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.

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