Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by John Etherton (MB 45)

This Submission is from an NHS General Practitioner with an interest in Marriage issues.

Introduction:

Position :

NHS General Practitioner; founder of Meridian Surgery, Peacehaven, East Sussex BN10 8NF (1986).

Relevant background :

Provider of Primary Care since 1982, including family planning, counselling services, and the teaching of general practitioners in training. Council member, Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, RCOG 2007-2010.

Relevant qualifications :

MRCGP – special interests include evidence-based medicine; preventive medicine; medical ethics; effects of changing sociological norms on family life.

MSB CBiol (Chartered Biologist) – special interests include scientific basis of human and animal sexuality; evolution.

Overview:

1. The most important issue in this debate, which has been virtually absent to date, is the necessity for societies and cultures to have a foundation upon which to base laws and social norms. Today, these follow cultural drift without reference to our Judeo-Christian heritage or any other values base, with consequences that have become apparent during the last generation. Drifting values became enshrined in law with unforeseen adverse consequences, especially the loss of freedom for those who base their own values and lives on our original heritage. The Bill in its present form establishes a precedent for additional variations which may include incestuous marriage, paedophilic marriage and polyamory.

2. Due to the haste with which the Bill has proceeded, Parliament has not been able to appreciate the overarching cultural and sociological significance of this Bill. A more detailed examination of fundamentals is recommended during the Committee and Report Stages, so that the Third Reading can take an informed stock of the implications before it proceeds to the Upper House. Ideally it would be delayed and reintroduced after more detailed analysis, when MPs would be better informed.

3. This document recommends retaining the original status of traditional marriage alongside provision for the parallel and separate entity of same sex marriage . This will preserve Equality and Diversity across the entire debate, and no individual or pressure group can claim inequality or discrimination. Just as Disability is subdivided into groupings, Marriage will be subdivided into traditional marriage and same sex marriage. Statutes will refer to "Marriage (traditional and same sex)", and sub-sections will treat these two variations along different threads .

Summary:

1. Significance of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill :

This provides for the most significant alteration to the Statute Book for decades, as it devolves upon the redefinition of marriage. Marriage has been the bedrock of society for millennia, and is a basic tenet of the 6 main faiths (representing 66% of the 2011 Census population).

2. Semantic considerations of the phrase "same sex marriage":

There has been a semantic apposition of the phrase "same sex" to the word "marriage" without reference to an in-depth analysis of its meaning and implications. The phrase "same sex marriage" has, by common usage, desensitised the population to the enormity of the proposed redefinition of marriage, and become common parlance in a very short period of time. MPs have not been objectively informed by the Government Equalities Office (GEO) (1) about the cultural foundations of marriage and the implications of replacing these foundations with a new set devised during the past 15 years. MPs have been swayed by superficial considerations centering on the culturally recent Equality and Diversity mandate. This observation is borne out by viewing the Hansard recordings of the submissions and responses during the Public Bill Committee examination (2).

3. Safety of the redefinition of marriage:

The proposed legislative change appears to be unsafe, and untested internationally for any significant period of time. No country legislated in favour of this until into the 21 st Century. The precedent set by the Bill for bodes uncertainty for future freedoms of conscience, expression and faith.

4. The role of the Prime Minister:

Under pressure from (a) the GEO , (b) the extremely powerful, vocal and well organised LGBTIQ agenda lobbies (3), and (c) his wife (4), David Cameron has changed his original stance (5) and adopted a fixed personal agenda with but one outcome envisaged. The briefings for MPs (e.g. 6) reflect a partisan view and do not fully inform. MPs are too busy to devote time to researching every Parliamentary issue, and are naturally going to toe the line on what they are assured is a balanced and well researched view. It is regrettable that he should virtually absent himself from a packed House debating an issue that was his own brainchild, and which has caused more tension and opprobrium on all sides than any other matter in recent years.

5. Recommendations:

1. The Bill should be placed on hold pending a study of the 11 nations who have already approved similar legislation; and then re-opened for debate.

