Monday, 20 May 2013

What is a "marriage"?

The row in the UK over the "redefinition" of "marriage" raises some tricky questions, none of which seem to be receiving much attention. If one follows the media, it is something the "majority" want and a handful of "religious nutters" don't. Funny how no one seems to be actually looking at what "marriage" is really supposed to be about.

This is possibly because, certainly in western societies, it has more of a legalistic status than a religious one. That means that in a wide range of matters, from registration of births, through inheritance, succession and adoption, that legal status of "married" is required somewhere along the way. Most western societies understand "marriage" in purely reproductive terms in their legal systems and it must be said that even in less formal societal arrangements, that is the understood purpose of a man wishing to marry a woman and vice versa. Even in the permissive societies of ancient Greece and Persia no one ever suggested that two male lovers or two female lovers should "marry" - essentially because there was no legal need for them to do so.  Inheritance, 'legitimacy' and even adoption were not an issue, but the moment "marriage" became a legal as well as a religious requirement all of that chaged.

Does "marriage" somehow confer "legitimacy" upon a union not predicated on the concept of legitimate procreation? In religious terms, probably not. In legal terms it becomes more difficult, since the legal "definition" of a "marriage" states that it is not a "marriage" until it is "consumated" by the act of intercourse. In English legal history quite a number of "marriages" have been anulled on the grounds that this "act of consummation" has not occured. If those who wish to see the change in the definition of a "marriage" changed to include same sex relations do not consider it an essential for sexual relationships to be legitimised, what exactly do they hope the change will achieve?

It seems to be a question of "status" only as far as most are concerned. They see it as somehow essential to recognition of their relationship being "recognised" as being equal to the religio-legal status accorded to male-female unions. While I have no problem with same sex partnerships being legally recognised, I do hesitate at the use of "marriage" in this context. If it is purely supposed to be an "equality" issue in terms of legal standing for, for example, the couple's intention to adopt a child, then it would make sense to simply change the laws which require "marriage" to reflect a different form of sexual partnership as a "union'. If, on the other hand, it is to enable same-sex couples to force those who, perhaps for religious reasons object to such relationship, to accept them, it becomes something entirely different.

Now the law is being abused to compel acceptance, and history abounds with examples of cultures where the opposite of what was intended has been the result. It is now postulated that perhaps 3% of any given population is Gay, and while I have every sympathy for those who are - and I must add that I know many who are perfectly happy to live their lives as they are - I fail to see why an entire religio-legal institution must be thrown out so that a minority of a minority can have the satisfaction of compelling those who do find it unacceptable, to be forced to do so.

A YouGov Poll suggests that 52% of the population do not have a problem with the change to the definition. However, such polls can also be misleading, since everything depends on how the question is or was worded. Rephrasing the same question may well elicit a completely different answer. It will be interesting to see how the vote in Parliament in this coming week goes. I suspect that Cameron will go all out for the change, motivated by a desire to win over the Gay lobby antagonised by the previous Conservative government's clause 28, which forbade the promotion of homo-sexuality. Milliband and Labour will vote for it because they wish to hold onto the soft-liberal vote it represents.

So how do we define marriage? Is it merely a "license to procreate" or does it have a far deeper and more spiritual meaning. Is an unconsumated marriage, still a marriage? I rather suspect that, in the usual fashion of Whitehall/Westminster a bull will be loosed in this particular shop filled with delicate porcelain goods - and more will destroyed than saved by it.


  1. As might be suspected, Josephus differs from the Monk in terms of religious observance, but agrees with the principles underpinning this post.

    Marriage is undoubtedly a religiously inspired commitment intended to form a family body, principally to produce offspring; as such it is, or has been, a vital factor in producing the various civilised forms of society throughout the world.

    My fear is that what happened in the 20th century with the growth of the "registry office wedding" was that the word "marriage" was applied to what was, in fact, a "civil partnership". There is no religious element in such a service, (Marriage Act 1949 Part III, Sections 29-40) however, it is called a marriage.

