Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

 Memorandum submitted by Michael Graham (MB 57)

Philosophical Issues : definition of ‘marriage’

In order to ensure their continuity, societies throughout history have enshrined in law a preference for committed heterosexual relationships which can give life to, and sustain, the next generation. In the English-speaking world we have called these relationships 'marriage'. They are based on more than love; they also encompass the possibility - by natural means - of having children, thus ensuring the future of the society in question. Our society will therefore be immeasurably weakened unless we retain in law a distinctive definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, rather than the redefinition implicit in the Equal Marriage Bill.

Equality and Justice Issues

The Greek philosopher Aristotle contended that injustice results from treating unequals equally. This principle applies perfectly in the current context, since there can be no comparison between heterosexual relationships which can produce children through natural means, and homosexual relationships which cannot.  There fore, the equality premise which is driving the Equ al Marriage Bill is a false one. This is underlined by the recent ruling of an Australian federal judge that no discrimination or injustice against same sex couples is implied by the fact that they are barred from marriage as traditionally defined.

A further consideration is that there will be far greater inequality in our society if the Government’s legislation succeeds, since large sectors of society – the Churches, and many others with a regard for the tradition of the ages – will be set against their neighbours. Disunity, rather than unity, will be the result. The provisions in the Bill for exemption for the Churches will merely enhance this disunity rather than eliminate it..

Educational issues

Schools play an essential role in forming children's attitudes towards adulthood, and in making them aware of society's basic institutions. The most ancient institution of all is the family, headed by a man and a woman who are able to create and nurture new life.

Apart from doing significant damage to the family, the Government's proposed legislation will confuse the message which schools aim to give to children about the real nature of marriage. It will also cause difficulty for teachers, who will be required to present to children a range of equally-valid relationship possibilities as they enter adulthood : some leading to the possibility of parenthood, and others not.

Democratic Issues

If such a fundamental change is to be made within our society – in essence amounting to a redefinition of what we are by nature – the Government should not rush through legislation without a proper mandate , as it is attempting to do. It should, instead, defer its plans until the next parliament – when they can be properly covered by a manifesto commitment. The undue haste with which the proposals are being rushed through Parliament is perhaps being governed by an EU proposal – due, maybe, to come into force in Autu mn 2013 – under which all member states would be compelled to accept each-other’s marriage arrangements – as UKIP suggests. If this is the case, the Government should say so.

For all these reasons, I feel the Equal Marriage Bill as currently drafted and programmed is ill advised and should be abandoned or significantly amended .

February 2013

Prepared 27th February 2013