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← Religious groups, marriage and discrimination law

Religious groups, marriage and discrimination law - Comments

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 1 by Steven Mading

Why on earth is it the government's job to decide a church that wants to isn't allowed to conduct a ceremony of their choosing? Telling a church it's not allowed to hold a gay wedding ceremony makes as much sense as telling a church it's not allowed to pick the topic of next week's sermon. After all, it's not the CEREMONY that's required for the legal status of civil partnership or full marriage. The legal question of whether or not you can have gay marriage has no connection whatsoever to whether or not a church can carry out the legally meaningless pomp ceremony that goes along with it. In fact, here in the 'states even though gay marriage is illegal there's still churches that carry out the ceremonial trivial trappings of gay marriage for the sake of public display even though the piece of paper enforcing the status can't be granted. It's a way of saying, "the government disagrees with us but our church will treat you like you're married even if the law won't."

Why on earth does the government control church doctrine? I can maybe understand why if it's the church-state merger known as Anglicanism - but the article claimed the government was telling ALL churches they could not carry out the ceremony (which presumably means it includes other churches besides the Anglican one.)

Is this really true or is the article full of crap about this?

Thu, 17 Jun 2010 15:39:10 UTC | #481147

2V2's Avatar Comment 2 by 2V2

Thu, 17 Jun 2010 16:16:29 UTC | #481161

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 3 by Cartomancer

The thing about UK marriage is that, historically, civil marriages by state registrars are a late introduction. Unlike the US or France we do not have an absolute separation of church and state. Originally we only had church of england marriages, to which quaker and jewish marriages were added by the Marriage Act of 1753, and then roman catholic and nonconformist protestant marriages by the Marriage Act of 1836, which also created secular Civil Marriages for the first time.

As such, not all religious marriage ceremonies are legally meaningless in the UK. Those listed above actually count, and do not require a separate secular civil ceremony also, whereas other ceremonies do need to be accompanied by a proper civil registration unless the celebrant is also a registered civil marriage celebrant. Furthermore, civil marriages cannot legally be held in religious premises - and since it is the civil marriage that the civil partnership is a parody of, nor can they.

I am not sure this really matters, however. Even if all religious marriage ceremonies WERE legally meaningless, and essentially had the same legal standing as other forms of entertainment, should we permit the private clubs which do them to discriminate contrary to the laws of the land? If a private members' club wanted to deny access to its facilities to black people or gay people or women, would it be allowed to? Do even private clubs have the right to discriminate like this in our country? I don't know the answer to that, but I am fairly certain I do not think they should be allowed.

Updated: Thu, 17 Jun 2010 16:58:56 UTC | #481169

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 4 by bendigeidfran

Comment 3 by Cartomancer

Why shouldn't private members' clubs be allowed to discriminate?

Thu, 17 Jun 2010 17:16:44 UTC | #481176

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 5 by Bonzai


Not if they are getting tax exemptions, getting state fundings in their schools and promoting themselves as the guardian of morality.

Religion is not a private member club, I only wish it is.

Thu, 17 Jun 2010 17:31:58 UTC | #481181

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 6 by bendigeidfran

Comment 5 by Bonzai

I think I've strayed off topic. I just meant I wouldn't want to have to have Buster Keaton bores in my chapter of the Sons of the desert. Gay/black/whatever Laurel & Hardy fans welcome. Sod equal time to teach the controversy. L & H are gods.

Thu, 17 Jun 2010 18:32:22 UTC | #481198

Corylus's Avatar Comment 7 by Corylus

It is so nice to see a discussion topic that is clear, structured, spell-checked and free from grammatical errors... one which also includes a link for viewing and evidence of research undertaken before posting.

Thu, 17 Jun 2010 20:24:39 UTC | #481217

katt33's Avatar Comment 8 by katt33

If I were a Priest or institution following the sacred text as the main rock of my work, etc... and that sacred text said that homosexuality is not acceptable to the creator of all things, there is no way anyone can or should expect me to marry a gay couple. It would not be feasible or acceptable to my work or very core identity as a Priest, Imam etc... Having said that, if an institution feels it is not willing to afford those rights according to the law, then it should not be getting any government funding. Those wishing to be married, would need to seek out a more progressive faith, such as Metaphysical or such.

Thu, 17 Jun 2010 20:32:52 UTC | #481222

cheesedoff17's Avatar Comment 9 by cheesedoff17

Why don't they just go to a registry office for doG's sake? You've got to be retro to get married at all these days and as for stupid Church ceremonies they really are old hat.

Thu, 17 Jun 2010 21:41:40 UTC | #481240

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 10 by robotaholic

"arbitrarily defined private hobby groups" was awesome...<3

Fri, 18 Jun 2010 01:58:37 UTC | #481278

CarolineMary's Avatar Comment 11 by CarolineMary

Has anyone here read the civil partnership legislation? It's pretty much a c&p from the marriage act - with a few names changed.

I support the idea of marriage equality, but I must admit that the idea of hearing a woman refer to "my wife" or a guy to "my husband" just sounds weird.

That's my problem though. Just a hangover of my upbringing and something I would get used to. Give it a year or two after making it law and I bet most people wouldn't think it at all odd.