2. The redefinition of marriage will then be re-examined in the absence of the haste associated with the passage of the Bill at present. This will allow for informed opinion and ideally would incorporate a national referendum . This approach will be an example to the wider world..

3. If the new concept of same sex marriage is added in Statute, a distinction should be retained to differentiate within the category of Marital Status. Thus, Marital Status clauses will list: " Single / Traditional Marriage / Same Sex Marriage / Civil Partnership / Divorced / Separated / Widowed " . This will assist organisations who require accurate sociological information about individuals in order to provide the optimal service for them.

6. The Royal Assent:

Submission of this Bill for the Royal Assent will place The Queen in an invidious position, as the redefinition of marriage runs counter to the statutory requirements for the Coronation Oath (7) which she assented to. It would be advisable to await her succession, at which time the Coronation Oath could be subject to scrutiny by the GEO.

Further details on the above points:

Note – references to the LGBTIQ agenda are in bold type to emphasize the influence of this sociological phenomenon across the debate on same sex marriage.

Point 1:

Significance of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill:

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill provides for the most significant alteration to the Statute Book for decades, as its foundation rests upon the redefinition of marriage, the bedrock of society, thus creating a secular replacement foundation for marriage .

1. The Bill is unlike almost any other Bill in recent decades because it devolves upon a foundational cultural change affecting the bedrock of society (countless references, e.g. 8) and alters a basic tenet of all the main faiths (9-14), accounting for 66% of the population (2011 Census).

2. It is unwise to expedite a change of this magnitude under the umbrella of Equality and Diversity, without extending to MPs and voters the courtesy of an extensive consultation period , allowing for proper research and debate across all sectors of our culture.

3. I wrote to the Prime Minister about the Bill on 12 th December 2012. The official (standard) reply sent from the GEO (15) was phrased in such a way as to give no room for discussion. Details:

I. The letter presented as a fait accompli indicating no room for manoevre. It implied an imposition of Statute with caveats (e.g. the "quadruple lock") in an attempt to protect the large numbers of people who will have personal and professional difficulties when the outworking of the Bill cuts across their long held beliefs and values, and begins to affect employment law etc.

II. The letter’s introductory potted history of marriage fails to cover the quantum leap from traditional marriage to same sex unions (and fails to comment on the progression to 3-way partnerships etc. that are now seen in states which have adopted this; see Point 4 ).

III. The tenor of the letter betrayed a governmental approach reminiscent of the imposition of cultural changes which authoritarian regimes and dictatorships have employed in the (not so distant) past across the world.

Point 2:

Semantic considerations of the phrase "same sex marriage":

There has been a persistent and glib semantic apposition of the phrase "same sex" to the word "marriage" without reference to an in-depth analysis of its meaning and implications.

1. The phrase "same sex marriage" has, by common usage, desensitised the population to the enormity of the proposed redefinition of marriage, and become common parlance in a very short period of time.

I. MPs have not been objectively informed by the GEO about the cultural foundations of marriage and the implications of replacing these foundations with a new set devised during the past 15 years. They (and advocates of the Bill including major internationals such as Reuters) have been swayed by superficial considerations centering on the culturally recent Equality and Diversity mandate, whose values are intensively promoted by the GEO. This observation is borne out by viewing the Hansard recordings of the submissions and responses during the Public Bill Committee examination (2). A similar provision applies to the establishment of the GEO itself, which has driven the Bill at the request of the Prime Minister. Little, if any, attention has been paid to the foundational basis of the underlying ethics of the GEO. As far as one can tell, the values espoused by this highly successful and very well organised Department are driven by the Equality and Diversity agenda - which in turn is driven ultimately by the LGBTIQ agenda with little reference to the centuries of tradition, legal history and religious ethic which together constitute our great heritage. Milestones in the development of a secular replacement foundation for marriage include landmark Statutes such as the Sexual Orientation Regulations (16), the Gender Recognition Act (17) and the Civil Partnership Act (18). (It is not within the remit of this submission to document the origins of the LGBTIQ agenda ).

