Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by Voice for Justice UK (MB 72)

RE: THE MARRIAGE (SAME SEX COUPLES) BILL (Bill 126)

INTRODUCTION

1. Voice for Justice UK is a Christian campaigning group working to uphold traditional values of faith and morality; of freedom of speech without threat of fear or intimidation; and the freedom to manifest belief. We work to defend any and all who are abused, oppressed or marginalised - for whatever reason - who cannot speak out for themselves. We have particular experience of family and relationship problems, sexual abuse and exploitation, and right to life issues covering both the beginning and end of life.

2. We consider the introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill (the "Bill"), insofar as it seeks to redefine the long-established institution of marriage, to be misconceived, discriminatory and likely to undermine the traditional form of marriage as demonstrably the best and most stable form of family unit in which to raise and nurture children.

3. We consider that the Bill’s provisions give rise to the following areas of grave concern:

· Their deleterious effect on the institution of marriage itself and on families;

· The creation of two classes of married couples with differing obligations;

· The inevitable impact on the freedom of speech of those opposed to same sex marriage, including the impact on the education of our children and on their teachers;

· The increased financial burden on the National Health Service;

· The likelihood of a successful legal challenge to the provisions designed to protect the position of the Church of England.

THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY

4. At present, marriage is defined as "The voluntary union for life, of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others" ("man-woman marriage"). This reflects the Biblical position and the position of the Church of England, the Established Church of this realm.

5. Experience shows that man-woman marriage is the best and most stable way of raising children in a family unit. Many social surveys show that children raised in single parent homes fare less well at school and in employment and are at greater risk of engaging in drug abuse and other criminal behaviour. A primary reason for the family failings of boys in single parent homes is widely recognised to be the absence of a father to provide a positive role model and to instil moral standards and good behaviour in sons. It is difficult to see how young children are not going to be confused in their emotional development if they are raised in the home of a same-sex couple as to which parent is their "father figure". Likewise, if young children are taught in school that same-sex marriage is "normal", will those children from the home of a man-woman couple begin to question whether their own situation is, therefore, "abnormal"? The proposed legislation prioritises the wishes of a small minority adult class over the needs and best interests of children, who require both care and protection from behaviours and environments that might put them at risk.

6. So far, the Bill only seeks to change the first limb of the current definition of marriage by removing the restriction to persons of the opposite sex. However, whether it is the Government’s intention or not, once the Bill has passed into law, experience in other legal jurisdictions (such as Brazil, The Netherlands, and Canada) shows that pressure will be brought to change the second limb of the current definition of marriage by removing the restriction so as to permit polygamy, polyandry and polyamory ("plural marriages"). The arrangements in place in Brazil and The Netherlands are, strictly speaking, only forms of cohabitation agreement which, in our view, are merely another step on the road to forcing the acceptance of plural marriages.

7. The Prime Minister has stated that, provided two people (of the same sex) demonstrate "love and commitment" to each other, they should not be denied the legal status of being married, as if that phrase encapsulated the fundamental and irreducible tests of marriage. Such tests would be satisfied in the case of a father and daughter or a brother and sister as well as in the case of parties to plural marriages who claimed such love and commitment.

8. Put simply, once you open the door to same-sex marriage, logically and intellectually you cannot long resist pressure to extend the benefits of marriage to other relationships, or even to requests to lower the age of consent for sexual relations. Any such extension is likely to lead to increased discord in homes and to a breakdown in society. In sum, this Bill is a step on the road to rendering meaningless the institution of marriage, which is the bedrock of our society, thus destroying it.

9. We view the purpose of the Bill to be a Trojan Horse presented to our Government by elements of our society who seek to expand sexual freedom as far as possible without regard to the potentially disastrous effects which this will have on our society, our children and public order. The entire Bill should be rejected for this reason alone. Such elements seek to take advantage of our society’s attitude of tolerance to dissenters and minorities stemming from the very Christian Heritage which they openly despise and seek to destroy, as per Peter Tatchell in his article, ‘Beyond Equality, "..queer politics has an agenda beyond law reform and legal equality. Its aim is the transformation of society to ensure sexual liberation for everyone…. It seeks an end to heterosexual hegemony and to all erotic guilt and repression…" .

TWO UNEQUAL KINDS OF MARRIAGE

10. It is widely acknowledged that civil partnerships give same-sex couples all the legal benefits and protections they need. However, the fact of the Bill suggests that they are calling for something more in the name of "equality". In fact, the effect of the Bill will be to create two classes of married couples with different obligations and incidents to their relationship giving rise to new, and entirely avoidable, inequalities between man-woman couples and same-sex couples.

11. Not surprisingly, the draftsman of the Bill has been unable to prepare provisions concerning the obligation of a married couple to consummate their union within one year of the marriage ceremony or to provide for sexual relations with a person of the same sex outside a same-sex marriage to constitute adultery as a ground of divorce. See paragraphs 3 and 4 of Part 3 of Schedule 4 to the Bill. Thus a person in a man-woman couple will:

a) have a duty to consummate their marriage or face the possibility of annulment proceedings; and

b) risk divorce proceedings if they commit adultery with a person of the opposite sex,

whereas a person in a same-sex couple will not. How does creating these new inequalities for the vast majority of married couples outweigh any possible inequality which gives rise to the alleged need for the Bill?

