And here is my own response

Here is my own response to the Government Consultation on Civil Partnership and Same-Sex Marriage.

It differs quite a lot, particularly in the sections on Civil Partnership, from the submission from St Mary’s Vestry which I posted earlier and which was reported on the BBC Website amongst other places.

The nub of the matter for me is opening up marriage to same-sex couples. I think that tinkering with Civil Partnership to allow it to be registered in church is a side-show.

Here’s how I answered the substantive question on marriage:

I long to be able to perform marriages for same-sex couples. I belong to a congregation where the majority view is believed to be in favour of conducting such ceremonies. I acknowledge that there are some people in my congregation for whom this would be a troubling development and consider it part of my job to help people with different religious views to be able to co-exist happily together.

I believe marriage to be sacramental – in other words, I believe that a marriage has the potential to show forth God’s grace in the world. I believe that gay couples have the potential to show that grace in the same way that opposite sex couples can do. Thus, I am in favour of marriage being opened to same-sex couples because of my religious convictions.

As a gay man I would like to be able to be married should I ever meet the right partner.

If I were unable to marry because of the law, I would feel that the law was sponsoring discrimination against me because of my sexuality and my gender.

If I were unable to marry in church because of the law but could be married elsewhere, I would feel that the law was sponsoring discrimination against me because of my religion.

If I were allowed by law to marry but refused by my church then I would believe that I was the victim of church sponsored discrimination.

I am actively working with others to change my own denomination in order that it will be able to take advantage of the proposed changes in the law in this area. Having seen how much the Scottish Episcopal Church has already changed its beliefs about marriage, its wedding liturgies and in its acceptance of gay clergy, it is not difficult for me to imagine a church where discrimination against gay people is a thing of the past. I think that bringing the church to a position where marriages can be celebrated between two people of the same sex will be achieved very soon.

It is a relatively simple matter to change Canon Law. The church does it all the time. Though it takes a couple of years to do so and involves great discussion throughout the church, it is a process which is constantly in use and with which many people in the church are familiar.

I believe that the change that the church has made in recognising a that a couple getting married is formed of two equal people entering into a mutual loving relationship rather than being a matter of property whereby a woman was handed over from one owner (her father) to a new one (her husband) is far more significant than the change needed to allow the church to agree to marry a same-sex couple.

The consultation closes tonight (Friday) at midnight. The easiest way to respond is through the Equal Marriage website. It takes about 5 minutes to respond on that site. Alternatively there is the full consultation response, which can be found here.

Same-Sex Marriage Consultation Responses

The Vestry met on Monday evening and in the course of its business discussed how to respond to the Scottish Government Consultation on Civil Partnerships and Same-Sex Marriage. The full response is available here.

This is the way in which the first question on Religious Civil Partnerships was answered:

Question: Do you agree that legislation should be changed so that civil partnerships could be registered through religious ceremonies?
Answer: Yes. St Mary’s Cathedral congregation contains significant variety in its views and this response, on behalf of the Vestry, will reflect that variety. However, the Cathedral sees its basic mission as one of reflecting God’s love for all people and to promote that by being “open, inclusive and welcoming” to all. A significant number of our members are in long term caring and loving same sex relationships. Some of them who have registered a civil partnership speak of the hurt and exclusion they felt because their civil partnership ceremony specifically excluded any religious component. One member of our congregation summed this up as follows: “While those of different faith backgrounds may struggle to find a minister willing to marry them, they can still have a civil ceremony that involves religious elements because and only because they are of the opposite sex. I am denied this because and only because I am gay.”
We believe that the majority of our congregation would support the proposal addressed in this question, while recognising that some of our members remain unhappy at linking same sex partnerships to a religious service.

With regards to Same-Sex Marriage, the response is as follows:

Question: Do you agree that the law in Scotland should be changed to allow same sex marriage?
Answer: Yes.

Inevitably, there is a range of views within our congregation on this matter.
Marriage as an institution has evolved over time, both in civil society and within the church. For example, the current wording of our marriage liturgy is very different from that used in the past, recognising equality of both partners within the marriage rather than the older view of subservience of the wife to her husband.
Many of us believe that the settled and loving relationship of a same sex couple can, and from our experience does, reflect and show forth God’s grace, just as an opposite sex relationship or marriage can. On that basis, as the union of those individuals has the sacramental characteristic of showing God’s love, marriage should be open to those same sex couples who wish to have marriage. We believe that is a majority view in our congregation.
Others amongst us, while not necessarily disagreeing that God’s grace can be manifest in a same sex relationship, take a more traditional view of what constitutes marriage. They hold, for example, that it is the mystical union of a man and woman with a necessary link to the potential procreation of children. Those members of our congregation, therefore, believe that marriage is an inappropriate term for the formal union of same sex couples. Many of those who hold this view, have no objection to a religious ceremony to mark a same sex union so long as it is not called marriage.

The Vestry also made this comment in connection with Transgendered people

We hope that if same sex marriage is introduced this will resolve the cruel dilemma currently faced by a married couple when one of the partners has gender reassignment. Not infrequently, such couples decide to continue as a partnership, supporting one another before, through and after the reassignment, yet they have to divorce one another before the gender change is legally recognised.

In other news, the Scottish Episcopal Church’s formal response from the Faith and Order Board was published earlier today. I may well blog about it later.

I would encourage everyone who cares about this issue to make a personal response to the Scottish Government – there are only a couple of days left to do so. You can do so by using the simple form at the Equal Marriage website.