Equal Marriage

As we celebrate the first openly gay leader of a political party in Britain and as the Catholic Church organises to send out 100,000 protest cards against gay marriage we’d like to express our support for a progressive vision of Scotland.

Apparently permitting equal marriage would “dismantle the meaning of marriage”. It’s using donations of lay Catholics, majority of whom support #equalmarriage, to fund a political campaign against it. That’s why we’re publishing this message of support from Alex Salmond to young LGBT Scots who face bullying and intimidation.

If marriage is an expression of love, then anyone should be able to get married. It’s not very complicated.

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  1. “That’s why we’re publishing this message of support to young LGBT Scots who face bullying and intimidation from Alex Salmond” – to be fair, I don’t think Salmond bullies LGBT people that much 😉

    Only kidding, although being talked down to by him like this is quite uncomfortable, it is quite an unpleasant broadcast. Still, we are campaigning against this Catholic protest with all force and encourage everyone to raise their voice in support of Equal Marriage. Bella is correct: it is not complicated and most people (including Catholics) are in support.

    1. Phil Hunt says:

      being talked down to by him like this is quite uncomfortable, it is quite an unpleasant broadcast

      Would you prefer Section 28, Brian Souter or the Catholic Church? Obviously not. So it’s probably not tactically wise to slag off someone who’s basically on your side.

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        I’m not sure if your or Vronskys comments are in the spirit of support and solidarity this post, or the FM’s message were intended?

    2. R Louis says:

      The video is one of a series globally, by leading celebrities, musicians and world leaders, and they all bear the same message ‘it gets better’. It is a message of hope for those LGBT young people who have no hope and live day to day in despair from endless taunts, physical abuse and bullying, thinking this is how life is, when you are gay.

      The campaign was started, I believe in the USA, as a response to a frighteningly large number of young lgbt teenagers killing themselves, due to the daily abuse and bullying they suffered. We’re talking 13, 14 year old kids here, who found their daily lives so unbearably due to the homophobic bullying they suffered, that they chose to end their lives. One of the most recent to kill himself was 14 year old, Jamie Rodemeyer of New York, whose case has been well documented on the internet. Ironically, he had created his very own ‘it gets better’ message for the internet, here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-Pb1CaGMdWk.

      Maybe it would help your perspective if you took a look.

      So no, Alex in this video isn’t talking down to anybody, he’s offering a message of hope as part of the international ‘it gets better’ campaign to young gay people.

  2. Lazarus says:

    But it is complicated for those Catholics who take the natural law basis of marriage seriously. Marriage isn’t just ‘an expression of love’ but (in the words of the Catechism), ‘The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring.’

    If you want to change the institution from one ‘ordered towards…the procreation and education of offspring’ to one which is just ‘an expression of love’, you need to explain to those Catholics why this latter reinvented institution better serves the common good than the existing one.

    This ought to be a political question about what institutions best serve society and not a yah-boo poll of what people think about the LGBT community. Confusing the separate issues of a) whether to revise institutional arrangements traditionally focused on childrearing and b) how best to support LGBT people doesn’t help for clear thinking here.

    1. Indy says:

      No we really don’t. Because if people believe marriage is about the procreation and education of offspring then, for them, that is what marriage is about. And if people believe that marriage is about love then, for them, that is what marriage is about. This is the reality of living in a plural society. We don’t all have to think the same thing or live the same way and the law should reflect that and allow people to live their lives the way they want to.

      1. Lazarus says:

        We need to draw a distinction between social support and social toleration. I am not making any argument about what the state should tolerate: it’s up to people to make their own arrangements according to their own lights subject only to the test of not harming others.

        But the case of SSM isn’t about toleration but about support. There are all sorts of relationship between human beings and the state ignores them. Why should it single out marriage as a relationship to institutionalize and support? The answer (on the natural law view) is that the state has an interest in supporting different sex marriage as an institution for the raising of the next generation. It is hard to think of any comparable reason for the state to take an interest in SSM.

  3. Davy Marzella says:

    Another view on marriage ……

    “A romantic partner for life and a white wedding with all the trimmings … as long as you conform, even the Tories are prepared to embrace homosexuality. But gay marriage, as proposed by David Cameron, is utterly conservative”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/15/gay-marriage-conservative-tories

  4. vronsky says:

    “talked down to by him like this is quite uncomfortable,”

    You’re so far down that Alex must have a very carrying voice. I expect you’d be more comfortable with the tories, if comfort is your thing.

