Marriage (Same Sex Couples)

Memorandum submitted by Peter Heywood (MB 93)

1  Basis for Submission

This submission is based on the understanding that it would be desirable in the Same-Sex Marriage Bill to achieve the following... acknowledge and honour the love that homosexual people have for each other, so that they can get married

...while at the same time acknowledging and honouring the traditional understanding of marriage and family which is held by  many people in the country.

In order to achieve this, here is a proposal for how the bill could be modified.

2  Starting Points

For the proponents of traditional marriage, the key starting point is that heterosexual marriage and homosexual marriage are different.  This is evident in terms of biology, and in terms of the ability of heterosexual couples to produce children.

For the proponents of homosexual marriage, the key starting point is that homosexuals should be accorded the same rights as heterosexuals, and that should include the right to marry.

3  Proposal - summary

Based on these two starting points, the proposal is to create two types of marriage, with the ability of Celebrants and Buildings to be registered for either or both types of marriage.

Two types of marriage
The creation by law of two types of Marriage – to be called...

· Traditional Marriage or Heterosexual Marriage (but NOT Religious Marriage)

· Gay Marriage  

These two types of marriage would need to be separately defined in terms of gender, and include the different aspects of consummation (or lack of it) in terms of the definition (or not) of adultery.

The Celebrants of marriage (whether these people are from a religious or secular background) would then register as a celebrant for one or both of these types of marriage.

Buildings would be separately registered by the people in charge of them, for one or both types of marriage.

4  Benefits

These arrangements would have the following benefits...

· It would provide the legal basis for homosexual couples to get married.

· It would recognise in law that the two types of marriage are inevitably and structurally different from each other.

· It would allow the issue of the inevitable different aspects of adultery to be resolved.

· It would provide a legitimate structure for people to hold different opinions, which is what they do at the moment, without marginalising people on one side of the debate.

· It would create a situation where the legitimate choice being offered to Celebrants would also be available to everyone else, allowing people to hold different opinions without legal or social or economic penalties.

· It would allow people to be not a supporter of Gay Marriage, without being seen as anti-gay.

· It would allow different church leaders to make their personal choice on which type(s) of marriage they will perform.

· It would need to allow an individual church minister to register honourably for Traditional Marriage only, without being seen as anti-gay, but still to be welcomed for example as a chaplain in a hospital.

· It would provide Celebrants with a logical and legal framework (and therefore legal protection) if they decide to only register for taking one sort of marriage.

· It would help to prevent any arguments over which buildings can be used for marriages, as the decisions will be taken locally, and within the context of law, by the people responsible for them.

· By allowing Celebrants to make a choice, it would legitimately allow other people to be against gay marriage (as they might be against anything else in society) without being against gay people (which is discrimination).

· It would remove the presently proposed anomalies in terms of whether churches should be prevented from, or eventually forced to (as is now happening in other countries) hold gay marriage ceremonies.

· It would protect public sector workers, who would be allowed to have an opinion about the two types of marriage, in the same way as they have opinions about many things, without being considered offensive.

· By not using the phrase Religious Marriage, it would reduce (rather than reinforce) the (generally) false impression that the church is anti-gay.

· It would acknowledge that the real differences between marriage are between Heterosexual and Homosexual Marriage, without the confusion of calling them Civil and Religious Marriage, which only sets the church and state in opposition to each other, just by the words being used.

March 2013

Prepared 6th March 2013