Thursday, June 14, 2012

Equal Civil Marriage Consultation

Response on behalf of the English Presbytery of the International Presbyterian Church

Wednesday 13th June 2012

Q1. Do you agree or disagree with enabling all couples, regardless of their gender to have a civil marriage ceremony?

Q2. Please explain your reasons for your answer.
The proposed legislation does not seek to lift a ban on same-sex marriage. Rather it seeks to redefine marriage; since in the universal understanding of all of cultures, and according to current English law, same-sex marriage is not banned but simply a contradiction. It would change the definition of marriage from a lifelong binding commitment grounded in the nature of humanity as male and female, and parents as father and mother – as God made us – to a vague statement of affection and intent. If marriage is not grounded in our nature as human beings it cannot bind us as human beings; if we are free so completely to redefine it we are free to walk away from it.
Therefore the premise that there is no difference between a marriage commitment and a same-sex civil partnership commitment is false. To marry is to enter into an institution greater, older and higher than ourselves. In marriage we submit to something above our sexual desires, for the sake of each other and society. And it is to commit to being a family, to raising the children that will result from the marriage union within the home established by the marriage union. Same-sex unions, however well-meant, can never include commitment of this sort.

Q5. The Government does not propose to open up religious marriage to same-sex couples. Do you agree or disagree?

Q14. Do you have any comments on the assumptions or issues outlined in this chapter on consequential impacts?
The assumption that this issue is merely about equality and ending discrimination assumes that those who disagree are motivated by bigotry. But this is false; Christians are motivated by love for all, and concern that laws which cut across the way human beings are designed by God are deeply damaging for all concerned and for society as a whole.
For example, marriage has always been the best way to teach children about relationships between the sexes. Children can understand the concept of marriage long before they can (or should) understand the concept of sex. This has always been one of the great strengths of how Christians bring up their children; and it is something which has long been opposed by the gay rights movement which for decades has sought to minimise or eliminate the teaching of marriage as a concept in schools in favour of promoting sexual freedom. This redefinition of marriage will make it far harder to teach children about what appropriate family life looks like; and far harder for Christians to teach their own children what marriage is, and what a sexually responsible pattern of life looks like, once the word itself has been given a different (and much reduced) meaning according to the law.

Q15. Are you aware of any costs or benefits that exist to either the public or private sector, or individuals, that we have not accounted for?
As outlined in our answer to Q2, this legislation would redefine marriage for all, to merely a vague statement of intent. The claim in 1.12 that opposite-sex couples would not be affected is therefore false. Every marriage in the country would be weakened.
The greatest effect would be on children. Personal tragedy has always meant that some children grow up without a father or mother; redefining marriage would say (for the first time in history) that such a situation is good, normal, and to be encouraged. To say that two men can marry is to say that mothers are not necessary; to say that two women can marry is to say that fathers are not necessary. But a child’s need for a father does not end with conception and a child’s need for a mother does not end with the cutting of the umbilical cord. Children need both; it is how we are designed.
The inevitable effect would therefore be the further weakening of the family with all the consequential misery for adults and children, and all the vast expense that family breakdown lays on the state in legal costs and benefit payments. It is the very opposite of what our broken society so desperately needs.

Q16. Do you have any other comments on the proposals within this consultation?
We have answered that we agree with not opening up religious marriage to same-sex couples in Q5. However, the question, and the proposed legislation, are here deeply flawed. There is no distinction in English law between ‘religious marriage’ and ‘civil marriage’; there is only marriage. Therefore either this single definition of marriage is redefined or it is not.
For this reason the assurances given about protection for ‘religious’ marriage cannot be of any value. Once the single definition of marriage is redefined in this way, then the logic of your own ‘Ministerial Foreword’ is that this marriage – and all the ceremonies that initiate it – must be equally available for all. It is inconceivable that existing equality legislation would not be applied by the courts to require Christian ministers to perform such ceremonies. We wish to state that no sanction of the state would be sufficient to force the ministers of our churches to disobey God and celebrate sin in this way.
In the same way Christians (and others) in all walks of life who will never accept that marriage can be redefined in this way will be in great danger of falling foul of equality legislation and suffering much thereby.

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