  5. James MacDonald Reid says:

    There are already churches which conduct same-sex weddings (such as the Unitarian Church, which has been doing so for decades). It is these churches which have specifically applied for their wedding ceremonies between same-sex couples to be recognised as equal marriages. They have not requested that any other church conducts same-sex weddings. Perhaps the Roman Catholic Church might reflect on an era when they were not permitted to conduct their rites without breaking the law. Their insistance that other faiths cannot pronounce a same-sex couple as married only invites resumed questions of their own practices, such as the burning of candles before graven images. Live and let live.

  6. Robbie says:

    Those who slavishly adhere to the doctrinal complexities of The Catholic Church may face a religious and moral quandary when it comes to expressing any tolerance or support of same-sex relationships. Yet, it is curious that they are nevertheless comfortable taking the moral high ground despite the fact that the very same organisation has been involved in persecution, corruption, torture, paedophilia and collusion with some of the most dispicable regimes in history. This is not intended to be a sectarian or even an athiest comment: considering the oceanic quantities of innocent blood spilled by all Abrahamic religions throughout their history it is perhaps the long-overdue duty and compulsion of all who have a deep faith in any type of Benevolent Creator to remind organised religion that there is actually a God that it is accountable to.

  7. Lazarus says:

    @ Robbie

    Not much point in arguing the toss here on the evils or otherwise of organized religion. We’re discussing SSM. The Catholic Church has a particular analysis of that issue based on the needs of society to ensure its continuance and the institutional arrangements best fitted to serve those needs. Whatever you think of the churches in general is pretty irrelevant: it’s the issues that matter. And Catholicism is starting from a different point (and this point is shared by the Graeco-Roman philosophical tradition Catholicism inherits) from the simple ‘marriage is an expression of love’ of the posting. If you want to convince us, you need to deal with the arguments.

    @ James

    Other religions can do what they like: blessings, rites etc. The core point here is what recognition the state gives to those rites: specifically, do they have the recognition of law as constituting a marriage? Catholicism (in common with a great many other religions and I assume most posters here) has views on how states and individuals should run their lives morally and politically. The central issue here is whether the institution of marriage as presently constituted better serves the common good than the re-invented institution that is being proposed. That is a political question based on how society should be best run, not a question of religious liberty, and should be engaged with as such.

    1. Robbie says:

      In a world with over 7 billion people I don’t think that Catholicism needs to worry that same-sex relationships are a danger to the continuance of the human race. Perhaps it should worry more about trying to teach abstinence and discouraging the use of condoms in overpopulated areas that are scarred by poverty, famine and AIDS. This is a human rights issue and I’m not trying to convince you or anyone about people’s right to live as they choose as long as they are not harming anyone else, if I need to do that then we’re stuck in a time-warp. It is not as simple as ‘marriage as an expression of love’ at all either: it is about tolerance and equal rights in our society. My point is that Catholicism or organised religion has no right to be a moral arbiter given its record of hypocrisy. We live in a secular society where people are free to follow any religion they choose but no religion should have the power to control political decisions about the rights of its citizens. That is a dangerous and deadly path to tread. Any church should serve its people just as any government should serve its citizens and not vice versa. We’re not living in a theocracy here so how can you frame what you regard as a political question in terms of religious doctrine? The Catholic Church has its own views of course, but it has no more authority to set the parameters of a debate like this than you have to set the parameters of this discussion, unless Bella have appointed you chairperson of course- I personally find your adoption of the royal ‘we’ and ‘us’ presumptuous and patronising.
      I believe that the great majority of Scottish citizens, whether religious or not, are decent and humane and know how to run their lives morally and politically and I question whether the best examples of human decency are to be found in church or state. And I am aware of the Graeco-Roman philosophical tradition that Catholicism inherits as well as the Imperial role that it comfortably adopted and exploited. However, that empire has crumbled and we are living in a different world. We now live in an empire of the mind but more of us are becoming conscious of the insidious attempts of various ideologies’ definitional control over meaning. I hope that church and state are effectively secularised in an independent Scotland with human rights and religious tolerance for all but if not then:
      ‘Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Ceasar’s and to God the things that are God’s’.
      Lazarus, you know that Jesus commanded us to love each other and it was not a simple statement- I regard it as a call to revolutionary love. It was a dangerous statement to make then and it is a dangerous one to make now and other religious and non-religious figures who have repeated it throughout history have made themselves targets. Loving each other and respecting each other’s human rights and creating the conditions for equality and justice is no a simple task but it is worth fighting for now more than ever. Love, whether it is romantic, platonic, fraternal or humanistic, reminds us of our duties to each other as human beings and our duties to the world we live in. Lazarus- your resurrection proclaimed Jesus’ victory over death but His commandment to the human race to love each other is His greatest and provides the inspiration for many to contribute, even in a small way, to creating a fairer and more just world here and now.

