Bishops of the Church in Wales respond to the Same Sex Marriage Consultation

Posted by Kendall Harmon

We regret that the consultation focuses only on the practice of registering and recognising same-sex marriage, and does not invite comment on the principle. The question of why, and whether or not it is desirable to introduce the concept of marriage for same-sex couples should also be open to public consultation and debate.

In a consultation on legislation which potentially affects everyone, it is anomalous that the questions set in the consultation document are very restrictive. Eleven of the 16 questions are presented with a multiple-choice answer consisting of ‘Yes’, ‘No,’ or ‘Don’t know’/‘Doesn’t apply to me’. Only one of them allows a more detailed explanation (number 1), and where questions invite free comment (in only 4 of the 16) this is restricted to around 200 words. Six questions are exclusively aimed at people who either are or could be in a same-sex relationship (including transsexuals and their spouses). This suggests a strangely isolated approach to the institution of marriage, which is above all an institution in society, rather than a private arrangement between individuals.

The consultation document refers throughout to an alleged ‘ban’ on same-sex couples contracting marriages. In normal parlance, for something to be banned, it must be possible but disallowed –such as the ban on smoking in public buildings, or the ban on carrying liquids on to an aeroplane, or the ban on alcohol or gambling on many religious premises. (It could be argued that there is a ‘ban’ on the inclusion of religious content in civil marriage or partnership ceremonies.) This legislation does not lift a ban; it proposes the creation of a new state, ie marriage between persons of the same sex. A more accurate description would be, as in para 1.9(iii), that a same-sex relationship constitutes a ‘bar’ to marriage: it is a situation in which marriage cannot at present take place. It would be correct to acknowledge that the proposed legislation aims to bring into being a state which did not exist before.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Wales* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilyReligion & CultureSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK--Wales* TheologyAnthropologyEthics / Moral Theology

2 Comments
Posted June 14, 2012 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. c.r.seitz wrote:

“The consultation document refers throughout to an alleged ‘ban’ on same-sex couples contracting marriages. In normal parlance, for something to be banned, it must be possible but disallowed –such as the ban on smoking in public buildings, or the ban on carrying liquids on to an aeroplane, or the ban on alcohol or gambling on many religious premises. (It could be argued that there is a ‘ban’ on the inclusion of religious content in civil marriage or partnership ceremonies.) This legislation does not lift a ban; it proposes the creation of a new state, ie marriage between persons of the same sex. A more accurate description would be, as in para 1.9(iii), that a same-sex relationship constitutes a ‘bar’ to marriage: it is a situation in which marriage cannot at present take place. It would be correct to acknowledge that the proposed legislation aims to bring into being a state which did not exist before.”

For a new state of affairs one arguably needs a corresponding neologism, like the commandeered ‘gay’ for ‘Gay’—‘Partnership’ was sufficiently on offer as a term.

Wasn’t it true that the progressive position on SSBs in the TEC requested theological document was unhappy with the idea of ‘marriage equivalence’? Gene Rogers et al. That is, it did not respect the distinctiveness of the purported analogue, etc. My memory is a bit foggy, except to say, the ‘marriage equivalence’ idea is not universally held within the ‘GLBTQ’ community itself, by any means.

There is a complicated language-philosophy question about how to ‘farm’ new terms, and what the implications for that are: use Latin; turn adjectives into nouns (homosexual behavior and ‘Homosexual’); use a term no one is proprietory about, and extend it (‘gay’).

‘Marriage’ is already doing duty for a particular state of affairs. Rather than stripping that back so as to enlarge and alter; or etymologising beyond conventional use, would consistency argue that for a distinctive new category (‘Gay’) or an acronym (‘GLBTQ’) a new term for something desired (not by all in the latter community of course) is needed. ‘Partnership’ was holding the place, as in ‘civil partnership’ or ‘religious partnership.’ If this is not to be used, what about farming the Latin or some other territory?

June 14, 7:32 am | [comment link]
2. c.r.seitz wrote:

I note the RC church in the UK has called attention to a further complication of moving words around, like ‘marriage.’ Language is more like a zero-sum game than a malleability-fest. Language like ‘wife’ and ‘husband’ and ‘father’ and ‘mother’ gets sent into the alteration grinder.

June 15, 11:17 am | [comment link]
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