Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by Trevor Sidnell (MB 27)

I am a member of the public with an interest in and knowledge of family issues and bioethics, who has studied theology at degree level and read widely in history, biography and English literature, giving a broad understanding of cultural issues. I am a keen follower of current affairs and cultural trends.

I have written an extensive (as yet unpublished) analysis of the Sexual Revolution from the 1960s to the present day.

I live in Hillingdon and am married with three children.

SUMMARY

There are three aspects to marriage, the ontological reality, the legal framework and the cultural perception of marriage.

The reality is a man and woman pairing off for an exclusive and permanent relationship to start a family; the legal framework is that which regulates this reality for the sake of public order; and the cultural standing of marriage is determined by all sorts of factors by which the public’s perception is formed. Of these aspects, the first is unchangeable, just as the nature and definition of a triangle is unchangeable.

The proposal for same-sex marriage (SSM)seriously misunderstands the nature and purpose of marriage, which is based on the complementarity of the sexes; misunderstands the difference between the private goods of marriage (support and companionship) and the public good (the optimum socialisation of children), which is the sole reason historically for the State’s involvement.

SSM is based on a category error, mistaking the legal framework that encompasses marriage for the reality of marriage itself; the law cannot create a marriage by issuing a certificate, no more than issuing a birth certificate can bring forth a birth.

SSM will turn marriage into a genderless institution unrelated to procreation, and will damage the public understanding of marriage. Fewer heterosexuals will marry (as has happened in other countries that have introduced SSM), and since cohabiting couples break up far more readily than marriages, this will greatly damage children’s welfare.

The redefining of marriage to accommodate same-sex couples entails a necessary change to the legal definition of parenthood that ignores biological ties, which will mean that all parents will have their legal parental status downgraded to that of a foster parent.

That opposition to SSM is not due to bigotry is made crystal clear by the fact that some homosexuals oppose it.

1. WHAT MARRIAGE IS

Marriage can be considered under three aspects:

1.1 ASPECT (1) The most important aspect (without which the following two could not exist) is the ontological reality of a man and a woman pairing off and publically committing themselves to each other exclusively and permanently for the purpose of starting a new family. This is what marriage actually IS; it is both the definition and description of marriage, just as a figure bounded by three straight lines is both the definition and description of a triangle, and cannot be altered without obscuring the ‘triangleness’ of triangles.

1.2 ASPECT (2) The second aspect of marriage is the legal framework that any given culture chooses to give to the pre-existing reality of marriage to record, regulate and protect this vitally important institution; vitally important because of the children that result. If adult human beings grew on trees fully formed and mature, the State would not be in the least bit interested in marriage, but with a vested interest in securing stability and continuity through the bringing up of well-adjusted children, the State has sought to regulate and protect marriage from those who would abuse it and bring it into disrepute.

1.3 The legal framework is powerless to bring about a single marriage: if men and women everywhere refused to pair off, marriage would of course continue to exist as a possibility, but there would be no more actual marriages. And vice-versa: if the State abolished all marriage law, it would not mean that no-one could marry: if a man and woman vow publicly and begin a lifelong and exclusive sexual union, then a marriage has taken place regardless of whether the State is interested. After all, births, deaths and marriages have been happening for millennia before the State came along to record and register them!

1.4 The State’s involvement in marriage is of very recent date in world-historical terms; perhaps 500-600 years in England to any great degree. The State did not create marriage, and does not own it: one may as well talk of owning gravity as of owning marriage. It does not belong to any organisation, group, culture or religion, but belongs to the human race as that family arrangement which is most conducive to reproduction and human flourishing.

1.5 ASPECT (3) The cultural standing of marriage: the public’s perception and understanding of what marriage is, and what it is for. Marriage has been under attack for the past forty or fifty years from all quarters: liberals, socialists, Marxists, feminists, sociologists and others who have seen the traditional family as oppressive and to be done away with. A veritable avalanche of films, newspaper articles, academic papers, television programmes, novels, memoirs, plays and popular music has subtly and not-so-subtly sought to undermine the importance and beauty of faithful married life.

