I have a great deal of respect for the libertarian position on marriage, a position Steve Baker MP has written about before. Indeed, I was only writing last post about my own dilemma in both supporting equal marriage and wanting Government out of the whole business. So take it as read that I hold no animosity towards those who stand back from the marriage equality debate for some related ideological consideration (be they anti-marriage queer radicals, or purist right-wing libertarians).
I even have respect for those who oppose equal marriage because it goes against their personal beliefs. Do not think I don't understand where you are coming from even if I think you are completely wrong and that attempting to enforce your beliefs on my relationship isn't something I find endearing.
But there is one anti-equality argument that I cannot put up with. It is the hypocritical "faux-libertarian" argument most typically spouted by UKIP supporters. I've dealt with this before in a rather light-hearted look at David Coburn's Pink News article back in March (my commentary can be found here). When, earlier this month, UKIP released their latest comments on their marriage equality policy I didn't feel the need to elaborate further but today I've seen David Coburn and others using his article and his sexuality to defend that same policy. That, I felt, needed a response.
They start their 15th November 2012 post bigging up their libertarian credentials with the bizarre comment that this is why they support civil partnerships. Civil partnerships are a Government issued contract and are in no way "libertarian"!
They then summarise the Government's current proposals (which may change shortly, I admit) to only legislate on equal civil marriage. They rightly point out that many LGBT people are religious and may find these proposals unsatisfactory and may even take the case to the courts to allow them to marry in religious premises. This I understand completely, and suspect it is quite likely that a couple may well do this in these circumstances and probably with the support of Liberal Judaism, Unitarians and the Quakers.
That is when they make a few leaps of logic and assumption without providing evidence.
1) They suggest that this hypothetical court case would lead to the Government FORCING churches to marry same-sex couples.
That is quite a leap indeed, surely you would think that if the case was successful the Government is more likely to open up religious marriage equality whilst allowing continued protection for the dissenting religious organisations? Personally, based on fact that "civil marriage" is more an imaginary concept than a legal one I suspect the Government may well include provisions allowing this in the original legislation.
2) This being UKIP, they suggest these authoritarian changes would be foisted on the country by the evil European Court of Human Rights.
We believe that, give.n (sic)Hmm... what are the current attitudes of the ECHR towards equal marriage? They do not feel the need to compel countries to give marriage rights to LGBT people. Channel 4's FactCheck does a good summary on this. They are right to point out that several European countries have introduced equal marriage and there has be no similar legal case as predicted by UKIP. It's all pointless speculating and only serves to remind us that the law should be carefully written to protect religious liberty (for both those who want to marry same-sex couples and those who don't).
the current nature of the European Court of Human Rights' attitude to such matters, there is a very strong likelihood that the Court at Strasbourg will agree that it is an unlawful discrimination on those grounds and order the United Kingdom to introduce laws which will force Churches to marry gay people according to their rites, rituals and customs.
3) UKIP then express shock at suggestion Government might ban religious organisations from marrying same-sex couples.
If the Government has it in mind to forbid Churches from marrying gay people, that would be a monstrous piece of tyranny: let Churches and faiths decide for themselves.Don't tell UKIP this as they might faint, but that is the current situation! Allowing Churches and faiths to decide for themselves involves giving them the legal right to marry same-sex couples but not forcing them to use it. This sort of mind-bending logic really does make me wonder who wrote this policy and whether it is more from opportunism than belief in opposing equal marriage.
After this they continue to moan and speculate about how evil forcing churches to marry same-sex couples would be. Based on no evidence. Nothing. Nada. Oh and then they say "It is not a priority" (put a pound in the "Overused Argument" jar please).
It is a policy that flies in the face of libertarianism, lacks critical thinking and appears to be written by someone who doesn't really oppose equal marriage but just wants to appeal to people who do. It is extremely hypocritical for UKIP to complain about the Government not allowing religious organisations to marry same-sex couples at the same time as opposing equal marriage. It is a conflicting and hastily written piece.
Coincidentally it was published not long before UKIP's Croydon North candidate Winston Mackenzie and their leader Nigel Farage made the issue part of the Croydon North by-election. Shame on them.
UKIP need to make a decision. They need to do one of three things:
1) oppose marriage equality completely on the basis that same-sex relationships are "different" to opposite-sex ones
2) step back from the debate and make a libertarian case for marriage reform.
3) embrace marriage equality as a marker on the long road to liberty.
Their current policy shows them up as exploitative, ideologically dodgy politicians of the worst kind.
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