Sunday, 30 June 2013

Does The Vatican Have A "Gay Lobby" Or Are We Looking At Another Catholic Child Abuse Story?

Ever since Pope Benedict XVI's unexpected resignation there have been rumours of a gay lobby in the Vatican. Supposedly a corrupting influence, this lobby is even more of a risk to the Pope as it fights off blackmail attempts (the different angles, and the way they have been reported, are summed up very well here). Pope Francis has acknowledged the existence of this gay lobby and seems to be making plans to purge the Vatican of it. 

Sounds all very "Lavender Scare" to me. 

But... is it really a gay lobby? Or is it just a rebranded child abuse problem? For many decades it has been common to smear gay people with the paedophile tag. Most reasonable people now recognise there is a difference (and there really is a difference!). However given the Vatican's deep-seated dislike of us LGBT folk (sorry their "love" for us) and given that the Vatican has a very good reason to want to avoid another child abuse scandal, especially this close to home, is it possible that this "gay lobby" business is an attempt to smear the LGBT rights movement whilst protecting, in a small way, what is left of the Catholic Church's reputation? 

Because the latest rumours coming out on this story (and they are just rumours) are suggesting that some of those involved may well be young boys. If these rumours are substantiated maybe we should be asking whether any of those accused have ever had an adult gay relationship? Because I have to say if they haven't then calling it a gay lobby might be redefining the word "gay" (again) and you know how right-wingers didn't like it when we did that! 

I'm pretty sure heads will start to roll soon, and we may then find out what is going on at the Vatican. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

DOMA and #Prop8 Struck Down (Probably): A Historic Day For American LGBT People

It has been a long wait for the resolution of the Prop 8 cases. It has been nearly 5 years since the voters of California decided to overrule their fellow citizens ability to marry. It has been 3 years (and I really can't believe it has been that long!) since Judge Walker overturned that vote. In that time the opinion polls have rapidly changed and even the main financial backers of the proposition have backed off from their role in the campaign. Now the US Supreme Court has decided that those fighting to keep Prop 8 in place have no standing before the court. This leaves some complications as they thus made no decision on what this actually means practically. 

Though the Governor of California has advised clerks to prepare to issue marriage licenses when this decision takes effect in a few weeks time, there is some concern that legally the decision may only have a limited effect (i.e. only the plaintiffs may have the right to be married or only people in the counties they are from). Time will tell as the authorities in California begin to work out the issues. 

Meanwhile the Supreme Court has also struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. This will have a huge effect upon the lives of married same-sex couples across the USA. Extremely awesome ruling that doesn't over-extend the power of the federal government into state affairs. Well done to the Supremes! 

With Rudd now likely to become Prime Minister of Australia (the first openly pro-equality PM they've had, he's changed since the last time ;), if only briefly, is another good sign. Plus tomorrow Scotland will release their marriage equality bill. 

Another good week for the cause of equal marriage!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Marriage Equality Opponents Just Don't Trust Opposite-Sex Couples

Our opponents are always quick to tell us that they have never against same-sex couples. They are just very concerned about what will happen to the "institution of marriage" if same-sex couples are allowed to marry.

Take the issue of adultery. No one asked for adultery to be left out of the Government's same sex marriage bill. They just decided it was too complicated an issue to deal with and decided to leave it out. It was no grand conspiracy on behalf of evil LGBT activists. It was a silly decision made by bureaucrats that will lead to there being two kinds of marriage (same-sex marriage and marriage).

But in the eyes of our opponents this is all part of a not-so-secret plan to undermine all marriages. Take a look at this mischievous piece on Anglican Mainstream. Here it implies that same-sex marriages will often be open (based on a few vocal US marriage equality activists own marriages and evidence of non-married same-sex couples, of course) and this will seep over into opposite-sex unions leading to the end of civilisation (or something like that).

Of course this all fails to mention one rather important point... opposite-sex couples will still have adultery as a reason for divorce. So what they are implying is not that the Government will be changing the law for opposite-sex couples but simply that those couples will copy those evil gays!

Not only is this the whole "gays corrupt good people" meme writ large but it is also reveals a shocking mistrust of opposite-sex married couples by our opponents. They quote articles which basically imply men are evil sexual monsters (yet again showing signs of feminist and conservative thought slowly moving together) who can only be tamed by a combination of marriage to a woman and anti-adultery laws.

Fundamentally they fear marriage will be changed by married people. They have made their version of marriage into an idol and they simply must force every single married couple to bow before their idol rather than allow those couples to create a marriage that works for them. They talk about "human dignity" a lot but their version of "dignity" appears to mean "Do as we tell you, for we know what is good for you".

That's not dignity. It is servitude. A marriage that is monogamous through choice rather than through fear is one that is far more dignified than what our opponents are offering.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

#EqualMarriage Opponents Have Undermined Their Own Case For Religious Freedom Protections

The Lords have been discussing amendments to Government's Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill this week and will continue to do so next week.

