I hope all is well with you, and I am grateful for the support you have shown over the years. I am not in the habit of writing to my local MP regularly but I feel I need to write to you over the plan of the Prime Minister to introduce “same-sex marriage”.
I am sure you have received much correspondence already on this issue, and I am not intending to rehearse the arguments directly for or against the Prime Minister’s proposal. I say the Prime Minister’s proposal because, frankly, I am not sure who else has put this forward. Certainly it is not an issue that has ever been put to the electorate, and the haste to introduce the legislation before the next election makes me ask if there is any real desire to put the issue to the popular vote.
Certainly the whole idea seems to have an element of haste because it is clear there are key issues have not been thought out. In brief…
There is the constitutional issue that the Book of Common Prayer describes the estate of holy matrimony as betwixt a man and a woman, and sees the first purpose of marriage as the procreation of children. This is the prayer book of the established church, and so one of the most immediate effects of the proposal is to immediately call into question the establishment of the Anglican Church.
This leads directly on to the legal issue. Over hundreds of years marriage betwixt a man and a woman has been written into law. Simply changing the words of the statutes to accommodate a new understanding of marriage will not be enough. Commentators have rightly raised the issue, for example, of what would constitute consummation or adultery. We could either up end up with a whole raft of new legislation or see the new laws tested endlessly in the courts of the land – not forgetting, that there would then be a whole wave of appeals to the European Court.
Then there is the social issue. The basis of our society over centuries has been the family unit, predicated on the union of a man and a woman. Of course, we might well say that times have changed. But the question remains – what kind of family unit is envisaged under the new legislation? Is any kind of unit acceptable so long as both parties love each other? Would this then include the possibility of more than two partners forming that unit? If a family unit no longer needs a man and a woman, why should it be restricted to just two? We need a more coherent social narrative than a situational ethic based on the particular preference of the individual. Otherwise we will end up with a society made up of multiple and fragmented units no longer committed to the welfare of all.
All this is before we come on to the whole theological issue of what kinds of relationships are acceptable in God’s eyes – bearing in mind that we are all, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, “miserable offenders”. My purpose in writing today is simply to point out that an apparently simple change in the law would have profound consequences that seem not to have been thought out. However in the present climate when criticism is all too often dismissed as prejudice, homophobia and ignorance I am struggling to see the appropriate forum where a constructive dialogue may take place.