Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by W. R. Mohon (MB 41)

 

Summary. After the details of the writer's interest and expertise regarding the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, this submission addresses the need for sound arguments, the inappropriateness of the concept underlying the title of the Bill, the uniqueness of marriage as a union of one man and one woman, the fallacy of equality in the Bill, the failure to address the significance of children, the importance of truthfulness and the lack of confidence that this Bill can guarantee justice for those who hold to the uniqueness of marriage. Several conclusions are given.

 

1. Personal. My interest in this Bill is as an ordained Presbyterian minister whose ordination vows include upholding the unique institution of marriage. As to expertise, I trained for the Christian ministry and also completed an MA in theology by social ethics research. I have many years of pastoral experience in urban and suburban contexts.

2. Argumentum ad hominem. This submission rejects the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem where the argument is directed against a person rather than what is maintained. It is granted in logic that a statement cannot be shown to be false merely on the ground that even a bigot or criminal advances it. This point needs to be made because some have conducted the debate as though arguments can be dismissed by attacking the reputation of those making them. Members of the Public Bill Committee will appreciate that it is the arguments that must be considered.

3. Title. The title of the Bill, Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill implies an invalid starting point. It is necessary to distinguish between unions and marriage. Though all marriages are unions, it does not follow that all unions are marriages. Marriage is a union of a distinctive kind. The term 'marriage' is a synonym of 'matrimony'. The proposed civil union is a state-recognized commitment between two males or two females for a time. This does not constitute marriage. Marriage is a divinely ordained life-long commitment between one man and one woman joined together by matrimonial vow for purposes of procreation, purity and mutual support.

4. Differences. Comparing the two definitions reveals important differences, which demonstrate that, although marriage can be categorized as a union, a same sex union cannot be categorized as a marriage. These two unions are not of the same kind and do not equate to one another. They differ in origin, nature, duration, formalization and purposes.

5. Marriage has a distinctive origin. The origin of marriage is Divine prescription. The UK recognizes marriage but it did not create it and it does not own it. The recognition of marriage continues beyond the dissolution of states. The origin of civil unions is with the State that legislates them into existence and they have no existence independent of the legislation.

6. Marriage has a distinctive nature. It is not a union of self-defined "commitment" as some imagine but a union of pre-defined duties that include such things as financial support, procreation and complete faithfulness to one spouse. So, for example, marriage is between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others and marital unfaithfulness by one party is a ground for the offended spouse to obtain a divorce. This duty of exclusive conjugal love formed part of the teaching of Jesus 2000 years ago before these Isles had representative government.

7. Marriage has a distinctive duration and formalization. Marriage is solemnized by matrimonial vows of life-long fidelity and in a Christian context these are taken by both bridegroom and bride pledging themselves to one another in the sight of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

8. Marriage has distinctive purposes. These purposes of marriage are procreation, mutual support and purity.

 

9. One purpose of marriage is procreation. Wilful refusal by a spouse to consummate a marriage is a breach of the matrimonial vows and in English law a ground for nullifying the marriage. Though marriage does not always result in offspring because of involuntary biological factors, the absence of children does not invalidate the marriage but neither does it change the purposes of marriage. In connection with procreation it is evident that the male and female complement one another and are not the same or even equal contributors. The female cannot lay claim to the husband's priority in begetting. The male cannot enter into the wonder of motherhood in bearing, bringing forth and nursing the suckling. The man and the woman must stand in awe at the completeness arising from their different contributions to the fruition of their matrimonial union.

10. A second purpose of marriage is mutual support. The relationship of mutual support within marriage is of a distinctive kind. There are two equal parties but their roles are different. In the beginning the woman was described as a helpmeet. According to the Apostle Paul, husbands are to love their wives and wives are to obey their own husbands. This God-given distinction reflects the relationship between the Saviour and his church. In Ephesians 5.22 – 26, Paul writes: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." These requirements underline an important distinction of the marriage bond. The man and the woman are not the same but complement one another.

11. A third purpose of marriage is purity. According to the Christian tradition, founded upon the Bible, God recognizes only one undefiled bed, namely, that of matrimony as defined herein.

12. Inequality. It is evident from the foregoing that no legislature can make same-sex unions equal to marriage for the simple reason that they are not the same. Such civil unions do not equate to marriage or matrimony in the following respects. (1) As same-sex unions are not between one man and one woman they can never attain to the complementary aspect of the ongoing matrimonial relationship. The resources that the wife brings into a marriage are different in various respects from those brought into the marriage by the husband. The combination of the male and female contributions excels that of two of the same sex. This is just a fact of life arising from the distinction of the sexes and is of common experience. (2) Same-sex unions cannot have a consummation such as we find in marriage and adultery in such a context becomes meaningless. (3) Same-sex unions cannot lead to procreation by the exclusive contribution of the two parties to the union. It is biologically impossible. (4) The Christian Church cannot remain faithful to Scripture and accord recognition of same-sex unions as pure in the sight of God because they fall outside of the exclusively approved relationship defined in Scripture. (5) Same-sex unions cannot be established by vows of faithfulness before the Triune God because the union is not instituted by God. (6) Same-sex unions cannot reflect the union between Christ and his Church represented in Scripture as a bridegroom – bride relationship.