1.6 As a result, the cultural standing of marriage has never been at a lower ebb (‘a meaningless bit of paper’), such that the 2011 census shows that for the first time fewer than half of adults are married. This is a national disaster because of the family instability it betokens (almost half of Britain’s 15-year-olds do not live with both birth parents; 300,000 sets of parents split each year); we are already living with the damage and the suffering to both adults and children and wider society (and the £100 billion annual bill 1) that family breakdown brings. Cohabitiation is on the increase at the expense of marriage, but cohabitations typically break up three times more quickly than marriages, usually leaving children to be brought up by a single parent. The enormous damage to the stability of society that the Sexual Revolution has brought (not to mention the unhappiness of millions of people) looks set to continue as marriage rates decline.

2. THE EFFECTS OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

2.1 The proposal for same-sex marriage (hereinafter, SSM) seriously misunderstands marriage and its main purpose: to secure a strong bond between husband and wife so that the mother and father of any children that result are committed to each other and to the task of bringing up their children together so that they become well-adjusted adults ready to contribute to society rather than being a burden to it. Marriage, then, is based on the physiological, emotional and psychological complementarity of the sexes; it is intrinsically heterosexual. This reality cannot be wished away, imagined away, or legislated away. To pass a law that says a man can marry a man will not bring about the impossible, no more than legislating that henceforth all blind people will be able to see will restore their sight.

2.2 The State is not involved in marriage because two people love one another (that is a private benefit of marriage which is just that, private), it is involved in marriage because most marriages are fruitful and produce children, and this is a public benefit that concerns us all; every single one of us has an interest in well-socialised children who will contribute to society as adults rather than bring a host of social problems.

2.3 The proponents of SSM have made a category error in mistaking the legal framework that surrounds marriage for the reality of marriage itself; they have confused Aspect 2 with Aspect 1, above.

2.4 Just as a birth certificate does not bring a child into being but recognises and registers the reality that a child has been born, so a marriage certificate acknowledges and registers the reality that a man and woman have publicly vowed to commit themselves to a permanent and monogamous union. The law does not and cannot create a marriage; it regulates a marriage that has taken place for the purpose of undergirding it with certain legal rights. Since the complementarity of the sexes is intrinsic to marriage, for the State to issue a marriage certificate to a same-sex couple is like issuing a birth certificate to a childless couple: meaningless, and a cruel deception.

FEWER HETEROSEXUAL MARRIAGES, FEWER STABLE FAMILIES

2.5 But the greatest damage will be done to the public understanding and perception of marriage. By turning marriage into a genderless institution unrelated to procreation (although the ontological reality will remain untouched), the ‘marriage brand’ will be fatally tainted, and fewer heterosexual marriages will be contracted. In The Netherlands, Sweden and Spain the rate of heterosexual marriage has declined significantly since the introduction of SSM: result, more cohabiting couples, less stability, more breakups, more damaged children. The lesson is clear: damage marriage and you will damage children’s welfare.

2.6 To accommodate the desires of an incredibly small number of adults, millions of children in the future will have to suffer the misery, loss and psychological and emotional damage of broken homes; and this will play out in all kinds of behavioural problems (disruptive behaviour at school, lower educational attainment, substance abuse, depression, promiscuity, STIs, dependence on benefits, criminal acts) for which society will have to pick up the tab. Civil Partnerships already grant same-sex couples all the legal benefits of marriage, so the net result will be zero gain for them at the expense of much harm done to society, which will be a loss to everyone, heterosexual and homosexual alike.

LOSS OF PARENTAL RIGHTS

2.7 The second major outcome of SSM will be the redefining of the legal understanding of what a parent is. The legal erasure of ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’ from birth certificates (in line with the legal erasure of ‘Husband’ and ‘Wife’ from marriage certificates) will effectively disavow the biological nature of parenthood.

