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Retaining Marriage Solely for Opposite Sex Couples is not Discriminatory

04/02/2013 9:30 am

We believe, along with those who support same sex marriage, that the law matters both in terms of the signals that it sends and the effects of those signals on future behaviour. We disagree that the signal that is sent currently, by restricting marriage to opposite sex couples, is one of disparagement of same sex relationships.

The basic argument that is advanced in favour of same sex marriage is one of equality and fairness. But we suggest that this intuitively appealing argument is fundamentally flawed. Those who argue for same sex marriage do so on the basis that it is unjust to treat same sex and heterosexual relationships differently in allowing only heterosexual couples access to marriage. Our principal argument against this is that it is not unequal or unfair to treat those in different circumstances differently. Indeed, to treat them the same would itself be unjust.

The Government, in proposing this change to the law and definition of marriage, has itself not sought complete equivalence between same sex couples and heterosexual couples. We have already shown how significantly the Bill distinguishes between same sex and opposite sex marriages (there is no consummation requirement, there is no common law presumption as to the parenthood of any children, and adultery will not be a ground for divorce). What results in the Bill is a distinct set of differences between opposite sex marriage and same sex marriage. In addition to these differences incorporated in the Bill, civil partnerships will remain an option for same sex couples, but heterosexual couples will not be given access to civil partnerships and the Government has made this decision against the views of the majority in the consultation.

The Government itself recognises, therefore, that it is not necessarily unfair discrimination or a breach of the principle of equality to treat different people differently, if they are different in a relevant way. So too, retaining different institutions in order to serve differing functions is not unfair, but a recognition of relevant differences in the functions served by those institutions.

Catholic teaching, whilst it does not condone same sex sexual activity, condemns unfair discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We note that same sex couples already effectively enjoy equivalent legal rights as heterosexual couples by virtue of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. A Civil Partnership in essence entitles a same sex couple to equivalent legal benefits, advantages and rights as heterosexual couples . Therefore the changes proposed in the Bill are not needed in order to provide legal recognition to and protection for same sex relationships. Our opposition to same sex marriage is not based in discrimination or prejudice; it is based in a positive effort to ensure that the unique social values currently served by marriage carry on being served by that institution in the future.

Sections of the Briefing

THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE MATTERS

RETAINING MARRIAGE SOLELY FOR OPPOSITE SEX COUPLES IS NOT DISCRIMINATORY

THERE IS NO MANDATE FOR THIS CHANGE AND THE VIEWS OF MANY HAVE BEEN IGNORED

THE BILL PAVES THE WAY FOR YET MORE FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE

THE PROPOSED ‘SAFEGUARDS’ ARE INADEQUATE

THE WIDER CONSEQUENCES OF THE BILL HAVE NOT BEEN ADEQUATELY ADDRESSED

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Briefing to Members of Parliament on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.