II. A typical example of an incompletely informed view is that of my own MP (19). He and the powerful figures within the GEO have been informed almost exclusively by the LGBTIQ agenda which has developed within our culture over the past 2 decades, and now forms a fundamental reference point throughout the legislative process and influences every aspect of life.

III. The LGBTIQ agenda features in every official document in all the professions in the sections covering inclusivity, discrimination and disclaimers. Its most powerful proponent organisations have succeeded in co-badging the headed notepaper of many public and private organisations. The Equality Act 2010 embodies 3 major statutory instruments protecting discrimination in employment on grounds of religion or belief , sexual orientation and age . However, the status granted to the LGBTIQ agenda currently outweighs that granted to the other areas of discrimination, and is applied widely – not just within employment. Any dissent based on centuries of tradition or faith tenets going back millennia, is dismissed under the banner of the Equality and Diversity mandate, and challenged using the courts.

2. The difficulties raised by adopting the LGBTIQ agenda as a caveat underpinning all documentation and guidelines may be illustrated thus:

I. The reply I received (15) from the GEO (following my letter to the Prime Minister) stated: " Opening up marriage to all couples will strengthen the vital institution of marriage, and help ensure that it remains an essential building block of society ".

II. Comment : a stone building block (marriage) cannot have its constitution altered (by radically redefining it) – it will crumble, and the edifice above (society) will disintegrate. Thus the argument is fundamentally flawed.

III. Countless studies have shown that society is at its most stable, with children doing best overall, when society is based on traditional marriage consisting of opposite sexes joined in matrimony and raising their own family (e.g. 8).

3. Employing semantic shift to gratify minorities who already have every legal provision in place, is not only profoundly undemocratic and discourteous to the majority, but is an untested route (see Point 3, below). There is no legal advantage whatsoever in Equal Civil Marriage compared to Civil Partnership (18; first paragraph). Allowing – without an adequate consultation period - the LGBTIQ agenda to trump the long-established status of the vast majority by caving in to highly organised and exceptionally powerful and influential minority pressure groups is a discourteous and retrograde cultural step.

Point 3:

Safety of the redefinition of marriage:

The proposed legislative change has been untested internationally for any significant period of time, and appears to be unsafe therefore.

1. No country legislated in favour of this until into the 21 st Century.

I. Since 2001, 11 countries ( Argentina , Belgium , Canada , Denmark , Iceland , Netherlands , Norway , Portugal , Spain , South Africa , Sweden ) have allowed same sex marriage .

II. Several sub-national jurisdictions (parts of Brazil , Mexico and the United States ) have allowed same sex marriage.

III. Similar Bills are pending in Andorra , Colombia , Finland , France , Luxembourg , Nepal , New Zealand , Taiwan , the United Kingdom , Uruguay , and parts of Australia , Mexico , and the United States .

2. Safety concerns, and uninformed public perception:

I. A Daily Telegraph journalist recently reflected the popular view thus: " The fact is that society's attitudes have fundamentally changed since the word marriage was defined as being solely between a man and a woman. And this is reflected by changes in laws across the world, not just here in Britain. The reality is that the definition of the word marriage simply is being changed and that is a process which will continue. This seems to us to be an entirely good thing which does nobody any harm. It does nothing more than give gay couples the same choice as heterosexual couples to express their love for one another in this way. And in our view, that should be a matter for them and not anybody else ". The informed and objective response to this type of comment is embodied in Point 2 , above.

II. Several organisations have expressed serious concern over the precedent set by the Bill (and the preceding ones that prepared the ground) in creating a secular replacement foundation for marriage based on the LGBTIQ agenda . These include:

III. Religious documents : The LGBTIQ agenda does not end with equal marriage. Enshrined within, and central to, the tenets of the 6 main faiths, are passages referring to items within the new LGBTIQ agenda which are expressly forbidden. These are currently referred to by proponents of the LGBTIQ agenda as "Hate Literature". It will be necessary to devise a new Bill (e.g. " Equality in Religious Mandate" ) ordering the extraction of Hate Literature from these ancient writings. Following this, revised Equality Versions of the Koran, the Bible and the Torah would become mandatory. This has implications for the freedoms of the 37,010,101 people who hold a religion (England and Wales 2011 census). Attempts to force marriage equality onto Sharia Law may unleash the violent opposition commonly seen when the Koran is defaced.