12. Likewise, the children of a woman in a same-sex couple are to be denied the benefit of the presumption of legitimacy enjoyed by the children of a man-woman couple. See paragraph 2 of Part 2 to Schedule 4 to the Bill. The effect of the presumption is to make the husband responsible for children borne by his wife, so why should the other woman in a same-sex couple not be made responsible in the same manner? The issue should not turn on who provided the sperm or egg, but on who the other member of the couple is. This is another inequality which favours same-sex couples.

13. Likewise, the presumption of legitimacy cannot arise in the case of a same-sex couple comprising two men. Again, this is another inequality which favours same-sex couples.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND CONSCIENCE

14. The introduction of the marriage of same sex couples will inevitably impinge on the rights of Christians and those of other faiths as well as people of conscience whose beliefs lead them to oppose same-sex marriage. The freedom of such people to hold such beliefs and, as importantly, to manifest such beliefs in the public arena, are already, and will increasingly, be attacked by those elements of society who seek to stop the mouths of Christians in particular, and to marginalise them by attacks in the media and by bringing legal actions against them on the grounds of alleged discrimination against persons of LGBT orientation.

15. Given the Biblical position on marriage, it is likely that Christians will increasingly find themselves on the wrong side of the law when they express opposition to, or disapproval of, same-sex couples, e.g. when discussing their faith in public or in private with new acquaintances; with fellow workers or customers at their places of employment; in the classroom; or when deciding whether to provide business services to same-sex couples.

16. This potential gagging of Christians and people of conscience will be particularly aggravated in the context of sex education and teaching on the make-up of families in schools. It has always been the duty and privilege of parents to raise their children and to have them taught in line with their philosophical and religious beliefs. It should be the choice of their parents whether children are exposed to teaching about homosexuality as a normative and healthy expression of relationships and sexuality, including the assertion that living as a same-sex couple constitutes an acceptable and normal lifestyle. Younger children will be particularly confused to hear one thing at school (i.e. same-sex couples – good) and another thing at home ((i.e. same-sex couples – bad) and will be torn by peer pressure to fit in at school, thus putting them in conflict with their parents.

17. Likewise, teachers in non-faith schools who are Christians may feel constrained by the provisions of the Education Acts and associated Regulations to teach children in their charge about the supposed acceptability and normality of same-sex couples when they find the lifestyle and practice of such couples to be in conflict with the Word of God and their Biblical beliefs. This will be a particular problem in non-faith schools, where Christian teachers may be forced to choose between their beliefs and their teaching careers. At the very least they could risk some form of disciplinary procedures for alleged misconduct.

18. In the case of Christian schools, and possibly those of other faiths, the children may be presented with two conflicting views of same-sex couples (i.e. same-sex couples – good; same-sex couples – bad) and the teachers will have to explain that the law of the land has got out of step with the Law of God. Of course, there is the risk that a non-believing parent of a child in a Christian school will object to their child being given a view opposing or condemning same-sex couples and will seek to have the teacher concerned disciplined or dismissed. Older children who are Christians or of other faiths which do not accept the practice of homosexuality do not appear to have the right, under current legislation and practice, to opt-out of lessons on this topic but must submit to what is, for all practical purposes, indoctrination.

INCREASED FINANCIAL BURDEN ON THE N.H.S.

19. Same-sex couples cannot have their own children and must therefore resort to IVF treatment or adoption. It appears that the Government is to give free IVF treatment to every same-sex couple who seeks it. The cost of a course of IVF treatment is very high compared to the cost of a natural birth and, given the dearth of babies available for adoption, as the number of same-sex couples grows, the number of requests for IVF treatment will rise disproportionately compared with requests by man-woman couples and single women. Furthermore, recently published research suggests that children born via IVF treatment are more prone to certain chronic conditions, such as asthma, which require long-term medical care. This situation will lead to an increased financial burden and operational pressure on an already over-stretched National Health Service ("NHS").

20. In the context of IVF treatment, given the anonymity of many donors and the expected rise in the number of same-sex couples undergoing IVF treatment, there is a real risk of near relations being donor or donee of eggs or sperm, giving rise to the possibility of genetic defects and inherited diseases becoming more widespread. This would also place an increased burden on the NHS.

21. In future generations, it is not beyond the bounds of statistical probability that the "offspring" descendants of same-sex couples may marry a blood relation because of their ignorance of the identity of the donor of the egg or sperm used in their ancestry.

PROTECTION OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

22. The Bill is not intended to extend the ability to carry out same-sex marriages to the Church of England. The Bill includes, among other things, a number of provisions designed to protect the Church of England, as the Established Church of the realm, from the risk of challenge by same-sex couples who desire to be married in accordance with the rites of the Church of England and to leave the Canon law of the Church of England unaffected by the introduction of same-sex marriage (the so-called Quadruple Lock).