2.8 As Daniel Moody put it in his recent article Redefining Marriage will Redefine Parenthood (December 2012):

2.9 "We are being asked to deprive every single father, mother and child – now and in the future – of all natural rights. They will be replaced by purely legal, State-determined, State-granted subjective rights, because parenthood itself would have been converted from a legal acceptance of physical reality (presumption of paternity, etc) into a purely legal concept. The State would have legally erased all legal recognition that there is such a thing as the natural family unit.

2.10 "This is the one unavoidable consequence, because it happens purely as a result of changing the words in the definition. Even if no same-sex couple register their relationship as a marriage, it still happens. It cannot not happen. A redefinition of legal marriage, and the legal recognition (protection) of natural rights are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. All reasons for redefining marriage have to trump the loss of human rights, and nothing trumps that. Every other aspect of the marriage debate (equality, religion, individual sexual behaviours, infertility, etc) can be adequately explained away. The loss of rights, however, is purely logical and irrefutable.

2.11 "Please note that every wish of same-sex couples can be met without recourse to redefining the legal institution – up to and including religious blessings of said relationship. The  only thing that cannot be achieved without redefining marriage is the redefinition of parenthood.

2.12 "England and Wales will have declared themselves to be countries that believe a child’s parents are ‘Two adults’. It’s a clever trick because no parent or child will actually physically feel any different but, legally, all parents will have had their legal parental status downgraded to the equivalent of a foster parent."

2.13 The potential for increasing State interference in family life in the future will be greatly increased by downgrading parental rights. This sets a dangerous precedent for civil liberties.

3. IMPORTANT NOTES

3.1 (1) None of the above analysis is based on bigotry and homophobia, as is so tiresomely claimed; to repeat this is merely to be taken captive by the propaganda of the militant homosexual lobby; it is based on truth, reason and observation. To shout ‘bigot’ or ‘homophobia’ is merely an ill-disguised attempt to close down the argument without having to engage with the reasons brought forward. The lie to th e charge of homophobia i s clearly seen in that some homosexuals are against SSM, and everyone agree s that it is impossible for a homosexual to be homophobic.

3. 2 For example, Andrew Pierce, a columnist with a national newspaper has written , " I am a Conservative and a homosexual, and I oppose gay marriage. Am I a bigot? And what about Alan Duncan, the first Conservative MP to come out as gay? Mr Duncan, the International Aid Minister who is in a civil partnership, is implacably opposed to gay marriage. So is Dr David Starkey, the celebrated historian, who is openly gay."

3. 3 And homosexual MP Conor Burns has said, "Marriage is an institution that is the building block of stable society. All the evidence points to the fact that kids who are brought up by a married couple have higher education attainment rates, lower propensity to commit crime; marriage is a force for good in society and I think you need absolutely compelling reasons to want to redefine what marriage means. At the moment I am not convinced that those compelling reasons exist."

3. 4 In the recent defeat of SSM in Australia’s federal parliament (September 2012), the bill did not receive unanimous support from the homosexual community. Homosexual Senator Dean Smith voted against it, calling his vote, "an honest acknowledgement of the special and unique characteristics of the union described as marriage". It is clearly possible to have a principled opposition to SSM that has nothing to with homophobia. Let all those in favour of SSM stop using the manipulative and dishonest tactic of labelling opponents ‘homophobes’.

3. 5 ( 2) The negative effects of redefining marriage will result regardless of wh at one thinks of the ethics of homo sexual behaviour; that is irrelevant to the issue of SSM and its negative outcome s on children’s welfare and parental rights . The law of cause and effect makes these outcomes inevitable.

February 2013

FOOTNOTE

1. "The costs of sexual freedom and relationship breakdown to the taxpayer and wider economy are complex and difficult to calculate, but £100 billion annually is probably a reasonable starting point: about twice as much as alcohol abuse, smoking and obesity combined." So says a report published by The Jubilee Centre, ‘Free sex: Who pays? Moral hazard and sexual ethics’. Read the report in full at: http://www.jubilee-centre.org/document.php?id=424.

Prepared 27th February 2013