The Coalition government, apparently with the personal support of the Prime Minister, wants to introduce a bill to allow same-sex marriage. I think it is wrong.
There. I’ve said it. And because any comment on homosexuality, at least from the right-hand-side of the house, attracts a storm of vituperation from the monstrous regiment of the politically-correct, I’d better get my rebuttal in first.
I don’t approach this as a question of morality. Indeed I take a broadly libertarian approach. I am content, subject to the usual caveats on consenting adults, for people to do pretty much as they please, though in some cases I’d be grateful if they could avoid doing it in the street and frightening the horses.
Of course I know that some people find the idea of homosexual behaviour repugnant. Maybe some homosexuals find the idea of heterosexual behaviour repugnant. And as a libertarian, I support the right of people to hold those opinions, just as I support the right of individuals to behave as they choose — though it seems that in these politically-correct times, it is no longer acceptable to voice such views. It is worth adding that these opinions may be intrinsic, and not a matter of choice. I did not (for example) choose to like ice-cream and to dislike foie gras. It’s just the way I feel.
But how we feel about one behaviour or another is beside the point. My opposition to “gay marriage” is based not on the moral status or æsthetic appeal of homosexuality, but on quite different considerations.
First, a pedantic point. While legislators may occasionally need to define some technical term in the context of a piece of legislation, it is not the business of government to legislate to change the meaning of a common and well-established word, and least of all a word that describes such a key institution in society. The government doesn’t own the English language: the people do.
Second, yes, marriage is a right, but marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. Everyone should have the right to marry, and no one seeks to deny that right to anyone else. And if they choose for personal reasons not to marry, that’s up to them. The question is whether a vocal lobby group can change the meaning of the word to suit an entirely different relationship. Everyone should have the right to procreate, but that doesn’t mean that a man can or should get pregnant. There are certain things that people can and cannot do because of their gender. It’s a limit placed on us by nature and biology, not by law.
Thirdly (and it cannot be stressed too often) marriage is a relationship between three parties: a woman, a man and society. Society down the ages has recognised marriage, and offered married couples recognition, respect and often financial benefits in terms of taxation and inheritance, because society recognises the importance of the institution. The expectation is that marriage will generally lead to procreation and children, and that the resultant nuclear family will promote stability in society, replenish the population, and provide the ideal circumstances in which children can be raised and socialised.
A same-sex partnership is a relationship between two parties, not three, and there is no reason why society should treat it in the same way as marriage, because it does not offer the same broad benefits to society as a whole. It is an entirely private matter between two individuals. It is their own affair, and there is no reason why it should be of interest or concern to anyone else.
Finally (and a key point): any attempt to broaden the definition of marriage to include other relationships can only be seen as a deliberate device to dilute, demean and diminish the institution of marriage as it is generally understood. If marriage becomes broader, it becomes shallower, and the vital importance of marriage in our society will be further eroded.
Various Conservative politicians, not least Iain Duncan Smith, have argued passionately that marriage and the family are the bedrock on which our society is built, that children raised in a conventional family do better on a host of measures than those raised elsewhere, and that many of the problems our society faces are created or exacerbated by the widespread break-down of marriage as an institution. I believe that IDS is right, and it is clear that this proposal to recognise “same-sex marriage” further undermines this vital institution, and is a move in precisely the wrong direction.
I shall have to add this Coalition initiative to the long and growing list of government policies which I am unable to support.