  8. Lazarus says:

    @ Robbie

    I think we’re talking past each other here. There is a view of marriage that it is a social institution which best serves the raising and education of children, and that the characteristics which have been traditionally attributed to that institution (life long exclusivity, between a man and a woman, advisability etc) make sense only in regard to that social function.

    That this view is held by the teaching authority of the Catholic Church is (for non-Catholics) pretty irrelevant. But it is relevant a) that it is an idea which has a lot going for it both on its own merits and in terms of its embeddedness within Western ethical tradition; and b) in terms of its being the reason why many Catholics (and others) reject SSM. (And therefore a view that, if you want to engage in rational persuasion of your fellow Scots, you should engage with.)

    1. Indy says:

      There is a view of marriage that it is a social institution which best serves the raising and education of children – but that is not its only function is it?

      For example, when Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles I don’t recall anyone from the Catholic Church (or anywhere else) saying why bother, you are not going to have kids, are you, so what’s the point in getting married? Just continue living in sin.

      Or if we want to be a bit more political about it I wouldn’t advise anyone to take that particular line with our FM who chose to marry a woman older than himself rather than a breeding partner.

      Sometimes people get married because that is what society expects of them and sometimes they get married for no other reason than that they have fallen madly in love with someone and want to spend the rest of their lives with them. That may seem ridiculously romantic but there you go. Love rules.

      1. Lazarus says:

        @ Indy

        You need to distinguish between why society supports an institution and why individuals make use of it. Eg: society provides full time compulsory education to produce an educated populace; school students may go to school to meet their friends.

        The cases you mention are examples of where individuals are making use of an institution (perhaps) for reasons other than child rearing. Fine. But the main interest that the state has in providing that institution is child rearing.

    2. Robbie says:

      OK Lazarus, you say that the only reason that the state supports marriage in its current form is its social function as an institution that best serves the raising and education of children and that the characteristics attributed to it make sense only in regard to that social function. According to you, that is the only conceivable reason for the state to promote the institution of marriage to its sovereign people and the only reason why anyone should support or reject the idea of SSM.
      But there are lots of reasons, whether they are explicit or more Machiavellian, that a state supports an institution. Whether people are conscious of these or not, and whether their support of any institution is a subconscious deferral to the omnipotence of church or state, we will never know. These points are worth considering but we have to spend our lives living them in our own reality and the time for philosophising is limited for most of us. I would suggest that most people will make their minds up on this issue on their own terms, not according to the motivations or definitions of either state or church, because that is just the reality of life. State and church have far less sway over our decisions than you seem to think, perhaps less than ever. They are influences and their views are heard but they are not the only influence on how we live our lives, and that’s a great thing.
      In reality, people get married for lots of reasons but when I proposed to my wife I didn’t go down on bended knee and say ‘will you marry me sweetheart, because the state supports marriage in its current form as its..’ , she would have thought I was mad or have slapped me. I married her because I’m in love with her and vice versa. Getting married, sharing a life together, sharing a home, having children, supporting each other in our struggles etc, were all impelled by the fact that we love each other. Life long exclusivity, advisability etc do not make sense only in regard to raising children; they are part of a lifelong commitment you make to each other, often before you have kids and in the knowledge that you might not even have them, because you feel you’ve met a soul-mate who you want to share your life with. This type of love, devotion and commitment makes sense to couples who by choice or design, don’t have children and to same sex couples too. But if we stick to the argument on your terms, why can same sex couples not raise children in a healthy, loving and balanced way?
      I think it is the right of two people who love each other and are committed to a lifelong union with each other to be married, regardless of their sexual preference. Like straight couples, they should have the same choice of a ceremony in a registry office or another establishment of their choice. If they are people of faith, then why should they be excluded from having a ceremony in their own place of worship? This is not about the raising and education of children; it’s about human rights and equalities. There are other institutions that gay people, along with other minorities, who fall outside your traditional definitions, have been excluded from but this is about breaking down barriers, promoting equality, tolerance and understanding. Your idea of marriage is relevant but it’s just a view and I think it’s simplistic and not realistic. Marriage is about love, thank God, and a lot of other characteristics too admittedly. But because it is about far more than the raising and education of children, there are many other reasons why people may or may not lend their support to SSM.
      Whether I have engaged my fellow Scots in rational persuasion, I don’t know and don’t much care to be honest. People will lend SSM their support or reject it according to their own evaluation. I think that their reasoning process will be more complex than you think though. You say that the main interest the state has in marriage is child-rearing, but this is your view, and I don’t have to accept, it. Perhaps the state has a more complex and realistic view of marriage and that’s why it lends its support to SSM, but why not ask someone in the Scottish Government about it directly and then you’ll know for sure rather than making presumptions?
      Lazarus, you have attempted to control the meaning of this debate by defining its parameters and reducing its complexity to suit your own ends- this is an old trick but not a very good one. People are free to make their choices about this issue on their own terms and will do so, regardless of your presumptuous attitude. You’re not omniscient and you’re not the ‘voice of Scotland’, regardless of how this issue pans out. The authority you have is limited to the size of your computer screen and no doubt, in your own mind you’ll win this debate by being the last person standing, so enjoy it.
      Just a final thought: if you want to know why the FM supports this issue why not ask him directly? I’m sure that he would answer you, in a far more eloquent and intelligent manner than I ever could.