The vast majority of the amendments have been about protecting "conscientious objectors", i.e. those who don't like the gays. Unfortunately, for religious freedom, these amendments have been written prejudicially and are championed by people who (until this week) were deeply against allowing this bill through at all.

What do I mean that these amendments are prejudicial? It seems the proponents of these amendments have a very 2D view of freedom and are astonishingly short-sighted. As evidenced by the debates in the Lords, there is cross-party support for protecting religious freedom. However the amendments proposed do not support religious freedom but support a far more narrow protection only for those opposed to marriage equality. Take Amendment 23 from arch-opponent Lord Dear.

This amendment would protect teachers who voiced opposition to same-sex couples marrying. Yet it fails, spectacularly, to protect teachers who voice SUPPORT for same-sex couples marrying in religious schools. This would be something completely within the scope of the bill and would defend religious and individual liberty, but our opponents don't really care about religious liberty. It also fails to spell out why only this belief should be protected. Surely if we are to protect teachers beliefs we should support their freedom to voice concerns with/support of a whole range of highly charged political issues without fear of censure. That'd be true liberty but I think our opponents would be terrified of allowing such a scenario where teachers in religious schools had individual freedom to criticise even core religious beliefs. So it should be no surprise this amendment was withdrawn.

Or take the weasel words "relevant marriage" used when suggesting exactly what marriages people are allowed to refuse to conduct. But if this is really about religious freedom why limit it to same-sex couples? Why can't registrars refuse to marry divorcees, or Muslims, or those they deem unworthy? Again the prejudices of the proponents of these amendments are on show, the limits of their support for religious freedom are there for everyone to see and again it is no wonder they receive limited support from other peers who can see straight through their wrecking motions.

Which brings me back to my other point that these amendments prospects were severely damaged by being championed by those who actually completely oppose the bill. Does anyone believe Lord Carey or Lord Dear (who seem to have parted company somewhat) really believe in the amendments they are proposing when we know they simply want to stop this bill by whatever means necessary? No, and that remains the biggest obstacle to protecting religious liberty in this bill. Our opponents are that obstacle and any subsequent problems can be quite rightly laid at their door, just as flaws with the same-sex marriage bill's devotion to true equal marriage can be laid at the doors of its proponents in Parliament who seem unable to see these flaws at all.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Real Issues With The Proposed Amendments To The Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Next week the Lords will be discussing marriage equality in the (full house) committee stage of the bills progression through the House of Lords.

A few of the proposed amendments have now been published and I find them quite revealing in their prejudices. Here are a couple just to give you a flavour (full listings here and here)

After Clause 1
Insert the following new Clause— “Protecting belief in traditional marriage: public authorities
(1) A public authority, or any person exercising a public function, shall have regard to the following—

(a) that prior to the coming into force of this Act, marriage was the union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others (“traditional marriage”);
(b) that belief in traditional marriage is a belief worthy of respect in a democratic society;
(c) that no person should suffer any detriment because of their belief in traditional marriage.
(2) In this section, a public authority is a person who is specified in Schedule 19 to the Equality Act 2010, and a public function is a function that is a function of a public nature for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998.”
You might think that those of us who value religious, and individual, freedom would be happy to see such a clause in the bill. But if you do think that you have a rather 2D view of the world. For is it not true that it is actually those who are in favour of equal marriage who stand at more risk of censure once this bill passes? The Catholic Church has made it clear that voicing a belief in marriage equality would be enough to get you fired. If our opponents truly believed in individual freedom they would be introducing amendments that protect those they disagree with as well as those they agree with. Unfortunately they clearly only value freedom for those who share their views. Certainly tells us all we need to know about them, in my opinion.

Page 4, line 9, at end insert—
“( ) For the purposes of section 149 of the Equality Act 2010, no regard may be had by any public authority to—
(a) any decision by a person whether or not to opt-in, conduct, be present at, carry out, participate in, or consent to the taking place of, relevant marriages;
or (b) the expression by a person of the opinion or belief that marriage is the union of one man with one woman.”
An excellent one here. Note the use of "relevant marriages", a description that would limit this freedom only to refusing to conduct same-sex marriages. Do these people not truly believe in freedom? Why should a Christian registrar marry atheists or Muslims? Or why can't an atheist turn away any Christians who for whatever reason marry in a registry office (such as divorced Catholics)? What is the difference? Again you see here that for all these talk of protecting people they are simply protecting discrimination against one group rather than supporting actual freedom.

Page 56, line 6, at end insert—
“39A After section 26 (harassment) insert— 
“26A  Discussion or criticism of same sex marriage
For the purposes of this Act, and for the avoidance of doubt, discussion or criticism of same sex marriage shall not be taken of itself to be discrimination or harassment.”"
That is fine Lord Dear as long as everyone else is protected in criticising "traditional marriage" and protesting outside churches that conduct such marriages whilst they are being conducted will not be harassment? That okay? No? WHY?

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement has spotted something I hadn't noticed. Under the current bill registration of religious buildings for same-sex marriages will be separate from registration for opposite-sex ones and will cost the same as registration for civil partnerships (which are prohibitively expensive and more than for opposite-sex marriages). Which bears out my previous concerns that what we are getting with this bill is gay marriage and not marriage equality.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

So Will #EqualMarriage Affect How Female Same-Sex Couples Register Children?