IV. Additional variations on Marriage : The precedent set by the adoption of a secular replacement foundation for marriage may lead in due course to polyamory, incestuous marriage, and paedophilic marriage. The secular imperative makes no provision for barring such routes. Brazil recognises three-way relationships under civil partnership laws (20).

Point 4:

The role of the Prime Minister:

1. On 3 May 2010, just three days before the last general election – Mr Cameron stated to Adam Boulton on Sky News that he was "not planning to change the definition of marriage" (5). His election manifesto was silent on this issue.

I. He changed his stance on becoming Prime Minister under pressure from the GEO (1), the extremely powerful, vocal and well organised LGBTIQ agenda , his wife (4) and in the face of opposition from his mother (21).

II. He has adopted a fixed personal agenda with but one outcome envisaged. He has persistently referred to "when" not "if", thus implying that the Government Consultation (22) always had but one outcome in his view.

III. The briefings for MPs reflect a strongly partisan view and do not fully inform (e.g. 6). MPs are too busy to devote time to researching every Parliamentary issue, and are naturally going to toe the line on what they are assured is a balanced and well researched view.

IV. He appeared to regard his Bill as an add-on to existing equality legislation, to be got out of the way as conveniently as possible leaving the Government free to get on with the truly important matters of state – while failing to recognise Points 1,2,3 above. He appeared to assume that his Bill would easily pass in a free vote, by relying in advance on votes from the very MPs who oppose him on other matters on the benches. It is regrettable that he should virtually absent himself from a packed House debating an issue that was his own brainchild, and which has caused more tension and opprobrium on all sides than any other matter in recent years. It has to be said that this does not engender respect from his Party and from thinking people.

V. There is a real risk that his Bill will undermine the ancient and tested foundations upon which his current and future hard work rests.

2. The Prime Minister’s own party blog, ConservativeHome (Dec 28, 2012), published findings that overall, apart from the first 2, made disappointing reading for the Tory leadership (23).

3. Equalities Minister Maria Miller and her GEO hold a view on Marriage which is superficial and fundamentally flawed. It is a foundation-less opinion that follows sociological drift. It takes no account of millennia of historical and cultural factors, and centers on recent and controversial minority views of this ancient institution. A balanced perspective on this can only be achieved by lifting the historical concept of Marriage out of the morass of the Equality and Diversity juggernaut and the vigorously promoted LGBTIQ agenda and studying it objectively.

4. The commonest justification for pressing for a redefinition of Marriage is the aggregate of much quoted phrases such as "marriage is an evolving institution / society has to move on / aiming for equality across all sectors of society". All this is in defiance of the observation that cultures which operate with no tested foundations, or a rejection of existing stable foundations (such as our Judeo-Christian heritage, espoused by The Queen (7) at her coronation) drift into sociological disaster in the long term. Examples may be found all the way from the fall of the Roman Empire to the fall of the Third Reich.

Point 5:

Recommendations:

1. The Bill should be placed on hold until such time as the implications and repercussions upon society have become manifest in the 11 nations who have already approved similar legislation; and then re-opened for debate.

2. The complicated issues raised by the redefinition of marriage will then be re-examined in the light of a thorough analysis of the findings, and become subject to due Parliamentary process (in the absence of the haste which the Coalition initially imposed upon the Lower House). Part of this process will be a more representative survey of informed opinion across the UK and ideally will incorporate a fully informed national referendum. This approach to a fundamental change in law will be an example to the wider world, and provide a more objective reference point for other countries examining the same issue.

3. Following debate, if the new concept of same sex marriage is added in Statute, a distinction should be retained to enable organisations (e.g. insurance companies, the NHS, the Services) to continue to differentiate within the category of Marital Status. Thus, just as Discrimination clauses in official documents now list: "Race, Religion, Sexual Orientation etc.", Marital Status clauses will list: "Single / Traditional Marriage / Same Sex Marriage / Civil Partnership / Divorced / Separated / Widowed". This will appear little different to before, and will greatly assist insurance companies, the NHS, and other organisations who require accurate sociological information about individuals in order to provide the optimal service for them.