      1. Phil Hunt says:

        Robbie: Perhaps the state has a more complex and realistic view of marriage and that’s why it lends its support to SSM, but why not ask someone in the Scottish Government about it directly and then you’ll know for sure rather than making presumptions?

        If I asked the Scottish Gvoernment, and they were being honest, they would probably say they are doing it because there are more votes for doing it than against doing it. At least, that would be a significant part of why they are doing it.

  9. Lazarus says:

    My view is indeed just a view. (Albeit one backed up with reasons.) And I am under no illusions about the minimal importance of a combox debate in the wider world of Scottish politics, nor my own minimal part in that wider world.

    But I’d quite like to think that serious and rational reflection on important matters of social organization would be part of Scottish life rather than simple outpourings of emotion. We are in a period of consultation about a serious change in social structure. It’s perfectly natural for that debate to spread beyond the bounds of the formal consultation mechanism and perfectly natural for it to be debated here. No assumptions of authority on my part, no suggestion that there mightn’t be rational responses to my argument, just an interest in seeing how far the argument goes and what we can learn from each other.

    1. Robbie says:

      Lazarus, my views and those of several other people who have posted are backed by reasons that are rational too but you refuse to engage seriously with anyone who does not want to debate according to your narrow interpretation and analysis. If you make the rules about what the question is and how it can be answered, how can you expect an intelligent debate? Or are people only allowed to respond to you on your terms? When you presume that you can set the parameters for a discussion you are attempting to control it according to your own agenda and everyone ends up in a conversational cul-de-sac. When anyone gives a response that does not fit exactly to your narrow interpretation you avoid engaging with it. I even made points directly relating to your question based on rational logic in my last post and you haven’t engaged with them.
      I’m sorry for becoming emotional in other posts (but whether you acknowledge it or not most people still get married because they love each other, so some emotion is inevitable) and for reducing it to an ad-hominem argument, that’s not my intention as you are obviously a thoughtful person and have every right to air your views in this type of forum and it’s a great way of extending the debate beyond the official channels as you say, in fact, it’s vital. So, I apologise for that. I’m no expert debater, (to say the least!) and know I have many weaknesses and bad habits when it comes to discussing things. But I think that the way you go about structuring an argument in such a narrow way and dominating a discussion under your own terms doesn’t help us here. It makes it seem as if you are assuming the vox populi. I also think that you have to be careful when using terms like ‘state’ , ‘society’, etc. because they are different things (although the state would love us to believe that ‘we’re all in it together’) and are not interchangeable, certainly not in this context. It becomes double-speak, in the same way that ‘the public’, ‘consumers’, ‘the crowd’ and ‘the mob’ can be used in reference to the same group according to a particular editorial and politic slant. Perhaps the original post itself was slightly confusing: the question of SSM being (understandably in reference to the campaign by the Catholic Church and the appointment of a gay party political leader) tagged onto a video where the FM talks in a wider sense about equality, tolerance and understanding for LGBT people in our society. I regard SSM as an important recognition of how important equality and understanding should definitely be right now and when an independent Scotland comes into being. Given the text of the post and the message from the FM I don’t think that my stance is completely out of context here: it’s logical and reasonable. So the question of SSM is therefore part of a larger issue about equal rights, tolerance and understanding. My serious point is that the state may support SSM because it is a recognition of the equality and human rights of LGBT people in our society and an expression of tolerance and understanding rather than because they only see marriage as an institution for the rearing of children and their education and through this, a vital contribution to the fabric of society. Furthermore, your narrow definition begs the question of why a single sex couple cannot be married and raise children and make the same vital contribution to society.
      These are serious and rational points and it’s your choice not to engage with them if you don’t want to but I think that they are points that may be considered by many people and I don’t think that you can insist that people only base their evaluation of an issue like this on a simplistic definition. It’s more complicated than that and I give the Scottish public more credit than that. Whether anyone agrees with me or not is not my business: they will consider things in their own way using their own judgment. Anyway, my apologies if I have offended you and my best wishes but I’ve nothing more to give to this discussion- mi done talk.

