Religious Liberty vs. Same-Sex Marriage

Written by: Jonathan McLatchie

Same sex marriage has been a very topical subject in Scotland over recent months, with the launch of a consultation by the Scottish National Party (SNP) — which closed on Friday 9th December — on whether marriage in Scotland should be redefined to effectively legalise gay marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships.

The Scottish government has stated that it was its original position that marriage should be redefined, though Nicola Sturgeon — the Health Secretary — has said that religious organisations should not be forced to perform same-sex weddings should they not want to. We'll see how long that lasts. After all, SNP MSP John Mason — a Christian — sparked a row last year following his support for a parliamentary motion that no religious group should be compelled to approve of or facilitate same-sex unions. According to Nicola Sturgeon, a survey of Scottish Social Attitudes has revealed that over 60% of Scots endorse the proposed change, with 19% dissenting.

The curious thing about this whole controversy is that same sex couples can already enter into a "civil partnership" which effectively offers them all the same legal recognition and rights that marriage does. The only real difference is that the ceremonies are not able to be performed in religious premises. It is also curious that most homosexuals with whom I have spoken concerning this issue have no desire for a religious marriage ceremony. For those reasons, I am inclined to be skeptical that this controversy was ever really about marriage — it's about legitimisation. It's about making a declaration — a statement — that homosexual and heterosexual relationships are equally valid.

For the record, it is my position that there is no biblical warrant or support for homosexual relationships. And while I think that generally Scripture ought not be the dictator of public policy, this case strikes me as different because they are seeking to involve Christian — or otherwise religious — institutions. Christian organisations ought to be free to base their activity on Christian principles. It is thus very relevant what the Christian worldview entails on the matter.

Same-Sex Marriage and The Polygamy Double-Standard

Now, there are various reasons why a revision of the current (traditional) view of marriage, in my opinion, would be overall non-conducive to society's best interests. For one thing, if the definition of marriage is fundamentally malleable, then are we to expect to hear next from those seeking "equal rights" for polygamous marriage (as is already seen in Canada)? How can you grant legitimacy to one and not the other? After all, they use essentially the same arguments. Indeed, The Guardian recently published an interesting article entitled "Polygamy in Canada: A Case of Double Standards", observing:
What the polygamists argued is that this new definition discriminates against them because it continues to insist on monogamy in the same way that the previous definition insisted on both monogamy and heterosexuality. It was a logical argument that was rejected by Bauman who in his judgment gave a spirited defence of the virtues of monogamy as being a fundamental principle of western civilisation.

Bauman said that the preservation of monogamous marriage "represents a pressing and substantial objective for all of the reasons that have seen the ascendance of monogamous marriage as a norm in the west," and that "the law seeks to advance the institution of monogamous marriage, a fundamental value in western society from the earliest of times." He also launched an all-out attack on the concept of polygamy, which he said "has been condemned throughout history because of the harms consistently associated with its practice". "There is no such thing as so-called 'good polygamy'," he added.
Now, I agree with Bauman in his defence of the importance of monogamous marriage to society. But I find it difficult to see the logic of defending monogamous marriage as the historic norm in the west when the laws of Canada have already departed from the principle that it is heterosexual, monogamous marriage that is essential to social stability. Put bluntly, if heterosexuality is no longer legally, morally or socially relevant to marriage, why should monogamy continue to be so important?"

Same-Sex Marriage and Legitimacy

Furthermore, schools will be expected to promote and endorse same sex marriage as just as legitimate as heterosexual marriage. As Frank Turek has pointed out, in his book Correct, not Politically Correct: How Same Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone, "The law is a great teacher — many people think that whatever is legal is moral and, therefore, should be accepted. We only need to look at two of the most divisive issues in the history of our country — slavery and abortion — to see the power of the law to influence attitudes and behavior." As Frank Turek discusses here, there is a correlation between legalisation of same-sex-marriage and the number of children born outside of wedlock. He writes,
We can see the connection between same-sex marriage and illegitimacy in Scandinavian countries. Norway, for example, has had de-facto same-sex marriage since the early nineties. In Nordland, the most liberal county of Norway, where they fly "gay" rainbow flags over their churches, out-of-wedlock births have soared—more than 80 percent of women giving birth for the first time, and nearly 70 percent of all children, are born out of wedlock! Across all of Norway, illegitimacy rose from 39 percent to 50 percent in the first decade of same-sex marriage.

Anthropologist Stanley Kurtz writes, "When we look at Nordland and Nord-Troendelag — the Vermont and Massachusetts of Norway — we are peering as far as we can into the future of marriage in a world where gay marriage is almost totally accepted. What we see is a place where marriage itself has almost totally disappeared." He asserts that "Scandinavian gay marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable."
Already, Stonewall's "Education for All" education pack for teachers promotes the reading of pro-homosexual story books in class and acting out as plays, and even contains explicit recommendations that students should be taught to be resilient to the views and values of their parents.

Men and women are not interchangeable. I believe that each plays an important role in the upbringing and raising of a child. In his book, Frank Turek quotes David Blankenhorn's The Future of Marriage, in which he writes, "Across history and cultures...marriage's single most fundamental idea is that every child needs a mother and a father. Changing marriage to accommodate same-sex couples would nullify this principle in culture and in law." Another important point is that same-sex parents are liable to confuse their child's sexual/gender identity. As Dr. Michael Brown notes here, it is already official school policy in San Francisco that a boy who identifies as transgender can turn up to school wearing a girl's dress and utilise the girls' bathroom and locker room. This is not an isolated incident, and situations like this are becoming increasingly more common. Indeed, in 2010, the Maine Human Rights Commission proposed allowing "transgender" boys to utilise the female restrooms in all Maine schools. Furthermore, owing to pressure from the "gay rights" lobby, "mother" and "father" on passport forms are being replaced with "parent 1" and "parent 2." Macy's department store recently fired an employee who prevented a cross-dressing man from entering the female dressing room while there were women in there trying on clothes. Sadly, those incidents are only the peak of the ice berg.

Same-Sex Marriage: Other Considerations

Religious liberty is also, it would seem, a target. Take, for example, the relatively recent case of Mr. & Mrs. Bull. They were fined £3,600 for declining to rent a double room to a gay couple, despite the fact that it had been against their long-term policy statement to allow unmarried couples to share a room.

An organisation called "Scotland for Marriage" recently emerged in an effort to combat the proposed redefinition of marriage in Scotland.

An article entitled "Comparing the Lifestyles of Homosexual Couples to Married Couples", by Dr. Timothy J. Dailey, looks at various published studies and draws several startling conclusions, including that:
- Heterosexual marriages generally last longer as compared to homosexual ones

- Partners involved in heterosexual relationships are more likely to remain faithful than partners involved in homosexual ones;

- Where gay marriage or civil partnership is legal, the overwhelming majority of homosexuals do not register their union;

- Individuals involved homosexual relationships are at a much higher risk of contracting disease or other health problems than are heterosexual relationships;

- Intimate partner violence is more frequent in homosexual relationships than in heterosexual ones.
There is a common misperception that opposing the proposed redefinition of marriage is tantamount to an endorsement of discrimination against homosexual people. This is not the case. There is a fundamental difference between discrimination against persons and disrimination against behaviour. All laws discriminate against behaviour when that activity is deemed to be destructive to ones-self or to others.

It will be interesting to see how things develop over the coming months, in both Europe and America. It may well be that the days of free speech on this matter are numbered. Speak out while you still can.

Image Credit: Scottish government; "Set the date for first Same Sex Marriages"; Creative Commons

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Published on 1-7-12