English Government Seeks New Definition Of Marriage

Apologist Explains What New Legislation Means For The UK

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By Ann Schneible

LONDON, MARCH 19, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The definition of marriage lies at the center of a debate between England’s lawmakers, who are seeking to redefine marriage to include same-sex partnerships, and the majority of citizens who believe that the institution of marriage should be protected.

ZENIT recently spoke with Peter D. Williams, a Catholic apologist and speaker for Catholic Voices, which is an initiative committed to effectively utilizing modern means of communication in order to spread the faith.

ZENIT: In a recent poll conducted by Catholic Voices, the statistic shows that 70% are opposed to redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. Where is this push to legally re-define marriage in England coming from?

Williams: The effort to re-define marriage has mainly come about due to the political situation in the United Kingdom. The leadership of the Liberal Democrats, the junior party in the Coalition Government, has made it clear to their senior Conservative party counterparts, that introducing same-sex marriage is a precondition of their legislative support for the changing of constituency boundaries to pass through Parliament. Such changes are important to the Conservative leadership, as it will allow them to remove systemic biases against them in Parliamentary elections, and allow them to win more seats. Additionally, achieving such a major cultural victory will shore up support within the Liberal Democratic party for their leadership, with whom many rank-and-file members, and Parliamentarians, are upset for their support of other conservative policies. Thus, for both parties, mutual political interest has motivated this move.

Moreover, Prime Minister David Cameron and his supporters want to see the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, as they believe that their party has suffered in the past by being seen as the ‘nasty’ party that is prejudiced against, among other groups, same-sex attracted people. By introducing legislation to bring in same-sex marriage, they reason, this will help reverse such perceptions and ‘de-toxify’ the Tory brand. Beyond this, they are also themselves very much culturally liberal, and identifiably members of the liberal ‘metropolitan élite’, and so desire to see such a change based on their own ideological viewpoint.

What this illustrates is the political cynicism and base motivations of the effort to re-define marriage. It also shows however, given that 70% of the public do not wish marriage to be re-defined, just how out of touch the key instigators of this campaign are from the views and real concerns of ordinary British people.

ZENIT: What are some of the concrete ways in which society could be affected by the redefinition of marriage?

<p>Williams: Chiefly, re-defining marriage would have a deleterious impact on our culture. The authority of the law changes the way that society thinks about, and perceives, itself. By changing marriage to include members of one sexual minority – same-sex couples – the best context in which to raise children, the relationship between husband and wife, would no longer be privileged by the state. This would formalize the opposite view which has already pervaded the cultural background of British society. Due to the legalization of same-sex adoption, and the mandate by law that a child’s birth certificate no longer need mention the child’s father but may instead register the mother’s same-sex partner, our country’s culture has already begun to affirm the view that one or other of a child’s parents are dispensable to their upbringing. This would be contrary to the best interests of children, who should have the chance to be brought up with, and have access to, the masculinity of their father and the femininity of their mother. By re-defining marriage, Government would deny this reality, and move our society further in the wrong direction.

Marriage’s re-definition would also form a politically and culturally deleterious precedent. If we can modify marriage in order to include one particular sexual minority, then why not change it to include any other? If the complementarity of man and woman in marriage can be defined away, then why not the specification that only two people can form a conjugal union? If the love and commitment of same-sex couples must be formally recognized in the interests of equality, then why not that of polygamists, or polyamorists? It ought to be pointed out that legal efforts have already been mounted in Canada, the United States and Europe for the legalization of polygamy, precisely in the wake of the legalization of same-sex marriage. This is despite the fact that polygamy has intrinsic harms to it, due to the inter-partner jealousy it engenders and the effect this has on the welfare of the children brought about in such families.

The consequences of re-defining marriage on our culture, and the effect this will have on marriage itself, the Family, and the rights of Children, are realities we can confidently forecast, and this should motivate us to do all we can to prevent it.

ZENIT: Even though churches will not be required to perform marriage ceremonies of same-sex couples, could there still be ramifications for religious institutions that are opposed to same-sex marriage?

Williams: Worryingly, religious freedom would very likely be adversely affected by marriage’s re-definition. In the United States, religious organizations have been forced to provide employment benefits that would usually go to heterosexual married employees to those in same-sex relationships. Other groups have had government funding withdrawn because of their rejection of same-sex marriage. There is no reason to think, given the assault on freedom of religion that has already occurred in the United Kingdom with the Sexual Orientation Regulations and the Equality Act, that such consequences could not happen here.

Despite the Government’s assurances to the contrary, the possibility also nevertheless exists that religious groups who refuse to hold same-sex weddings could have their right to solemnize marriages withdrawn. Such a move has already been openly suggested by a Conservative Member of Parliament, Mike Weatherly, and we have no reason to think that this might not happen in the future.

Beyond the political and civic ramifications, it also seems clear that the Church’s teachings on the meaning and purpose of marriage, as well as of human sexuality, would further be marginalized from public discourse by the re-definition of marriage, as our culture would move further away from the truth into a false understanding of both those topics. This would increase intolerance for the Church and, by extension, all religious institutions who oppose same-sex marriage.

ZENIT: What sorts of actions need to be taken to preserve the definition of marriage?

Williams: In order to be preserve and protect marriage as it is currently and rightly defined, all people of good will in the UK need to write in to the current government consultation on same-sex marriage, and answer the first question of it, which asks respondents what they think of the basic proposal. This gives us a chance to show the Government the strength of opposition to their policy, which will encourage them to drop it.

Also however, it will become important for us to write to our MPs, calmly explaining our opposition to the re-definition of marriage, and why they should vote against it, or at the very least abstain when it comes before Parliament. Such lobbying of our representatives is absolutely crucial to defeating the Government’s measures, as it gives them an awareness of how seriously enough of their constituents take this issue, and how many votes it would lose them if they advocate on the wrong side of it.

Catholics in particular stopped damaging legislation under the last Government that threatened Faith Schools, precisely by writing in sufficient numbers to their MPs. We have
effectively stood up for what is right before, and won! By the Grace of God, we can do so again.

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