Point 6:

The Royal Assent:

Submission of this Bill for the Royal Assent will place The Queen in an invidious position, as the redefinition of marriage runs counter to the statutory requirements for the Coronation Oath (7) which she assented to 60 years ago. The epitome of courtesy and respect in this regard may be to defer the Bill until there is a change of monarch, at which time the Coronation Oath could be subject to scrutiny by the GEO and Parliament.

Final Remarks:

1. From the cultural aspect, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill provides for the most significant alteration to the Statute Book for decades, with implications for the freedoms of people of all faiths and none. There is more to this than meets the eye.

2. Absent from this debate is the necessity for societies and cultures to have a tested foundation upon which to base laws and social norms. Today in the UK, the latter follow cultural drift without reference to our Judeo-Christian heritage, and this is associated with annually deteriorating sociological statistics. Drifting values become enshrined in law with loss of freedom for those who base their own values and lives on our original heritage. Creating a secular replacement foundation for marriage may lead in due course to polyamory, incestuous marriage, and paedophilic marriage.

3. Just as disability is subdivided into groupings, a redefinition of Marriage should be subdivided into traditional marriage and same sex marriage. New Statutes should refer to " Marriage (traditional and same sex) ", with sub-sections treating these two variations along different threads.

4. The Prime Minister is 100% committed to fundamentally redefining the ancient and God-ordained institution of Marriage, dismissing this as simply a minor issue that has to be got out of the way ASAP, leaving time for matters of state that really count (without taking account of the issue of foundations). It is time that our leaders took stock of the erosion of our foundations before they disintegrate, and our once-great culture descends into what the Apostle Peter referred to in Roman times as "a flood of dissipation" (1 Peter 4:4) - with appalling long term social consequences.

February 2013

References & endnotes:

1. Government Equalities Office: http://www.culture.gov.uk/equalities/index.aspx

2. Public Bill Committee video recordings : http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=12589

Public Bill Committee transcripts : http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmpublic/marriage/130212/am/130212s01.htm

3. LGBTIQ stands for Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual / Transgender / Intersexed / Questioning. This potentially confusing acronym reflects the internal politics of social movements around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. It conveys symbolically and rhetorically the desire to achieve a high degree of political unity among groups with diverse, potentially conflicting, legal and policy issues:

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/lgbtlaw/2007/08/introduction---.html

4. Cameron’s wife encouraging the redefinition of marriage: http://www.christian.org.uk/news/camerons-wife-is-driving-force-behind-gay-marriage/?e010213

5. Cameron not planning to change the definition of marriage: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2010/05/04/david-cameron-not-planning-to-legalise-gay-marriage/

6. Equal marriage mythbuster briefing for MPs: http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/publications/Equal_Marriage_Mythbuster.pdf

7. Statutory requirements for the Coronation Oath: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/briefings/snpc-00435.pdf page 4, paragraph 3 and page 7, second half of paragraph 3

8. An example of a succinct lay comment is at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/9245973/The-village-can-help-but-children-raised-by-a-mum-and-dad-do-best.html

9. Marriage a basic tenet of Buddhism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_and_Buddhism

10. Marriage a basic tenet of Christianity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_views_on_marriage

11. Marriage a basic tenet of Hinduism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_in_Hinduism

12. Marriage a basic tenet of Islam: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_in_Islam

13. Marriage a basic tenet of Judaism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_views_on_marriage

14. Marriage a basic tenet of Sikhism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anand_Karaj

15. Direct Communications Unit 30 th January 2013 ref CMS223511: copy available on request

16. Most of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 (SORs) were revoked in October 2010 as the main provisions of the Equality Act 2010 commenced. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equality_Act_(Sexual_Orientation)_Regulations based on http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2003/1661/contents/made and http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2007/1263/contents/made The implications of the SORs for our cultural heritage were outlined at: http://www.crossrhythms.co.uk/articles/life/Equality_Act_Sexual_Orientation_Regulations_2007/26759/p1/ Six years later these have become apparent with the current Bill. The criticism by the Feb 2013 Public Bill Committee of the "Wrecking Clause" attempts in 2007 fails to acknowledge that the latter were intended to protect religious and other freedoms.