23. The Government has stated its intention to protect religious organisations, including the Church of England, from successful legal challenge before the European Court of Human Rights (the "ECHR") on the basis that the rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights put the protection of religious belief "in this matter" beyond doubt.

24. However, we understand that Coalition for  Marriage, a Christian campaigning group, report they have obtained advice from Mr Aidan O’Neill QC, leading counsel who is an acknowledged expert in the fields of judicial review and human rights, to the effect that the Government could be in breach of the European human rights laws if it allows the Church of England to refuse same-sex weddings.

CONCLUSION

25. For the reasons set out above, we consider that the extension of the definition of marriage to same-sex couples as contemplated by the provisions of the Bill is, first, misconceived, discriminatory and likely to undermine the traditional form of marriage as demonstrably the best and most stable form of family unit in which to raise and nurture children and, secondly, a step too far taking us down the road to destruction of the institution of marriage, which is the bedrock of our society, with the inevitable reconfiguration of the family and consequential social problems.

February 2013

SUMMARY

26. Voice for Justice UK is a Christian campaigning group working to uphold traditional values of faith and morality; of freedom of speech without threat of fear or intimidation; and the freedom to manifest belief. We have particular experience of family and relationship problems, sexual abuse and exploitation, and right to life issues covering both the beginning and end of life.

27. We consider the introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill (the "Bill"), insofar as it seeks to redefine the long-established institution of marriage, to be misconceived, discriminatory and likely to undermine the traditional form of marriage as demonstrably the best and most stable form of family unit in which to raise and nurture children. The Bill’s provisions give rise to the following areas of grave concern:

· Their deleterious effect on the institution of marriage itself and on families

Marriage as "the voluntary union for life, of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others" ("man-woman marriage") reflects the Biblical position and the position of the Church of England. Experience shows that man-woman marriage is the best and most stable way of raising children in a family unit.

Once you open the door to same-sex marriage, logically and intellectually you cannot long resist pressure to extend the benefits of marriage to other relationships, so as to permit polygamy, polyandry and polyamory, or even to requests to lower the age of consent for sexual relations. Any such extension is likely to lead to increased discord in homes and to a breakdown in society.

Equally, the Prime Minister’s test that two people (of the same sex) who can demonstrate "love and commitment" to each other should not be denied the legal status of being married would be satisfied in the case of a father and daughter, or a brother and sister, as well as in the case of parties to plural marriages who claimed such love and commitment.

The proposed legislation prioritises the wishes of a small minority adult class over the needs and best interests of children, who require both care and protection from behaviours and environments that might put them at risk.

We view the purpose of the Bill to be a Trojan Horse presented to our Government by elements of our society who seek to expand sexual freedom as far as possible without regard to the potentially disastrous effects which this will have on our society, our children and public order.

· The creation of two classes of married couples with differing obligations

The Bill creates two classes of married couples with different obligations and incidents to their relationship giving rise to new, and entirely avoidable, inequalities between man-woman couples and same-sex couples.

A person in a man-woman couple will:

a) have a duty to consummate their marriage or face the possibility of annulment proceedings; and

b) risk divorce proceedings if they commit adultery with a person of the opposite sex,

whereas a person in a same-sex couple will not.

The children of same-sex couples are to be denied the benefit of the presumption of legitimacy enjoyed by the children of a man-woman couple.

· The inevitable impact on the freedom of speech of those opposed to same sex marriage, including the impact on the education of our children and on their teachers

The introduction of the marriage of same sex couples will inevitably impinge on the rights of Christians and those of other faiths as well as people of conscience whose beliefs lead them to oppose same-sex marriage.

Given the Biblical position on marriage, it is likely that Christians will increasingly find themselves on the wrong side of the law when they express opposition to, or disapproval of, same-sex couples.

Teachers who are Christians may feel constrained by existing laws to teach children in their charge about the supposed acceptability and normality of same-sex couples when they find the lifestyle and practice of such couples to be in conflict with the Word of God and their Biblical beliefs. This will be a particular problem in non-faith schools, where Christian teachers may be forced to choose between their beliefs and their teaching careers.

· The increased financial burden on the National Health Service ("NHS")

As the number of same-sex couples grows, the number of requests for IVF treatment by such couples will rise disproportionately. Recently published research suggests that children born via IVF treatment are more prone to certain chronic conditions which require long-term medical care. This situation will lead to an increased financial burden and operational pressure on an already over-stretched NHS.

In the context of IVF treatment, given the anonymity of many donors and the expected rise in the number of same-sex couples undergoing IVF treatment, there is a real risk of near relations being donor or donee of eggs or sperm, giving rise to the possibility of genetic defects and inherited diseases becoming more widespread.

· The likelihood of a successful legal challenge to the provisions designed to protect the position of the Church of England

Coalition for Marriage report that they have obtained advice from Mr Aidan O’Neill QC to the effect that the Government could be in breach of the European human rights laws if it allows the Church of England to refuse same-sex weddings.In summary, this Bill is a step on the road to rendering meaningless the institution of marriage, which is the bedrock of our society, and thus destroying it.

Prepared 4th March 2013