Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by Peter Bowen (MB 65)

1. My name is Peter Bowen. I live in the Newport West constituency.

I am making this personal submission because the views of over 641,000 voters who signed the Coalition for Marriage petition have been ignored by the Government. Also because of the suggestion that few constituents have complained to their MPs or to their bishops which has been taken to imply that there is support for the measure. Although I am a committed Anglican my submission is based solely on the conviction that the institution of marriage cannot be changed by Act of Parliament and to change the legal definition of marriage will have unforeseen consequences to the detriment of the institution and family life.

2. My wife and I are as one on this issue. We were married in the Anglican Church in 1968. We have two married daughters each with a boy and a girl in primary school. Although we are practicing Anglicans our objection to marriage for same-sex couples is based not so much on religious convictions but on the consequences for the institution of marriage. It has been suggested that marriage has changed over time. That is true but these changes have been about equality before the law involving one man and one woman. It is because the institution of marriage is so important that it should not be changed.

3. There is no mandate for this Bill. I have not met anyone who understands where the proposal has come from nor have I come across anyone who is in favour of the move other than on-line campaigners. Friends have threatened to cut party allegiances over the issue and if same-sex weddings or blessings are allowed in church they say they will leave. While the legislation provides legal protection for the Church of England and the Church in Wales, opinions differ on whether churches will be forced into conducting same-sex ceremonies. This has become a divisive issue in the church which would be better avoided.

4. Marriage is the joining together for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. To extend the meaning to include same-sex couples devalues unions already entered into. It is also in danger of corrupting the meaning of parenthood which is enshrined in the biological fact that new life requires a mother and a father to create another life. That is not to deny the ability of same sex-couples to bring up children. While children in care may prefer to be brought up in a ‘home’ environment, the notion that same sex-couples should therefore be permitted to marry and acquire children through surrogacy or other means is a travesty of the meaning of care and has more to do with the wants of the couple than the needs of children which should be paramount.

5. To accommodate such situations it is regrettable that the terms ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are being replaced by gender neutral terms such as ‘parent 1’ and ‘parent 2’. This alone should be sufficient warning of the consequences of this misguided legislation. There are also warning signs that if the Bill becomes law attempts will be made to permit more than two people in a marriage. Much has been made of the inference that if people love each other they should be allowed to marry but from a Christian perspective we are all commanded to ‘love one another’. The implications for marriage based on love alone have serious implications including the prospect of polygamy and incestuous relationships. Assurances against extensions have already proved worthless. Assurances that allowing civil partnerships would not lead to calls for same-sex marriage have been already been dismissed as outdated.

6. As a parent and grandparent I am concerned about the impact of the legislation in schools for teachers and for children if it is enshrined in law that same-sex couples are no different to heterosexual couples. The historic understanding of marriage implies the possibility of procreation within the family unit providing a stable environment for biological parenting. Suggestions have been made that the inability of some couples to have children is a reason to permit same-sex marriage. This is illogical. It is impossible for same-sex couples to have children because they do not have the ability for complementary sexual union.

7. The impact of the legislation in the work-place is likely to have further consequences to those already reported in the media regarding security of employment with implications for free speech. Public acceptance of the fact of homosexuality has resulted in the unforeseen consequence that people are now accused of homophobia if they do not sign up to what is mistakenly referred to as the equality agenda giving no opportunity for a genuine difference of opinion using political correctness to silence opposition.

8. I have listened to much of the evidence given to the Committee through the video link. The experience did little to encourage a feeling of democracy at work when some members of the committee appeared to be more intent on using the occasion as a platform for their particular life-styles than on taking evidence to form a conclusion. In particular I thought that the Coalition for Marriage representatives were given a unnecessary hard time compared with others whose evidence appeared to find more favour resulting in the now widespread implication that opponents of same-sex marriage are homophobic, bigoted or against equality. This is a complete travesty.

9. Equality has been provided in the civil partnerships legislation so that same-sex couples can enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite sex couples obtain through civil marriage. The proposed Bill is a mistake.

10. SUMMARY. I oppose this legislation because there is no mandate to change the definition of marriage which could have far reaching unforeseen consequences. The qualities of love and equality are being misapplied. Equality for same-sex couples has already been provided through civil partnerships legislation.

February 2013

Prepared 27th February 2013