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Should Marriage be Redefined to Include Same-Sex Couples?

According to Richard Waghorne, an openly gay journalist for the Irish Daily Mail, no, it should not. Below is what he had to say in his column.

I am not a big believer in people making arguments on the back of who or what they happen to be. When I last made the case in these pages against gay marriage, about a year ago, I didn’t feel the need to mention that I am gay myself. Arguments stand on their own two feet, or don’t, but not on the strength of who happens to be making them. Nor, I don’t mind adding, did I particularly want to drag my own life into what is often a bad-tempered debate. But I am concerned enough about the way things are going to make an exception.

Explaining that you oppose gay marriage as a gay man tends to get a baffled response at first. This is understandable given how quickly the debate on gay marriage can collapse into allegations of homophobia. The message, explicit or implicit, is often that being anti-gay marriage means being in some way anti-gay.

I have watched with growing irritation as principled opponents of gay marriage have put up with a stream of abuse for explaining their position. Public figures who try to do so routinely have to contend with the charge that they are bigoted or homophobic. When Fine Gael’s Lucinda Creighton confirmed her opposition to same-sex marriage during the general election campaign, there were calls for Enda Kenny to sack her. David Quinn of the pro-marriage Iona Institute is regularly abused in sometimes extraordinary terms for making similar arguments. They’re not the only ones. The reflex response from many gay marriage advocates is to paint all dissent as prejudice, as if the only reason for defending marriage as it has existed to date is some variety of bigotry or psychological imbalance.

Actually, gay people should defend the traditional understanding of marriage as strongly as everyone else. Given that it is being undermined in the name of gay people, with consequences for future generations, it is all the more important that gay people who are opposed to gay marriage speak up.

This week sees the first civil partnerships between same-sex couples becoming official under legislation passed last year. That provides gay couples with nearly all necessary legal provisions. Many of us know people who are benefitting from this, or may well in the future. To borrow a cliché, this would be a good time to declare victory and go home.

Instead, the demand now is for gay marriage on top of this, which the Programme for Government commits to exploring. This is not only unnecessary, but verges on selfishness.

The support and status that marriage entails is not a societal bonus for falling in love and agreeing to make a relationship lasting. That is not, of course, to say that love and romance are not an important part of marriage. But they are not the reason it has special status. If romance were the reason for supporting marriage, there would be no grounds for differentiating which relationships should be included and which should not. But that is not and never has been the nature of marriage.

Marriage is vital as a framework within which children can be brought up by a man and woman. Not all marriages, of course, involve child-raising. And there are also, for that matter, same-sex couples already raising children. But the reality is that marriages tend towards child-raising and same-sex partnerships do not.

I am conscious of this when considering my own circle of friends, quite a few of whom have recently married or will soon do so in the future. Many, if not most or all of them, will raise children. If, however, I or gay friends form civil partnerships, those are much more unlikely to involve raising children. So the question that matters is this: Why should a gay relationship be treated the same way as a marriage, despite this fundamental difference?

A wealth of research demonstrates the marriage of a man and a woman provides children with the best life outcomes, that children raised in marriages that stay together do best across a whole range of measures. This is certainly not to cast aspersions on other families, but it does underscore the importance of marriage as an institution.

This is why the demand for gay marriage goes doubly wrong. It is not a demand for marriage to be extended to gay people – it is a demand for marriage to be redefined. The understanding of marriage as an institution that exists and is supported for the sake of strong families changes to an understanding of marriage as merely the end-point of romance. If gay couples are considered equally eligible for marriage, even though gay relationships do not tend towards child-raising and cannot by definition give a child a mother and a father, the crucial understanding of what marriage is actually mainly for has been discarded.

What that amounts to is the kind of marriage that puts adults before children. That, in my opinion, is ultimately selfish, and far too high a price to pay simply for the token gesture of treating opposite-sex relationships and same-sex relationships identically. And it is a token gesture. Isn’t it common sense, after all, to treat different situations differently? To put it personally, I do not feel in the least bit discriminated against by the fact that I cannot marry someone of the same-sex. I understand and accept that there are good reasons for this.

Although gay people and gay relationships have been rapidly becoming more visible, I would not be surprised if the case for gay marriage actually weakens in the future. Much of the support for gay marriage that exists today is instinctive, stemming from the fact that people do not want to be thought of as anti-gay. But that impulse itself only exists because we are still living in the shadow of the recent past. In the already foreseeable future, anti-gay attitudes as such will be all but unthinkable, in the way that actual homophobia already has a scarcely-threatening, almost antique quality to it.

Surely it’s time to have a proper conversation about gay marriage, a conversation where people are no longer made to feel that if they do not offer knee-jerk support to it, they will be branded anti-gay. Only then will the essence and the real reason for supporting traditional marriage be allowed to come to the fore again. The best interests of the children of the nation must always come first.

Be sure to keep a close eye out for future work by Richard.

In the Pipeline…


All being well, we will be conducting an interview with Professor Sue Golding from the University of Greenwich tomorrow or Tuesday to get an insight into how same-sex marriages are approached (and how they’re generally received by the public) in the UK and the US. Sue is originally from New York but has lived in London since 1997 so we’re hopeful that we can tap into her vast knowledge and experience on the subject.

We also hope to complete some other interviews with academics as well as gathering a general consensus from the people of London on the issue of same-sex marriages. Live in South-east London? You might see us around some time.

We ambitiously contacted Peter Tatchell to see whether we could interview him, but, unfortunately (and perhaps as to be expected), we have not heard back yet. Let’s hope he’ll be getting back to us soon!