I've no answer to this question, it is simply a question for those more in the know. Tiffer Robinson has pointed out on Twitter an area of possible concern that doesn't seem to be quite covered in the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill.

At the moment female same-sex couples have two different ways they can register their children?
Female civil partners  
Either woman can register the birth on her own if all of the following are true:
  • the mother has a child by donor insemination or fertility treatment 
  • she was in a civil partnership at the time of the treatment 
  • her civil partner is the child’s legal parent 

Female non-civil partners 
When a mother isn’t in a civil partnership, her partner can be seen as the child’s second parent if both women: are treated together in the UK by a licensed clinic have made a ‘parenthood agreement’ 
However, for both parents’ details to be recorded on the birth certificate, they must do one of the following:
  • register the birth jointly 
  • complete a ‘Statutory declaration of acknowledgement of parentage’ form and one parent takes the signed form when she registers the birth 
  • get a document from the court (for example, a court order) giving the second female parent parental responsibility and one parent shows the document when she registers the birth
The bill only mentions:

Common law presumption  
(1)Section 11 does not extend the common law presumption that a child born 5to a woman during her marriage is also the child of her husband.  
(2)Accordingly, where a child is born to a woman during her marriage to another woman, that presumption is of no relevance to the question of who the child’s parents are.
Which doesn't really answer whether married female same-sex couples will be treated the way civil partners are now. Any ideas oh knowledgeable ones? 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Archbishop of Canterbury Gets What He Wants In The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill

The Archbishop of Canterbury intervened in the debate over same-sex marriage with this little gem.

"The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost. The idea of marriage as covenant is diminished. The family in its normal sense predating the state and as our base community of society is weakened.

For these and many other reasons those of us in the churches and faith groups, who are extremely hesitant about the bill in many cases, hold that view because we think that traditional marriage is a cornerstone of society and rather than adding a new and valued institution alongside it for same gender relationships, which I would personally strongly support to strengthen us all, this bill weakens what exists and replaces it with a less good option that is neither equal nor effective."

Of course, the concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation has been lost a long time ago. Unless you are to force reckless opposite-sex couples to marry before (or even after) they procreate there really is little one can do to put the genie back in the bottle. Certainly it is simply not regarded as "normative" to get married and then have children within most parts of our society nowadays.

And exactly what is Welby's "normal sense" of the family? The nuclear family that the defenders of "traditional marriage" usually (but I accept not always) seem to defend tends to imply that prehistoric hunter-gatherers were wandering around in pairs with 2.4 children or that communal living arrangements were not common at most points before the industrial revolution. Our traditional sense of the family is woeful as we fail often to look back beyond the Victorians nor outside of our own borders when insisting "it is the same everywhere and for all time". Yes, children have always had mothers and fathers (regardless of what input they had in their lives) and a majority of those mothers and fathers will have been joined together in something akin to marriage. But there is little we can say beyond this, and thus this concept of a "traditional" form of the family is simply silly.

One of the prime problems with what Welby is saying here is that he completely ignores the fact that not only do LGBT people in relationships have children in their care, often they are procreating them too. Maybe not with each other, but that is similar to many step-families in this country today. What is meant to happen with these children in a world where divorce is possible? If procreation and the upbringing of children is so central to marriage why on Earth would you wish to deny this to same-sex parents?

Ultimately it always boils down to the belief these sort of people have that same-sex couples shouldn't be "allowed" children, as if the children we have have been acquired by malicious means (rather than, shockingly, often being flesh and blood descendants of one partner at least). Well I'm afraid we've had this argument before and same-sex couples are allowed to have children and, don't tell the Catholics, are allowed to adopt them. The battles on divorce and same-sex parenting have been fought and, especially on divorce, the church has gone remarkably silent about them. Arguments against same-sex marriage which fail to spell out your determination to make divorce illegal and ban same-sex parenting are arguments that are either flawed or dishonest. Let us see the Church of England tell the world it will no longer marry divorcees. Come on Welby, take a stand for the traditional family!

Remarkably the Archbishop appears not to have understood the implications of the (flawed) bill itself. It is not creating equality, he is quite right to point this out, and is instead creating a new creature known as "same-sex marriage" which is quite independent of "traditional marriage" with its concepts of consummation and adultery. But isn't this what he wanted? "A new and valued institution" is what is being created and in no way are opposite-sex marriages going to be "weakened". Unlike in every jurisdiction other than South Africa where same-sex couples marry under the same law as heterosexuals with true equality, here we will not. The Archbishop said he'd support this, yet remarkably fails to do so.

So yes, I'm little aghast to see Christian fanboys crying out with joy about how fantastic the Archbishop's arguments are. They fail to defend this thing he calls "traditional marriage" and they fail to make any logical sense with regards to the bill itself. His arguments amazingly end up more flawed than the legislation he is arguing against.