Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Supplementary evidence submitted by Emeritus Professor James H. Grayson (MB 46)

1. Introduction

I write as an anthropologist, retired university lecturer, and an ordained minister of the Methodist Church in Britain. My comments are my own personal views and should not be construed to reflect the views of any organisation with which I am currently associated, or have been associated.

My concerns with the legislation as presently formulated are not principally concerned with its effects on the performance of religious rituals connected with marriage.

The concerns which I will state in this second correspondence are about the effect of this legislation as presently formulated which could lead to the further extension of the term ‘marriage’ to relationships which have been unacceptable by either custom or law in this country. These comments should be read in conjunction with my previous correspondence of 18 February, 2013.

2. Summary of Concerns

a. Proponents of this bill argue that if two people love each other, then they should be able to ‘marry’. This bill provides no definition of ‘marriage’.

b. Some proponents of this bill argue that it will strengthen commitment and ‘monogamous’ relationships.

c. Some proponents of this bill have gone on to argue that bisexual and other sexual orientations should not be a barrier to ‘marriage’.

1) What then is the definition of ‘marriage’ and what will be the consequences of a change away from the traditional understanding a relationship between a man and woman as the basis of a family?

2) Will the passage of this legislation provide the basis for the further extension of the definition of ‘marriage’ to include relationships which by custom and law have been considered unacceptable?

The answer to these questions depends on a definition of ‘marriage’ which this bill does not provide.

3. Further Extension of the Definition of Marriage.

a. Over a period of six or seven months, I carried on a correspondence with my MP and other proponents of this bill asking for the legal rationale for the legislation, requesting a definition of marriage, and asking what legal protections there would be for people in a public sphere (for example, teachers and lecturers) who held, affirmed and taught the traditional definition of marriage as the definition of ‘marriage’. No one provided an answer to the first two questions. The response to the third question was that the Human Rights Act provided adequate protection, i.e., people would have to go to court to obtain justice rather than protection being provided in the legislation.

My MP, the Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg, asked the Rt. Hon. Maria Miller to respond to my questions. In a letter dated 4 November, 2012, she said the following:

‘Can I begin by saying that our proposals on equal civil marriage are based on the belief that if a couple love each other and want to commit to a life together, they should have the option of a civil marriage. Society is stronger when people enter into a stable relationship and commit to each other. I do not believe that the State should stop people getting married unless there are very good reasons – and being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender aren’t good enough reasons. If we believe commitment, fidelity and marriage are positive things – as this Government strongly does – then we should let them flourish, not restrict them.’

(full scanned letter attached).

b. Her letter states that ‘if a couple love each other’ this attitude can be the basis for ‘marriage’. Yet she also states that being ‘bisexual’ should not be a restriction on marriage. This is confused. What possible definition of ‘bisexual marriage’ could there be unless it either permits ‘multiple partner marriage’ or permits ‘single partner marriage’ coupled with a tolerance of promiscuity or adultery? Neither of those conditions has been acceptable by custom and law in this country.

c. If this legislation is passed without a precise definition of ‘marriage’, and if it can then be used to extend it to situations such as mentioned in 4.b. above, would this situation then provide the basis for a change in the universally held attitudes towards ‘incest’ and other relationships which might be justified by ‘love for each other’?

d. In her letter quoted in 4.a. above, the Rt. Hon. Maria Miller implies that Government should not place restrictions ‘marriage’ so that it may flourish. This seems both confused and lays open the possibility of undermining the core institution of society, the family. As an anthropologist, I can state that all societies historically and currently have placed restrictions on marriage for the purpose of the maintenance and protection of the family.

e. As stated in my earlier letter, the legislation is badly constructed because it provides no definition of marriage, and by this looseness threatens the very institution it purports to uphold and promote.

f. Also as stated in my earlier letter, this legislation is badly constructed because it provides no specific legal protection for those who uphold the traditional definition and practice of marriage and say so in a public place. This means that they may be subject to discipline, harassment, stigmatisation or even legal prosecution.

4. Suggestions:

a. The bill must include a definition of ‘marriage’ for the reasons stated in 4.a.

b. Likewise, the bill must provide specific legal protection for people to hold, affirm and teach the traditional view of ‘marriage’. Protection of the right of free speech is the cornerstone of a free and democratic society. Unless the proposed legislation includes protection for persons to hold and teach views supporting traditional concepts of marriage, it will undermine this basic freedom.

February 2013

Prepared 27th February 2013