Stay tuned for some pictures and ‘behind the scenes’ footage of us conducting the interviews. They’ll be appearing on the site soon.

Until next time…

Changes in UK law will see same-sex couples given the right have their civil ceremonies in religious buildings.

The change only requires the law to be altered to ensure that it complies with section 202 of the Equality Act and churches cannot be forced to comply.

Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell spoke of his delight at the change.

“Allowing civil partnership ceremonies to have a religious content and to be held in places of worship is a significant advance for gay and religious freedom,” he said.

“It was petty and authoritarian to ban faith organisations like the Quakers from holding civil partnership ceremonies, when they clearly expressed a wish to do so.

“The old restrictions forced religious bodies to discriminate against same-sex couples, even when they didn’t want to.”

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Church of England Suspend Shamed Bishop

Peter Broadbent, the bishop who branded Prince William and fiancée Kate Middleton “shallow celebrities”, has been suspended by the Church of England. Broadbent also went on to suggest that the marriage would last just seven years.

The bishop posted the comments on his Facebook page which were subsequently picked up by the press.

The self-professed republican wrote, “I don’t care about the Royals,” before adding that there was “more broken marriages and philanderers among these people than not.”

“They cost us an arm and a leg. As with most shallow celebrities they will be set up to fail by the gutter press … I give the marriage seven years.”

No royal was safe from Broadbent’s attack and he ended the ill-fated rant by referring to Prince William’s parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, as “Big Ears and the Porcelain Doll.”

Broadbent has apologised for the comments.

01/11/2010 – Marriage Stories in the Press

A woman makes her support of her marriage, and...

Image via Wikipedia

This is an article I stumbled across on and it is very relevant to us a group. The headline is ‘Lesbians go for first gay marriage’. As you can see by the title, it is relevant to us because of our upcoming documentary but also because it could see a change in law that allows homosexual couples to marry and heterosexual couples to enter a civil partnership. These are some of the issues we aim to tackle in our documentary. Another reason it is of importance to us is because the case in question involves a couple who are attempting to apply for a marriage license at Greenwich registry office. Here we have a relevant news story right on our doorstep.

We will keep you posted on any developments on this story.


Film production will start from the second week of November:

1.  From 10th November until 14th December we are aiming to film all the ‘Vox Pops’, in various locations, so we can get a wide range of opinions a view points.

  • We will stick to the popular areas within central London, such as Oxford Circus, Waterloo, Piccadilly Circus, etc. as they will have tourists from various countries, therefore having different views on marriage and its traditions.
  • We will then also go to such locations like Edgware Road, Brick Lane, Brixton and a few others as they are centrally populated by a certain Ethnic group.

2.  Over the Christmas break, we will get in touch with our contacts, interview them and collate their wedding videos and photos to add to our documentary.

3.  We aim to get all the editing done before Easter break, so that we only have minor finishing touches left when we return.

28/10/2010 – Marriage Stories in the Press

The pick of today’s stories about marriage in the media comes from The Guardian. Below is the article, written by Helen Pidd:

Maldives hotel apologises over marriage blessing abuse
Unwitting couple branded swine and infidels at ceremony to renew wedding vows.

“The golden sands and turquoise seas of the Maldives are a favourite location for couples looking to affirm their love in a location more exotic than the local register office.

But an important lesson can be gleaned from one unfortunate pair who renewed their vows on a Maldivian beach: make sure you know exactly what you’re saying “I do” to.

The Maldivian foreign minister issued a grovelling public apology today to a Swiss couple who thought they were being blessed at an idyllic beach ceremony but were in fact being referred to as “swine” and “infidels” in the local tongue.

Police are investigating after a staff member at the Vilu Reef resort substituted marriage renewal vows with a stream of extreme sexual and religious slurs in the local Dhivehi language.

The public relations disaster unfolded after someone uploaded a video of the ceremony on YouTube, threatening the Muslim-majority country’s reputation as one of the world’s most exclusive tourist destinations.

“You are swine,” the unwitting couple were told. “The children that you bear from this marriage will all be bastard swine. Your marriage is not a valid one. You are not the kind of people who can have a valid marriage. One of you is an infidel. The other, too, is an infidel and, we have reason to believe, an atheist, who does not even believe in an infidel religion.”

After the video went viral, the Maldives government went into crisis management overdrive to protect its lucrative tourism industry.

“The Maldives is a world-class tourist destination famed for its warm welcome and excellent customer service. Episodes such as that captured on video have no place in our tourism industry or in our society more broadly, and are alien to our cultural and religious values,” said the foreign minister, Ahmed Shaheed.

He said he had instructed the Maldives diplomatic service to apologise to the Swiss couple face-to-face and offer them compensation. Those “guilty of wrongdoing” will be “brought to justice”, he vowed, adding that he would be seeking assurances from the Maldives tourism industry that the incident was a one-off.

“If we do not receive such reassurance, we reserve the right to take all remedial steps necessary, legislative or otherwise, to ensure that episodes such as that which occurred in Vilu Reef resort never happen again and do not tarnish the positive image of the country built up over so many years,” he said.

Punishments can be brutal in the island nation. Last year Amnesty International claimed that at least 180 people faced being flogged in the Maldives as a penalty for extramarital sex”.


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The Proposal: Feedback

Good news! The feedback we received for our proposal was great. We’re most certainly on the right track.

The official ‘deadline’ to submit the final proposal is 03/11/2010 so, all being well (*crosses fingers*), we’ll be able to make a start on actually filming parts of the documentary. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.


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