Britain is coming under increasing pressure to legalise same-sex marriage and Prime Minister David Cameron is determined to drive it through.
A consultation on same-sex marriage closed in Scotland in December 2011 and a new consultation is being launched next month in Westminster to consider how (not if!) legalisation should proceed in England and Wales.
Many people are asking ‘Why not?’
Here are ten reasons not to legalise same-sex marriage.
1. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman
Throughout history in virtually all cultures and faiths throughout the world, marriage has been held to be the union of one man and one woman. Marriage existed thousands of years before our nation began and has been recognised in our laws as the ‘voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others for life’ (Hyde v Hyde 1866). The UN Declaration of Human Rights (article 16) recognises that the family, headed by a man and a woman, ‘is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State’. It is not up to governments to redefine marriage – but simply to recognise it for what it is, and to promote and protect it as a unique institution.
2.Same sex couples already have civil partnerships
All the legal rights of marriage are already available to same sex couples through civil partnerships so there is no need to redefine marriage to include them. The President of the Family Division has even described civil partnerships as conferring ‘the benefits of marriage in all but name’. Such a move would also inevitably lead to calls to open civil partnerships to opposite sex couples on the basis of ‘equality’. But marriage and civil partnerships have been designed for two very different types of relationship and should be kept distinct. It is not and should not be ‘one size fits all’.
3.Redefining marriage without consultation is undemocratic
None of the political leaders who are supporting the legalisation of same sex marriage announced it as a priority in their election manifestos. There is already a huge amount of opposition to the move and pressing ahead with legalisation will lead to considerable dissension and division. Legalising same sex marriage to appease a small minority is wrong and it should not be foisted on the British people without proper consultation about whether rather than how it should be done.
4.Equality does not mean uniformity
In a free democratic society we accept that many human activities are not open to everybody. Not everyone is allowed to drink alcohol, drive a car, buy property, cast a vote, own a firearm, attend university, visit Buckingham Palace or participate in a 100m women’s Olympic event. This does not mean that those who are not eligible for these activities are in any way denigrated or demeaned, but just that there are eligibility criteria. Same sex couples do not fulfil the eligibility criteria for marriage, which should be reserved for the voluntary union of one man and one woman for life.
5.Protecting traditional marriage safeguards children and society
Stable marriages and families headed by a mother and a father are the bedrock of society and the state has a duty to protect the uniqueness of these key institutions. Though death and divorce may prevent it, children do best when raised by a married mother and father. Whilst single parents or same sex couples may do a good job in raising children, social policy has to be concerned with what is normally the case, and children have a right if at all possible to have a married mother and a father involved in their upbringing. In general the evidence shows that marriage provides a stability for adults and children which is hard to beat in terms of outcomes. There is considerable evidence to show that marriage leads to better family relationships, less economic dependence, better physical health and longevity, improved mental health and emotional well-being and reduced crime and domestic violence. By contrast sexual freedom and relationship breakdown cost Britain £100 billion annually and other models of the family have not been shown to have the same stability as traditional marriage. Same sex marriage, in comparison with marriage, is an unproven and experimental social model.
6.Marriage is a unique biologically complementary relationship
Marriage is the only legal union which can naturally lead to children. It takes both a man and a woman to produce a baby. The fact that there is a natural link between sexual intimacy and procreation is what makes marriage distinctive and different. Redefining marriage will undermine this distinctness and difference and risks normalising the technological instrumentalisation of reproduction and increasing the number of families where there is confusion of biological, social and family identity.
7.Redefining marriage will be complex and expensive
Redefining marriage could cost billions and involve amending hundreds of pieces of government legislation. The word ‘marriage’ appears 3,258 times in UK legislation, which underlines the central role the institution plays in national law. Introducing same sex marriage is a legal can of worms which cannot be achieved without changing the common and legal definition of the word marriage and other words which define it(eg. ‘husband and wife’, ‘consummation’ and ‘adultery’). These changes will inevitably change the definition and nature of marriage for opposite sex couples by trying to accommodate these two very different kinds of relationship under one legal umbrella. According to an assessment done for gay rights group Stonewall by a former civil servant, the cost of implementing one favoured option would be around £5 billion. This figure relates to a theoretical increase in straight couples taking up the opportunity of civil partnerships, with knock-on implications to their entitlement to pension and tax benefits. This is simply not a priority for government at a time of economic recession as it will confer no new rights.
8.Schools will be forced to teach about the new definition of marriage
Under existing education law schools will be required to teach children that marriage can be between a man and a woman, between two men or between two women. This will confuse children whose parents may wish to teach them according to their own values and worldview. Those parents who object could be undermined in their children’s eyes, stigmatised as homophobics and bigots and prevented from full involvement in schools.
9.Redefining marriage will not stop with same sex marriage
In Mexico same sex marriage was followed by two year fixed term marriage. In Canada legalising same sex marriage has led to supporters of polygamy demanding in the courts for their unions to be recognised. If the legal definition is changed to accommodate same sex couples other minority groups with a vested interest (eg. Muslims, Mormons, Bisexuals and Polyamorists) will have a much stronger case to argue for the legalisation of polygamy and group marriages. The best defence against this is to keep the legal definition of marriage unique and distinct – ‘one man, one woman, for life’.
10.Redefining marriage will lead to faith-based discrimination
We have already seen a rising tide of discrimination against people who support traditional marriage as a result of the legalisation of civil partnerships coupled with new equality legislation.. If same sex marriage is legalised faith-based employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex ‘spouses’. They would also face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action – no matter how modest – against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil ‘marriage’ with a member of the same sex. Faith-based adoption and fostering services that place children exclusively with married couples would be required by law to place children with persons of the same sex who are civilly ‘married’. Marriage counsellors from faith backgrounds would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counselling in support of same-sex ‘married’ relationships. All these moves would place faith groups in the invidious position of being forced to act against their consciences or face marginalisation, exclusion and litigation and would further fuel social fragmentation, sectarianism, antagonism and civil unrest.