Another Argument for Marriage

I recently posted a link to a piece by a Labour MP about how he was planning to support moves towards Equal Marriage. Shortly after I posted that, someone kindly drew my attention to another piece by and MP that is worth a read, this time from a Conservative.

Take a look at this, and the pdf that it points towards:

It is from John Howell MP OBE and is a pretty good answer to his local “Christian” critics. It is fascinating to see people working out their own responses to this proposed change and see arguments for it coming from different sides of the political battlefield.

As with Tom Harris’s piece, I don’t actually agree with all of this. In particularly, I don’t agree with the current moves to make a distinction between civil marriage and religious marriage. We’ve been proceeding on the basis that it is one institution which one can enter in either a civil ceremony or a religious ceremony. It seems to me to be unhelpful for Mr Howell to refer to “Gay civil marriage” as though that were the institution itself rather than the means of entering into the institution. He is also quite muddled when he says:

Although civil and religious marriages have some similar end results, I regard them as separate acts. In practice, civil and religious marriages are already regarded as two different things in much of mainland Europe and they convey different rights. Indeed, more and more couples here are opting for a civil wedding followed by a church ceremony. For historical reasons, the automatic fusion of the two ceremonies in the UK occurs only where the marriage is conducted by an Anglican priest.

That may be true in England (though I’m not even sure if it is entirely true there) but it is certainly not true when applied to the UK as a whole.

However, there’s far more in Mr Howell’s piece that I agree with than that I disagree with. It is particularly interesting to see the case being put by an elected Anglican, coming from a Conservative background. It chimes with David Cameron’s argument that he is in favour of allowing gay couples to wed not despite being a conservative but because he is a conservative.

All in all, I’d say this paper would be a model for bishops to think about. One does get weary of being told by bishops how supportive they are when they say nothing whatsoever in public. It is possible to express one’s opinions and to do so charitably without the sky falling on our heads.

Last word to Mr Howell:

Allowing gay civil marriage is not a fundamental change at all and will, on the basis of evidence from elsewhere around the world, have no effect on the structure of society or on religious marriage. Above all, whichever way you approach this issue, there is no evidence of any harm which such a change would create. I have listened carefully to the views that have been put forward and I have read in detail the points that have been made. However, I cannot help but conclude that no compelling case has yet been made against this rather modest change. Rather, its contribution to a tolerant society at ease with itself is something which all Conservatives should support.