Well this is a particularly sensitive and personal issue for me, and indeed one in which has many vested and interested parties, for this is an issue that transgresses all genres, classes of people and most importantly impacts on our religious beliefs and institutions.
As a gay man, and having studied law, my approach in many ways is pragmatic and looks at the root issue at hand. On the one hand we have to create equality for all, and one which is based on an individuals sexual orientation and beliefs. And in the other hand not impede the autonomy of individual religious institutions.
The key message to take at this stage can be put as follows: everyone has the right to be and feel human, because at the end of the day we are all human. No one should have the right to make someone feel like they are worthless or unvalued, otherwise we are bordering on Nazism there. One can learn many lessons from the atrocities that the Third Reich carried out during the 1930’s and 40’s.
So the question is how do you reconcile the idea of marriage and two men or two women marrying each other? Well as you can imagine this is not a simple task, all churches and religions have their own take on this, and their own individual rulings/positions.
So what is marriage? Well in the traditional sense, from the Roman Catholic perspective at least, it is the unification of one man to one woman till death do they part. In the eyes of this religion, it is ever lasting and therefore divorce in the religious sense is not recognised. Once your married your married forever. So this means you can’t ever remarry in their church again, even if by law you are recognised to be divorced, the only exception being if the marriage has been annulled by the church which is only granted on certain grounds that I shall not venture to discuss here. However, contrast this with the Church of England for instance, here you can remarry after being divorced and most importantly, you can in their institutional buildings again, and again and again if you so wish. So this demonstrates that whilst there appears to be a shared commonality, there are some differences.
So what for gay men and women, can they marry? Well current law in the UK says no. Nonetheless it is welcoming to see the Government of today bringing this into question and getting out there and in debate.
Now for some I don’t take the typical approach, and instead I do recognise the sanctity of marriage from a religious perspective. Gay men and women can have civil partnerships, which is not too dissimilar to marriage, but it isn’t the same as they can’t correctly say that they are married. Instead it’s, ‘we have a civil partnership’, or put another way a contract recognised by law which provides for legal ties between one individual and another.
So how do we bring equality, well you allow gay and heterosexual couples to have civil partnership, which would bring equal choice between parties, and also recognise their right to be conjoined to one another in a legal sense where they don’t have a particular religious belief, or where they have chosen not to follow the religious ceremony route.
I advocate that gay couples should be entitled and able to marry, and this is rightfully so. However, I do recognise that we need to find a away to appease and meet the needs of the many religions out there. Therefore I suggest that you define it: gay couples can marry providing this is recognised and allowed by their church/ religious institution. This then gives each church their own autonomy to decide whether they let open the gates or in many cases likely keep them closed. However for this to be a viable option, a ‘Gay Church’ would have to be established, whereby those wishing to be married can do so, whilst respecting the rights of all who may wish to access the right to have a civil partnership.
It is not argued here that this solution is the option to take, and yes many will want to have the ability to be married in their own religious institution that they were born into. However, we can call this a halfway house between nothing and full equality.
Thanks for reading my take on things.