lets move forward.

  • FRANK BROWN

    Homophobic card verses Islamophobic card oh dear David who trumps who ?

  • TristanPriceWilliams

    The man from Ukip, he says no….

  • sheppied007

    ‘marriage isn’t about procreation, it’s about love.’

    This a false dichotomy: marriage is about both love and procreation.

    Of course, the rallying cry of the same-sex marriage movement is that heterosexual rights will be unaffected. However, since marriage will *still* prioritise (or be challenged to prioritise) a non-blood related spouse’s automatic parental rights with over any children born to the spouse of the mother. This will override the unrelinquished paternal rights of biological fathers.

    In California, an appellate court made a child a ward of the State because, under State law, only the mother and her lesbian spouse could be considered her parents. This was despite the fact that the biological father (whom the bisexual mother left to marry her lesbian lover), had never relinquished his paternal rights.

    The automatic exclusion of biological parents via the automatic presumption of parental rights would be the norm for gay marriage, whereas it is not the norm for straight marriage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ndostal Norman Dostal

    sorry, dumdum, marriage was NEVER about procreation. It was actually created for inheritance reasons-long before any of your stupid, mindless religions. And also, idiot, less than 5% of gays have children-and most of those were adopted because heteros like yourself abandoned them. Gay equality is coming and there isnt anything you or your bigoted ilk can do to stop it. Maybe pray on it? Ask your fake god for help?

  • sheppied007

    Contrary to your assertion of less than 5% of gay ls having children (while the majority you claim adopt), ‘In 2010, GayIVF.com, conducted a survey of lesbians and gay men inquiring about their current status and future plans to become parents. Out of the 67% of survey respondents who did not already have children, 98% stated that they do plan to have children in the future. When asked by what means they planned to have children, 13% identified the choice of adoption. An overwhelming 87% stated that they plan to build their families using some form of assisted reproductive technology (ART)Even if the study is US-based, it shows a substantial majority will prefer to have a child who is biologically related to, at least, one partner.

    If they use assisted reproduction informally, HFEA rules don’t apply. In that case, they could seek to override any prior agreement with the biological father.

    Of course, you are free to furnish your own evidence to back up your assertion and contradict my evidence.

    If you don’t provide scientific evidence that endorses your opinion. Guess what? You’re not just dumb, you’re false as well.