Throughout the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill the word equality is a core sentiment. This was the repeated emphasis by those who spoke in its favour.The argument was that homosexual couples should be given the same right to marry as heterosexual couples. As Maria Miller (Minister for Women and Equalities) stated, this Bill enables society to value people equally in law. Indeed she argued that the Bill doesn't define marriage, it merely extends marriage to same sex couples. This point was given much prominence under the foil of widening access to marriage rather than denying access. Others spoke of the long history of discrimination against the homosexual community and that this was vital to ensuring equal acceptance and treatment. Sarah Walleston stated that the crux of the debate was the question of equal rights, respect and esteem.
It was pointed out by opponents of this Bill that when the 2004 Civil Partnerships Bill was passed, assurances were given that it would not lead to a demand for marriage. It was however revealed by supporters of SSM that CPs were merely a step on the road towards achieving the present Bill. Nadine Dorries pointed out that the homosexual lobby campaigned for such a Bill recalling the words of Peter Tatchell, that equality was not enough but that this is part of a movement of social revolution!
It was repeatedly stated that marriage has been changed over centuries. What they meant was as follows. Maria Miller: In the 19th century marriage could only be conducted in an Anglican Church. In the 20th century married men and women were recognised as equal. Yvette Cooper: In the 19th century civil marriage was introduced. Nick Herbert: Marriage was redefined in 1836 giving legal recognition to marriage outside Anglican Churches. Marriage was redefined in 1946 when under 16s were forbidden to marry. Marriage was redefined in 1969 giving us divorce laws. Sandra Osborne: The definition of marriage has been changed by the State over time. Real estate involvement in marriage in the 1750s. Introduction of non-religious civil marriage in the 1830s. Allowing women to own property in the 1880s Outlawing rape within marriage in the 1990s. What is significant in all of this was the sleight of hand that was played.The amendments to the circumstances of married people is taken as redefining marriage itself. At no time was it acknowledged that marriage remained as that between a man and a woman. Marriage was NOT redefined but the CIRCUMSTANCES within which it operated were regulated.
Throughout the debate much was made of the triple and quadruple lock to ensure that religious groups would not be forced to conduct such marriages. However, a few members drew attention to the fact that these assurances were useless. First, because of the assurances given over civil partnerships. What was promised then was now proven untrue. Secondly, Maria Miller made it clear that no Government could bind another. As Edward Leigh stated, that kicks the bottom out of every undertaking that she has given. Thus future administrations could unpick the present Bill.
Philip Davies noted that rather than create equality, this Bill would actually create inequality. Thus heterosexuals were denied civil partnerships. The causes that void heterosexual marriage are different from those for same sex marriage. That in itself proves that SSM is different.
Throughout the debate three religious groups were paraded as the enlightened friends of SSM, namely the Quakers, Unitarians, and liberal Jewish synagogues! Hardly a ringing endorsement of the Bill. However, as we see below the position of the Church is no longer relevant !
While much of the debate centred upon the issue of redefinition (denied by supporters), very few drew attention to what had really happened. Kim Dobbin noted that until now Society and the Church had a shared view of marriage. As a result of this Bill that is no longer the case. Craig Whittaker pointed out that this Bill keeps traditional marriage for some sections of society while giving others in society a different meaning. Yet it gets worse.
The promoters of the Bill argued that marriage was not the preserve of the Church. For those who want that they can have it, for others there is civil marriage by the State. This is a crucial argument. Effectively what it means is the Church is being marginalised as having influence, direction and significance in the subject of marriage. Effectively too, the Church is being disestablished. The State is seizing marriage for itself. Supporters of the Bill made it clear that ‘religious organizations’ do not own marriage therefore they cannot decide who can or cannot marry. Thus the position of the Church on marriage no longer matters. That is driven home by the provisions of the Bill for Churches. It assumes they will generally oppose conducting such, that refusal can thus be accommodated. Those churches that wish to conduct such can opt in. In other words, whether the Church does or does not doesn't matter to the State.
This also means that the traditional grounds for marriage and divorce no longer matter. Same sex marriage is purely a State creation and therefore the State alone will determine its form, grounds, instruments and mechanisms. Opposition to SSM also no longer matters as there are sufficient laws in place to ensure that homosexuals get anything they want. You may say you are against it but you will not be allowed to carry out that objection in any sphere of life. David Cameron, despite all his speeches on the role and place of Christianity, has dismissed the Church from the corridors of power, made a power grab of one of the cornerstones of Society, and embedded himself within the homosexual community and anti-Christian ideology. Whatever may happen ultimately to this Bill, the course is now set. What is called traditional or religious marriage has been effectively relegated as irrelevant. Some mockingly stated that when this Bill is law, Society will not come to an end nor will it be the end of the world, nor will a new Sodom and Gomorrah take hold in our island ! All that without any supporting evidence.
As Christians, whatever may happen, it is vital that faithfulness to the teaching of Scripture is maintained. That Ministers continue to teach what the Bible teaches upon marriage as solely between one man and one woman. It may be that Christians will be penalised by fines, that means that the entire Christian community opens its purse to support. That was what happened after the Ejection of 1662 when Believers paid the fines and looked after the families of those affected by such. If Christians are to overturn this hateful Bill they must be absolutely convinced and persuaded of the teaching of Scripture
[ET Kirkland is minister of Templepatrick Reformed Church in Northern Ireland and is a member of the TBS General Committee in the UK]
This article appeared in a recent issue of The English Churchman. Permission is given to copy and further info maybe had from the Irish correspondent by contacting: AntrimReformer@gmail.com or calling 07801 756112 April 2013