Sunday, 3 February 2013

Breaking Down The Coalition For Marriage's #EqualMarriage Briefing To Parliament

The Coalition for Marriage has published its own briefing ahead of the marriage equality vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday. Prepare yourselves as we break down its summary.

There is no mandate – it wasn’t in the manifesto of any major party. 

I've dealt with this argument before. Ultimately after the next election either the Conservatives or Labour will be elected into power (either alone on in another coalition) and at that point there will be a mandate for marriage equality (and probably an even more determined effort to get it if it is denied in this Parliament). The Coalition for Marriage are simply delaying the argument rather than doing anything to "save traditional marriage". It is the response of political cowards unable (or unwilling) to persuade Members of Parliament of the rightness of their own argument.

A sham consultation – it deliberately ignored 500,000 people. 

That is because they didn't send in consultation responses advising the Government on how to implement marriage equality. They were petition signatories. Though their views are quite valid and certainly should be made clear to their MPs, petition signatories aren't very useful responses to consultations. Perhaps if they had written a response with their reasons for opposition it would've been both more impressive, more convincing and perhaps more effective. And a "tyranny of the majority" isn't a convincing moral argument against equal marriage.
The Government had been absolutely firm in the consultation document that same-sex weddings would not be allowed on religious premises. Those who responded to the consultation, relying in good faith in the Government’s assurances about religious premises, found that the Government’s final proposals were radically different to those on which it consulted. Shortly before Christmas, the Government announced a major policy U-turn: same-sex ceremonies will after all be introduced in churches as well as in civil settings.
Well actually... the Church of England made it quite clear to the Government, in their response to the consultation, that the Government simply could not create a whole new concept of "civil" marriage and that it would have to include religious ceremonies too or face legal consequences. The Government listened. Complaining that the Government didn't listen to consultation responses but then also complaining that they did in the very next paragraph shows a remarkable inability to follow through on the logic of your own argument.

No popular support – proper polls show the public doesn’t want it.

The Coalition for Marriage's "proper polls" have been carefully criticised before here. And again... tyranny of the majority arguments can lead to some unfortunate consequences. Will the Coalition for Marriage be happy if/when there is a majority of non-Christians in this country deciding what to do with those meddlesome followers of Christ?

Impact on schools – teachers that refuse to endorse this will be sacked.

A complicated argument this one. I do have sympathy for those who are sacked for their beliefs and sometimes for their actions. Such as those sacked in other countries for supporting equal marriage or even for just getting married themselves. And I have sympathy for those facing the sack in Catholic church run schools here in the UK for their own beliefs.  In contrast to the Catholic church's rather public declaration of its intent to undermine the rights of teachers and parents, the Government has been far more vocal in support of the right of teachers.

So I have to ask... who are you trying to convince? On one hand we have people who run schools determined to stop equal marriage being discussed and on the other you have the equal marriage supporting Government declaring that teachers should have the freedom to their own beliefs but should teach a broader picture to children so that they can, with the evidence given, come to their own conclusions.

Alter the meaning of words – ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ will get new meanings.

I refer the Coalition for Marriage to their use of "proper" in the polling statement above.

Undermine marriage – marriage has declined in nations that have redefined it.

Marriage was declining in these countries BEFORE the redefinition and continues in countries that haven't introduced equal marriage (Italy's drop in marriages since equal marriage was introduced in Spain almost exactly mirrors Spain's [some data here]). See also Fact Checks chart. The fall in marriage is obviously a problem for those who consider it important but solving this drop isn't going to be as easy as stopping equal marriage.

Costly and complex – could set off a legal chain reaction eventually costing £5bn.

The cost comes from... allowing heterosexuals the right to perform a civil partnership (this isn't up for a vote on Tuesday) and them getting allsorts of benefits that they wouldn't have unless they married. Which is what the Coalition for Marriage wants them to do anyway. I'm pretty confused as to what the Coalition for Marriage is saying here. Ban marriage completely to save money?

Ignores children’s needs – marriage becomes all about the rights of adults.

Finally an argument on the meat of the matter. It ignores that many LGBT people have children. And not just through surrogacy and adoption. Ultimately this argument moves on to one about something far greater than same-sex marriage; the nature of modern marriage itself with relatively easy divorces and children born out of wedlock. It something that is clearly outlined in "What is Marriage?" and is something I'm not utterly convinced on as once taken to its conclusion it involves marriage being about what is best for the state rather than what is best for children or adults.

Leaves churches vulnerable – Government protections can’t be guaranteed.

Nothing is guaranteed. But I think the Government's quadruple lock, if nothing else, shows the good intentions of those of us on the equal marriage side of the argument. We do not want to force churches to do anything they don't want to with regards to who they marry. And I've dealt with the ECHR arguments in more detail here.

Under its Human Rights Charter section later on it tells us that the European Convention on Human Rights doesn't support marriage equality which sort of undermines its argument that the European Court of Human Rights will find against churches religious freedom.

People will be punished – treated like outcasts for believing in traditional marriage.

1) I refer to the Coalition for Marriage's obvious support for a "tyranny of the majority". Then they suggest people shouldn't be punished for holding views that are unpopular (and surely this undermines their argument that their views are popular!!).

2) I refer above to the Catholic church's similar beliefs in punishing employees who disagree with them. Ultimately there is another greater argument here, one I've dealt with before.

Further redefinitions – once you start, where does it end?

Firstly some of the "redefinitions" they quote are on civil unions (see their "equality isn't uniformity" section for their support of civil unions). And secondly... and? It perhaps ends here.

Splitting Church and State – it is a recipe for disestablishment.

Which will lead to greater religious freedom for the Church of England. No more distress in Parliament when the Church of England makes a decision Westminster doesn't like. And no Bishops in our legislature. All round a good thing.

Equality isn’t uniformity – equality already exists, there’s no need for this.

I've have tackled this old argument many times, but I'll point you to this post. Civil partnerships aren't even equality and the fact the Coalition for Marriage sees there is no consummation or adultery for same-sex couples shows this legislation isn't uniformity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent rebuttals. They really are getting desperate for arguments to deny equality to all.

One extra point regarding their claim that Cameron has no mandate for gay marriage - he has no mandate for tearing apart the NHS either. In fact, he specifically promised he wouldn't reorganise it. Anti-gay Tories never claim that NHS reorganisation should be postponed until after an election so the electorate can have its say. Funny, that...