    There are therefor three issues in my opinion:

    1)The Marriage Act, driven by the rush of wartime marriages to control the surge of post-war marriages, should have been "The Marriage and Civil Partnership Act". Marriage under Section II, CP under section III

    2)The exclusion of heterosexual couples wishing to have a legal commitment, but without religious attachments, from the current CP Is, in equality terms, much worse a discrimination than that preventing homosexuals from marrying. I say this as such a bond is in the original sense of marriage as the enabling of a family unit to raise children.

    3)There is a very simple solution: Repeal the Marriage Act, replace it with a new Act for "Marriages and Civil Partnerships", include in it sections allowing marriage for homosexual and CP for heterosexual couples, but do not enact them. Then enact the CP sections to cure the current discrimination that effectively forces aetheists to demean the use of the word "Marriage"; this will re-affirm the fact that "Marriage" is a religious construct. Finally consider enacting the same-sex marriage sections, bearing in mind that such a joining would require a religious blessing, as a marriage should.

    I strongly suspect that if we truly differentiated between marriage as a religious bonding and CP as a civil and legal bonding, then the current question would vapourise without all of the current wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    In addition to that, see my comments on the age of Pope Francis. None of the Tory heavy-weights pressing this were born after the 39-45 war. How dare they presume to tell the current, and yet to be born, generations how to organise their lives. This smacks of the Duke of Wellington railing against the great Reform Act of 1830. However unfair it was that Old Sarum returned 2 members to the Commons and the new City of Manchester (1826 the Parish Church became the Cathedral.)not a single member, it simply wasn't the way he was brought up, therefore it was wrong.

    I think a dose of clear-sighted reality is in order, our parliament is currently making an ass of itself for no valid reason.

  2. Slim Jim rants:
    The move to enact homo-marriage is entirely political. The proposals are nothing to do with equality, and everything to do with undermining an established institution, an act conducted with relish by cultural Marxists and other useful idiots. If it were about equalities, then where are the provisions for polygamists, paedophiles and pet-lovers? Moreover, isn't the act of adultery specifically excluded from the proposals? That highlights the secularist agenda too (I don't need to remind the Monk of Christian Doctrine!). Once again, the political class of this country (and others) reckons it 'knows best'. Not one of the main political parties included this proposal overtly in their manifestos. Of course, this same band of vandals enacted legislation against the wishes of the people with abortion, capital punishment and the EUSSR. That's the problem with a parliamentary democracy - it doesn't give a flying f#ck what the people think. Unless they're looking for their votes! Such a proposal should rightly be put to a referendum. Unless they fear the result...

  3. Interestingly, the 1949 Act to which Josephus refers does not, in fact, preclude same sex "marriages" and makes no mention of the possibility. In 1949 it was simply unthinkable. In fact it was, until 1973, illegal for two men to 'consort for sex'. Josephus offers an elegant solution, but it is not the one our current government has chosen to lay before Parliament.

    As Slim Jim says, the entire purpose of this exercise is to destroy the concept of "family" and is nothing less than a piece of cultural vandalism as it stands at present. 'Family' is the foundation of any society, so the only purpose of destroying it is to destroy the society it underpins. The question must be; why? In fact, something the 1949 Act does forbid is entering into a new marriage while still married to another, yet, under the last government, and presumably condoned by this one, polygamy is being practiced by those of the religious persuasion that permits it. Since these "marriages" are conducted under religious law, rather than British Law, they slip beneath the radar in most cases. However, the Bill currently before Parliament is aimed purely at the Judeo-Christian cultural concept of marriage and does not address this little side issue. However, I'm sure it will not be long before the groups mentioned by Slim Jim are raised as having been "disadvantaged" ...

  4. I was, in fact, going to mention the fact that "it wasn't mentioned because it was unthinkable" point; it reminded me of the reason Scotland had no problem (apart from the licenced premises part od supermarkets for several years) with shops opening on Sunday... The Shops Act 1950 did not apply to Scotland simply because in Scotland in 1950, any shopkeeper apart from the newsagent selling the Sunday Post trying to open would have been lynched.

    However, I still maintain that the reason that there is a question to be answered at the moment is less the deeply political issue and more the fact that since 1949, there have been two words, namely "marriage" and "wedding" that were available in two forms, one religious, the other civil. If, in 1949, someone had spotted that and made a simple change, even one as simple as using the terms "church marriage" and "civil marriage" might have been sufficient.