Gay marriage returns to the political agenda [+ video]
Gay marriage continues to be a divisive issue among Conservative Party members, as well as religious groups who are concerned that government plans to legalise same-sex marriage will threaten religious freedom.
Anglican Mainstream, a group dedicated to the promotion of Anglican Church teachings, hosted a debate at the Conservative Party conference fringe event on whether gay couples should be entitled to the same marriage rights as heterosexuals.
The recent study 'What’s In A Name?', by right wing think-tank Policy Exchange, provided the basis for the discussion.
David Skelton, Deputy Director of Policy Exchange, argued that on the basis of the study findings, which were entirely “evidence based”, there was no case for gay marriage not to be introduced in the UK.
The stabilising influence of marriage and the health and happiness it can promote were, Skelton explained, key means with which to tackle some of the problems faced by the gay community.
Skelton argued that conservatives ought to embrace the idea of equal marriage for these social reasons, which he believed to be at the heart of "conservatism at its best", drawing different groups together and contributing to "one-nation Britain".
While Skelton also emphasised his belief that churches should not be forced into allowing same sex marriage, he concluded that as long as religious freedom can be protected, "given that marriage is such a powerful institution, why should gay people not be allowed to participate?"
Dermot O’Callaghan, Church of Ireland Lay Reader, spoke on behalf of Anglican Mainstream in response to the study. O’Callaghan argued that while marriage works within a heterosexual context, to assume that it would operate in the same way within a homosexual relationship would be mistaken. He goes on to argue that this is also an unwelcome imposition of ‘heterocentrism’ onto gay relationships.
O’Callaghan gave three reasons as to why gay marriage should not be allowed. Firstly, he suggested that marriage is the means by which young men are “tamed” and pacified by their wives, with the result of a committed, monogamous relationship. This is not possible for homosexual couples, said O’Callaghan, since “two lions can’t pacify each other”.
Secondly, monogamy between two gay men was not possible due to the “radical difference between heterosexual love and homosexual”. O’Callaghan’s third point was that, because of these issues, the institution of marriage would be adversely affected were it to be extended to same-sex relationships, and that this outweighed arguments for inclusivity and equal marriage rights.
O’Callaghan finished by criticising the Policy Exchange study for its failure to mention children, and the adverse impact that being brought up by two gay parents would have.