Fri, 18 Jun 2010 14:39:00 UTC | #481414

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 12 by Cartomancer

I guess I should not be surprised that the issue of Civil Partnerships versus marriage per se has attracted comment, rather than solely the issue of whether religious institutions should be allowed to discriminate in the provision of services. My framing of the issue kind of made that an inevitability. Still, the former issue is also of relevance to the mission of, since we only have Civil Partnerships in the first place as a sop to the religious lobby in parliament and the undue influences they represent.

I am aware that Civil Partnerships are, in practical terms, pretty much exactly the same as marriages. They confer the same rights and responsibilities. The only practical differences are in terms of universal recognition - pretty much everywhere in the world recognises and honours British marriage contracts already, but each individual country with which we have dealings has to pass its own specific legislation in order to recognise British Civil Partnerships on the same terms. Were same-sex couples included in full British Marriage - using exactly the same laws, nomenclature and instruments as opposite-sex couples - the situation would be reversed. In that case individual countries would have to pass specific legislation in order NOT to recognise British same-sex marriages. Admittedly those countries such as Iran and Uganda, which are run by zealous and overtly homophobic regimes, would no doubt do so and would not fear causing a diplomatic incident over doing so. But the vast majority of other countries would not.

As it currently stands Britain itself is the one that makes laws of this kind. A same-sex couple married abroad, in a more enlightened country which does have full marriage, is, upon arrival in the UK, officially demoted from being married to being Civilly Partnered while on British soil. I find this incredibly patronising indeed.

The issue I and many other people have is not with the substantive rights and privileges afforded by Civil Partnerships - I will admit that they are a massive improvement over the previous system, i.e. nothing at all. What I object to is the blatant and patronising apartheid of having a "separate but equal" institution called by a different and much less culturally positive name. If it gives all the same rights and responsibilities as marriage, why call it something else, save to make a deliberate and calculated insult to the group receiving it? How is this any different from insisting that black people and white people drink from separate water fountains in the US at the turn of the last century?

"Marriage" is the word our culture has used for its most vaunted, hallowed and respected form of relationship bond for centuries. It is a word packed with positive connotations - redolent of love, committment, compassion, mutual devotion and solemnity. "Civil Partnership", on the other hand, is anaemic, bureaucratic and toothless. It is the same kind of phrase as "small business loan" or "dog license". We talk about "business partners" or "tennis partners", and would find it very odd indeed to talk of a "business marriage" or "tennis spouses". Why? Because everyone acknowledges that the words "marriage" and "spouse" are reserved in our language for bonds much more profound and special than mere "partnership". Adding "civil" on the front doesn't help either. We have civil servants, the civil aviation authority, civil law, civil engineering and the civil list. Does the "civil" on the front of any of those mark them out as somehow more profound and special than other servants, aviation authorities, laws, engineers or lists?

Maintaining the distinction between marriages and Civil Partnerships does nothing less than deny same-sex couples the use of prestigious language in an official context. Would anyone be okay with calling same-sex marriages "Filthy Queer Sham Family Contracts" in the official documentation, if they still provided all the same rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex marriages did? Obviously the disparity isn't quite that severe, but the principle is exactly the same.

Most gay people in Civil Partnerships at the moment recognise this implicitly, and, even though the law calls them something else, they refer to each other as husbands or wives, and to their unions as marriages or weddings. If the two sets of nomenclature were of entirely equivalent prestige, surely we would find at least some straight people who wanted to call their husbands or wives "civil partners" too? But we do not.

Perhaps it does not matter, and in the fullness of time we will reach a place where the letter of the law seems so archaic and old-fashioned and insulting that there will be no need to campaign for its alteration. This is what consciousness-raising is all about though - bringing about the dawn of that culture earlier than we might expect it to occur on its own.

Fri, 18 Jun 2010 15:23:54 UTC | #481426

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 13 by bendigeidfran

Comment 12 by Cartomancer

It might be already going the other way - 'partner' seems to be the word on the up. Always used to get on my tits being introduced as a mere partner like it was a business deal. Lost all my shares in a hostile takeover bid.

Fri, 18 Jun 2010 15:43:08 UTC | #481431

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 14 by Jos Gibbons

I'd recommend "spouse" (except I don't like the way the word sounds).

Fri, 18 Jun 2010 17:39:56 UTC | #481443

katt33's Avatar Comment 15 by katt33

Marriage, and a formal legal commitment of some kind with legal protection for the children is important. There will be those who disagree, but without long term stable relationships for kids, it creates damage. As a child of divorce, not having that stable family environment really hurt in many ways, so I believe it is not retro, but for the kids sake if any come, or one plans for any, a formal legal union is important. Personally, I wish people stop seeing unions and disposable as soon as boredom or problem suddenly come up and stick with partners for the long haul.

Fri, 18 Jun 2010 20:37:00 UTC | #481485

Styrer's Avatar Comment 16 by Styrer

No, I think it is perfectly clear that the disgusting and contemptible idea of discrimination by religious institutions in the provision of services is the main concern of your piece.

Those who concentrated in their comments on the civil partnership/marriage issue were presumably otherwise and enthusiastically distracted from the pretty precise language you used to make your point in a very lucid and well-argued article.

Better luck next time in making lucid prose accessible to the less than lucid.


Updated: Sat, 19 Jun 2010 04:36:14 UTC | #481546