Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Further supplementary evidence submitted by Emeritus Professor James H. Grayson (MB 63)

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.

For the purpose of this third comment which concerns the nature of family relations, I would note the following three personal facts: 1) when I was a child my mother had an extended serious illness over a period of five years and died when I was fourteen, 2) after three years my Father remarried and there was no issue from this marriage, and 3) I am the father of two adopted sons. For these three reasons (single-parent family, family including a step-parent, and adoption), I feel that I understand the complexity of family structures and relationships from a personal as well as from a professional academic point of view.

I would also note as before that my concerns with the legislation as presently formulated are not principally concerned with its effects on the performance of religious rituals connected with marriage.

Summary of Concerns

The concerns which I will state in this third correspondence are about the effect of this legislation as presently formulated which could have unintended consequences which need to considered in its final framing. These comments should be read in conjunction with my first correspondence of 18 February, 2013, and the second correspondence of 22 February, 2013.

Concerns for Unintended Consequences

1. The legislation as currently framed does not provide a definition of marriage, but does imply equality between sexual relations between a cross-sex couple, and physical relations between a same-sex couple.

2. Couples who are in a cross-sex relationship and couples who are in a same-sex physical relationship may be treated in law so that the same legal benefits and protections are given to each group (equity), but these two sets of relationships cannot be construed to be the same thing.

3. Clearly, sexual relations between two people of different sexes has the potential for the creation of life, whereas a physical relationship between same-sex couples cannot.

4. Some same-sex couples have used surrogate mothers if a male couple, and donor sperm if a female couple in order to create progeny.

5. Surrogacy of a female or male type raises serious questions regarding the children born in these circumstances and the relationships between the three (3) adult people involved.

6. First, how will the child who is born by such a method be affected psychologically and mentally ? What relationship will the child have, if any, to either the surrogate mother or the sperm donor father? If such treatments were to become routine and see as a matter of equality, how will this change the nature of ‘motherhood’ and ‘fatherhood’?

Such surrogacy or donation is different psychologically and socially from IVF treatment using sperm of a traditional married couple and needs to be considered carefully.

7. Second, what kind of relationship will there be between the surrogate mother and the two male members of a couple, or the sperm donor and the two female members of a couple? Based on these relationships, what kind of family bonds may be engendered? How will this affect the child in such a family psychologically and mentally?

8. Traditional marriage creates a strong bond between the child born to such a union, and enhances the relationship between the two biological parents. The same kind of relationship cannot exist between two people of the same gender and the child. The strong social bond arising from the procreational relationship is an important element in building a strong and stable society.

9. Recently, before the birth of his second child, Elton John expressed concern that in a playground setting his son might be subject to prejudiced questions such as ‘Where’s your Mum?’ by other children. This concern illustrates the psychological issues which could be faced by children born by surrogacy to same-sex male couples. It also raises the question of whether a child asking such a question might be disciplined at school for being ‘prejudiced’ or ‘homophobic’.

10. Surrogate birth and sperm donation to same-sex couples raises the further issue of whether such assistance should be provided routinely by the NHS because it is a matter of ‘equality’ and fairness. In my view, same-sex couples should be treated with legal equity, but it does not seem to me that equality can be used to support routine treatment of this type.

11. In the absence of any legal protections for persons adhering to the traditional understanding of marriage and the family, will such people be subject to legal prosecution or social harassment for being ‘prejudiced’ or ‘homophobic’? This is a particular concern for teachers, lecturers, and public servants.

Suggestions

1. As in my previous comments, I feel that it is essential that the proposed legislation have a clear and precise definition of marriage, and one which concerns takes into consideration some of the important personal and social implications of this law if it were to be passed in its current form.

2. It is also essential that the law include legal protection for people to hold, affirm and state traditional views about the nature of marriage and the family without fear of prosecution, persecution, harassment or stigmatisation.

As currently framed, the legislation will not simply extend a right to a neglected group of people, but instead it will change dramatically the nature of family relations and, in the absence of legal protections, could be a serious threat to the ability of people to speak freely in the public sphere about the traditional understanding of marital and family relations, and the effect that changes might have on marriage and the family.

February 2013

Prepared 27th February 2013