13. Children. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill fails to correctly address the place of children in the family. Adoption is a wonderful institution that reflects God's love to sinners in taking those who repent of sin and believe in Jesus Christ into the bosom of his love as adopted in Christ. A wonderful bond of love is possible between adopted children and their adoptive parents. There are, however, stories of adopted children who, as adults, have gone in search of their biological mother, such is the strength of the bond established by procreation. We need not doubt that many adopted children have had a more loving home than they would have had but we must not overlook the fact that adoption remains the exception and not the rule for family life. The latter is, by Divine decree, intended to be and to be seen to be the natural outcome of matrimony and the ordinary development from it.

14. Honesty. Atheists, secularists and others will understandably, find it difficult to relate to the voice of faith and devotion to God. It is easy to assume bigotry or other dark motives for what is in fact faithfulness to something believed to be true. For a Presbyterian minister to break ordination vows solemnly taken to uphold, among other things, the unique institution of marriage would rightly result in removal from office. Similarly, for church members to go against their consciences and promote or endorse unions that have no Divine sanction would be sinful. It is regrettable that this Bill is entitled Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill because this is a contradiction in terms. It is in fact a deception that will lead to divisiveness and disillusionment. It will result in division, as Christian ministers have to explain that the legal category of Marriage is not the Christian definition of Marriage. It will lead to disillusionment as it becomes clearer that same sex unions are not of the same order as marriage and that in the legislation "Marriage" is a euphemism for "union" and has been robbed of almost all of its meaning in order that it might be used in the context of this Bill, where it means little more than a committed relationship. There is a measure of unkindness involved in promising what cannot be bestowed.

15. Justice. The promises of protection for those who hold to traditional marriage are not convincing. Grave injustices have already taken place in connection with civil partnerships. The cases of the civil registrar, Lillian Ladele and the counsellor Gary MacFarlane are now well known. They provide evidence that either Parliament intended the oppression of conscience experienced by them (and the present Government certainly resisted their cases at the European court) or Parliament cannot guarantee protection of conscience for ministers and Christian employees. It is now well known that the judiciary is the ultimate arbiter of equality. Judicial interpretation, not parliamentary debate, ultimately decides outcomes. Additionally, we do not now have a supreme judicature and our highest authorities are subject to the decisions of EU judges. Mark Hill, QC, for example, has questioned the soundness of the European judges in the Ladele case. For this reason, promises of protection, without the wide consultation required for green or white papers are meaningless. The process that the Government has followed is unsafe. The legal advice of Aidan O'Neill, QC has shown that this Bill could have serious consequences in both church and employment contexts.

16. Conclusion One. The Bill is confusing and will undermine social order. It combines under the title "Marriage" two unions that are of a completely different kind, marriage, which involves prescribed duties regarding spouses and children; and same sex union, which is no more than an undefined commitment by two persons. Marriage and same sex unions have different origins, nature and purposes. All that they have in common is that they are "committed relationships" but these relationships are not identical or even similar. Even in the one thing that they have in common, committed relationship, there is no similarity between the relationships because the root complementary relationship of male and female is totally absent in same sex unions.

17. Conclusion Two. This Bill is divisive. It is divisive because it necessitates Christians being much more robust and public in their defence of marriage as taught within Christianity. Same sex couples wrongly interpret this as homophobia.

18. Conclusion Three. The Bill is shortsighted. It totally fails to relate marriage to children and the family contradicting many centuries of evidence concerning the importance of family responsibilities for the welfare of nations. The Bill appears, as if out of nowhere, without any connection with our national identity as a family friendly nation intent upon responsible stewardship with respect to children.

19. Conclusion Four. This Bill is dangerous. The results of this Bill are totally unpredictable with respect to ministers of religion, churches and hard-working committed employees who could find their jobs imperilled by their inability to endorse or promote same sex unions. Experience has already shown that courts at home and abroad, rather than the legislature, determine the implications of equality.

20. Conclusion Five. This Bill is undemocratic and unjust. It ignores the interests of over half of the population, who remain concerned about its implications for the preservation of marriage as a caring context for husband, wife, children and in a measure grandchildren. The Government is rushing this bill through Parliament on the votes of the main opposition party without even pausing to explain to the public its long-term implications. Indeed it would appear that it has not even attempted to assess what they might be.

21. Conclusion Six. This Bill lacks legitimacy and should be dropped. The lack of normal Parliamentary process including manifesto statement, success at the polls on the basis of correct understanding of what is entailed, and proper consultations will ensure that a large section of the public will never be reconciled to the bill as legitimate legislation.

22. Conclusion Seven. In the interests of justice, the Government should adopt the substance of Mr Edward Leigh's Ten Minute Rule Bill to amend the Equality Act to make "marriage" a protected category so that those who believe in marriage as herein described will not be penalized for their beliefs.

February 2013

Prepared 27th February 2013