  10. Lazarus says:

    OK, robbie, no wish to push the debate beyond its natural life here. My final word would be that this all started from the conditional in the original posting: IF marriage is an expression of love, THEN anyone should get be able to get married. I’m simply questioning the antecedent IF here: marriage is not just an expression of love. That’s in essence a normative rather than a descriptive claim: I am arguing that society is best run when marriage is focused on other things (such as rearing children) rather than when marriage is simply an expression of love. (And equally, the other point of view would involve a claim about the benefits to society if marriage is simply an expression of love.)

    Clearly much more to be said on both sides, but for another time and place. No need for apologies and no offence taken: it’s an issue that arouses passions.

  11. Indy says:

    lazarus says:
    “The cases you mention (of people getting married who either cannot or do not wish to have children) are examples of where individuals are making use of an institution (perhaps) for reasons other than child rearing. Fine. But the main interest that the state has in providing that institution is child rearing.”

    Fine. But how is that an argument against gay marriage? If the institution of marriage can already accommodate people who don’t intend to have children why does it matter if it accommodates a few more? And what about the position of same sex couples who DO have children? Is it the position of the Catholic Church that those children are better off having parents who are not married than having parents who are married?

  12. Lazarus says:

    @ Indy
    Dragged back in!

    1) If you’ve conceded the basic point that marriage serves the function of child rearing, we can then move on to discuss the hard cases (the intentionally childless etc). If you want to exclude further categories from getting married, that’s OK, but you’d need to argue for it. And I suspect that for many of the cases -eg infertile couples- the assessment of their fertility and intentions would involve considerable harms in terms of state intrusion etc. But happy to listen to those arguments if you want to make them.

    2) Again, if you’ve conceded that the function of marriage is child rearing, the case against gay marriage is clear: it’s an unnecessary extension of an institution to further cases where its applicability is doubtful. (Rather like extending driving licences to cyclists.) Moreover, that extension has clear harms. For example, it is far harder to argue that lifelong commitment is necessary in a gay marriage than in a heterosexual marriage (where, at least, a commitment to stay together until the adulthood of the children is advisable; and where a further commitment of support as an act of justice to the partner who sacrificed (usually) her earning power is again advisable). The characteristics of heterosexual marriage have developed to serve the function of procreation (or as Suzanne Moore describes it, ‘sexism and patriarchy’ (see link in Davy’s comment above)). Isn’t it positively harmful to gay people to encourage them to enter an institution which ill fits their relationship?

    3) Your general point on 1 and 2 above appears to be that if an institution serves a function imperfectly, then that is a reason for making it serve that function even more imperfectly: clearly, not a very strong argument.

    4) Turning to gay parents, then if you are suggesting that marriage should be restricted to gay couples who want children then indeed you’d have a stronger argument than you do now. Since I however I haven’t heard that being suggested as a realistic proposal, you’ll forgive me for not dealing with it.

    5) On what the Catholic Church does or doesn’t have as a position, then its position is that children are best served by a married man and woman as parents. I’m not sure that it needs to (or can) rank fallings away from this ideal. If you mean what is its position regarding gay parents, then I’m sure its main point would be that it would be better not to start from that situation at all. But again, if you’re willing to accept the procreative function of marriage, we can then move on to discuss the detailed implications of that.

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