Sunday, 19 August 2012

7 Non-Religious Arguments Against Marriage Equality And Their Flaws

After seeing the terrible arguments put forward by the SPUC, I thought I would start checking out other organisation's arguments against marriage equality. I immediately stumbled upon this page from the Christian Medical Fellowship which purports to offer strong arguments against marriage equality that would appeal to those with no faith. It is good to see them trying to move beyond religious arguments, which only work on those with a shared belief, and try to argue more generally. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly given my bias, I found these arguments to be extremely thin. So I thought I'd deal with them one by one.
1. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Marriage has existed in virtually all cultures for thousands of years and has been recognised in our own laws as the 'voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others for life' (Hyde v Hyde 1866). It is not up to governments to redefine marriage – but simply to recognise it for what it is, and to promote and protect it as a unique institution. Same-sex marriage is an oxymoron, like a four wheeled bicycle or a two storey bungalow. 
Reason number one, and we encounter our first fallacy (you would have thought they'd hide it a bit better). The appeal to tradition. I really don't think this is a powerful argument against marriage equality at all. Marriage equality could be a bad thing for society but whether it is does not hinge on our society's previous views on marriage and thus both ancient tradition and modern tradition are irrelevant.

This argument also suggests that it is Government alone that can redefine marriage yet this appears to be happening in society as a whole anyway.
2. Same sex couples already have civil partnerships. All the legal rights of marriage are already available to same-sex couples through civil partnerships so there is no need to redefine marriage to include them. The President of the Family Division of the High Court in England and Wales has described civil partnerships as conferring 'the benefits of marriage in all but name'. Marriage and civil partnerships have been designed for two very different types of relationship and should be kept distinct. 
I feel I've pointed out before how "the benefits of marriage in all but name" idea is not entirely true and also why the "Civil Partnerships Are Enough" argument is simply not good enough. I won't repeat myself here except to say this argument is one we can now put to bed.
3. Redefining marriage without consultation is undemocratic. None of the political leaders who are supporting the legalisation of same-sex marriage announced it as a priority in their election manifestos. There is already a huge amount of opposition to the move and pressing ahead with legalisation will lead to considerable dissension and division. Legalising same-sex marriage to appease a small minority is wrong and it should not be foisted on the British people without proper consultation about whether rather than how it should be done. 
Talk about a false proposition. Undemocratic is a very loaded term and open to a great deal of interpretation. We are not a direct democracy nor is our democracy based on delegation, it is what is known as a representative democracy. This means that at each election people choose to elect someone to take responsibility for making legislative decisions on their behalf. Manifestos are guidelines allowing people to vote for who they feel will best represent them. They are not a binding contract (as the Lib Dems have shown!).

None of the three major parties declared marriage equality OFF the agenda. Surely, if we use the CMF's own flawed argument, that would suggest that most people aren't concerned about it? Personally I don't think that is the case but once you start going down this silly route there are plenty of things you can make up about what people feel based on who and what they voted for at the General Election.

Finally both David Cameron and Nick Clegg made it clear during the election campaign that marriage equality was up for debate. Does that render this entire argument rather moot?
4. Protecting traditional marriage is good for children and society. Stable marriages and families headed by a mother and a father are the bedrock of society and the state has a duty to protect the uniqueness of these key institutions. There is considerable evidence (2) to show that marriage leads to better family relationships, less economic dependence, better physical health and longevity, improved mental health and emotional well-being, and reduced crime and domestic violence. Same-sex marriage, in comparison with marriage, is an unproven and experimental social model. 
Given the fact same-sex couples are already parents (sometimes through previous relationships, sometimes through a choice they have made together), surely giving those children and parents access to this incredibly powerful and important institution would be of benefit to them and to society as a whole?

I have to say that this paragraph is illustrative of why marriage equality is so important, especially for the children of same-sex couples. I fail to see how this is meant to persuade people that forcing some families not to have these unique benefits is good for society!

Marriage has been shown to have some key health benefits for same-sex couples, their children and LGBT teens.

5. Marriage is a unique biologically complementary relationship. Marriage is the only legal union which can naturally lead to children. The fact that there is a natural link between sexual intimacy and procreation is what makes marriage distinctive and different. Redefining marriage will undermine this distinctness and difference and risks normalising technological intervention in reproduction. 
Another logical fallacy? Seriously bad stuff. The appeal to nature.

Also marriage is not a "unique biologically complementary relationship". For it to be uniquely biologically complementary then all other relationships (unmarried, "temporary" [I'm being polite]) would not be biologically complementary which would surely mean pregnancy couldn't happen? Sexual intimacy and procreation happen within and without the marriage setting, thus are not distinctive to marriage. Marriage is only unique in the benefits it confers upon those relationships it covers, and thus "redefining" marriage (see a little bit of a history of marriage in the UK before using that term again) is only right if it is to extend those benefits to other relationships.

Even if we were to allow that marriage should only be extended to those relationships where there is a reasonable chance that those relationships will lead to responsibility for children then there is still no argument here about not allowing equal marriage.
6. Redefining marriage will be complex and expensive. Redefining marriage could cost billions and involve amending hundreds of pieces of government legislation. The word 'marriage' appears 3,258 times in UK legislation, which underlines the central role the institution plays in national law. Introducing same-sex marriage is a legal can of worms (3) which cannot be achieved without changing the common and legal definition of the word marriage and other words which define it (eg. 'husband and wife', 'consummation' and 'adultery'). These changes will inevitably change the definition and nature of marriage for opposite sex couples by trying to accommodate these two very different kinds of relationship under one legal umbrella. 
Here, at last, is one we can all agree on. It will be. The reason for this is because marriage (unlike civil partnerships) is treated with a great deal of importance and has implications upon relationships and society that are almost beyond measure. This only goes to show how important it is to allow all loving relationships that might involve shared responsibility for children to share in the benefits and responsibilities of marriage.
7. Redefining marriage will lead to faith-based discrimination. We have already seen a rising tide of discrimination against people who support traditional marriage as a result of the legalisation of civil partnerships coupled with new equality legislation. If same-sex marriage is legalised it would inevitably impact on other areas of law, such as health, education, adoption and employment, and place people from faith groups at risk of marginalisation, exclusion and litigation. 
Now this is a very important point to consider, but the "will lead" in the proposition should really be "may lead". It is definitely a danger and one that we must fight to avoid. If religious organisations would only work with LGBT campaigners and the Government in drafting the necessary protections it is a danger that is easily avoided. I implore those who wish to defend their religious freedom to work WITH us in changing the law so that they can continue to be allowed their freedom of conscience without forcing other religions to be denied theirs.

But how this is an argument against marriage equality I don't know.

What do you think?

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist


Anonymous said...

I had to smile at the announcement that Cardinal Keith O'Brien had "suspended direct communication with the Scottish government on gay marriage".

For some reason it reminded me of the apocryphal newspaper headline "Fog in Channel -Continent Cut Off".

Jae Kay said...

It is a little amusing. Bless him.

Robert Hagedorn said...

Should the anus be used as a sex organ? Google First Scandal. When you get there, go to the top of the page and click on "Can you explain..." Please note: this website you reach will be deleted on November 1, 2012.