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.

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