Game, set and match to the equal marriage campaign – no? Now that Obama has come out in favour of gay marriage in the USA, the liberal democracies of the western world (including Scotland) must surely follow?
As you will be aware, the Scottish Government are consulting on whether to open up marriage to same sex couples. It strikes me that having a consultation is opening up the opportunity for people to complain about one side or other (or both) of the argument not being listened to – but there we are.
To summarise: the current position is that only male/female couples may marry – and that marriage may be civil or religious. Only same sex couples may enter a civil partnership – which may not be religious. The rights and responsibilities of couples within a marriage and a civil partnership are almost entirely the same. In terms of the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful for service providers to discriminate between the two in terms of service delivery etc.
Those in favour of same sex marriage argue that such discrepancies that do exist amount to discrimination and that equality in this field is nothing short of a human right. Those arguing against say that there is already equality between marriage and civil partnership and that marriage is a religious estate which should not be redefined by the state – having been a mixed sex institution for some time now.
Regular readers of the blog will be aware of my church membership and fervent disestablishmentarianism, and it occurs to me that some of the difficulties arising could be resolved on both sides by insisting on a more rigorous separation of Church and State.
Why not, as the French do, make the whole thing a more prosaic matter of civil law? Allow any two people (of whatever gender) to exchange promises and adopt standard rights and responsibilities towards and in respect of each other on a strictly civil matter. We could call it a “civil union” or a “civil wedding” or – my personal favourite – a “state approved contract of mutual obligations”. Strip out some of the weird historical anomalies – the State has no business insisting that any couple must have sex to remain a legal “item”! Hey presto – equality for all.
Thereafter, if any given couple wish to celebrate their contract of obligations with a religious ceremony of some sort, then they are free to do so (assuming that they can find a willing religious body) and can call that part of it whatever they like. In one fell swoop, the separation of Church and State is achieved – no more priests or rabbis or imams acting as agents of the Government in achieving social policy.
I like this as a solution, what do you think?
- Barack Obama Supports Same-Sex Marriage (news.sky.com)