17. Gender Recognition Act: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_Recognition_Act_2004 based on: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/7/contents

18. Civil Partnership Act: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Partnership_Act_2004 based on: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/33/contents

19. Sussex University debate on Equal Marriage addressed by Simon Kirby MP 25-1-13 : Introduction : Mr Kirby has been a vocal supporter of such a change in the law, and in his capacity as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Hugh Robertson, Minister of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has been closely involved in preparing the ground for possible legislation . Mr Kirby said : "I am looking forward to having the opportunity to outline my position on same sex marriage, as well as addressing some of the wider issues raised by what I understand is a controversial topic. I support equality because I believe the institution of marriage strengthens families and society and I think that the benefits of a legally defined marriage should not be excluded to anyone because of their sexuality. At the same time, I accept that no religious institution should be forced to conduct a marriage if doing so conflicts with their beliefs. The Government has been very clear that the strongest legal safeguards will be in place to prevent that from happening. I am extremely proud of everything this Government is doing to advance equality, and I will be doing my utmost to support the cause of equal marriage in Parliament the weeks and months ahead."

20. Brazil civil partnership laws include three-way relationships: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/08/31/world/americas/brazil-polyfaithful-union

21. Cameron’s mother discouraging the redefinition of marriage: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9824865/David-Camerons-mother-says-he-just-wont-be-told-on-gay-marriage.html

22. The Government Consultation claimed to be the ‘biggest listening exercise’ ever carried out. However, Mr Cameron has persistently referred to " when " not " if ", thus implying that the Consultation always had but one outcome in his view . His apparently fixed agenda on this matter   gave the impression that the Bill was to " be got out of the way as soon as possible so that we can get on with the really important matters of government ". This must be why the Government Response makes no specific reference to the implications of the size of the biggest Downing Street petition opposing his plan. (It now has about 2/3 million signatories - http://c4m.org.uk/ Accounting for these people shows a majority in opposition to the Bill).

23. ConservativeHome (Dec 28, 2012) findings - 37% of members support and 55% oppose Cameron's proposal to introduce gay marriage: http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/2012/12/55-of-tory-members-would-vote-against-gay-marriage-if-they-were-in-parliament.html

Summary:

I. 44% agree that "in the long-term a party that opposes gay equality will struggle to win support from younger voters". 44% disagree.

II. 71% concede that "this will not be a big issue at the general election - it will largely be forgotten because issues like jobs, inflation, Europe and the NHS will dominate". 25% disagree.

III. 55% of Tory members would vote against gay marriage if they were in parliament.

IV. 64% agree that "gay marriage is unnecessary because gay people already have civil partnerships". 32% disagree.

V. 58% agree that "marriage should remain between one man and one woman". 34% disagree.

VI. 38% agree that "marriage is an institution that brings two people together and there is no reason why two people should be two men, two women or a man and a woman". 58% disagree.

VII. 71% acknowledge that "gay marriage is splitting the Conservative Party". 20% say it is not.

VIII. 43% agree that "as long as religious liberty is protected I have no objection to gay marriage". 51% disagree.

IX. 78% say "David Cameron underestimated the strength of feeling among Conservative MPs and members against gay marriage". Just 19% disagree.

X. 50% fear that "in a few years' time teachers and other public sector employees will be losing their jobs if they don't support gay marriage". 40% do not.

XI. 62% agree that "David Cameron should worry more about traditional Conservative supporters like churchgoers and less about winning support amongst non-traditional supporters like gay rights campaign groups". 32% disagree.

XII. 36% agree "I admire David Cameron for standing up gay equality". 55% do not.

Prepared 27th February 2013