Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by Geoffrey R Larcombe (MB 85)

In accordance with the procedure for submissions to the Scrutiny Unit, I submit the following in response to the ‘Have Your Say’ webpage on the Parliament website:

1. Personal details

I am a retired Baptist Church Minister, with experience of marrying many couples over the years. I am still actively involved in preparing couples for marriage and also in marriage counselling.

2. Inconsistencies in the proposed Bill

Although the bill portends to be about equality, and that appears to be an excellent principle, it is nonetheless unequal in its provisions. For example:

Why is there no equal provision made for heterosexual couples to have a civil partnership?

Why is there no equal provision made for married homosexual partners to divorce on the grounds of adultery with another person of the same sex, but only with a person of the opposite sex?

3. Fundamental change in the nature of marriage

It is claimed by the bill’s supporters that marriage has changed over the centuries, but although this is certainly true of its provisions in law, it is clear that the nature of marriage as a life-long union of a man with a woman has remained unchanged over centuries in the majority of cultures around the world. It is disingenuous to claim otherwise. Marriage should not in my view be arrogantly redefined by contemporary Western culture to be a union and status resulting simply from romantic love and commitment. Historically it has meant more than that.

If marriage is redefined in this way, there is no reason in principle why further redefinition cannot occur to allow bigamous marriage or other variations. This important point is often brushed aside by proponents of the bill. Such variations are beginning to be introduced in The Netherlands and Canada and in my view this trend will surely increase.

4. The bill ignores the complementary nature of men and women

Women and men are equal but thankfully they are different, complimenting one another in providing role models for children of womanhood and manhood, which no homosexual marriage can provide.

5. ‘Triple-lock’ protection?

Despite the reassurances the bill promises, I am not convinced that these will be effective in the event of challenge on equality grounds in the ECtHR. In any event, what will be the position of persons like myself as I continue to provide marriage preparation and guidance only to heterosexual couples, using Christian materials? I fear that my position could well become legally untenable.

I am also concerned about the position of Christian school teachers who believe only in heterosexual marriage. Are they, in spite of the reassurances currently being given, likely to be challenged on the grounds of equality legislation and placed in a moral dilemma in relation to their conscientious beliefs? I fear that this will prove to be a legal minefield and that only lawyers will benefit as a result.

6. Affirmation of marriage

Great play has been made by the bill’s supporters, including our Prime Minister, of their claim that the intention of the legislation is to support and strengthen marriage. I do not doubt the genuineness of these claims, which are made in good faith, but experience in countries where homosexual marriage is now practiced shows us the opposite, namely that the number of couples wishing to make marriage vows has markedly declined as, for example, in Spain.

7. Summary

In summary, I submit that the legislation, although well intentioned, has been inadequately thought through, and hurriedly produced without any adequate democratic mandate.

February 2013

Prepared 6th March 2013