Peter Smith

What happens when we redefine marriage?

Peter Smith
By Peter Smith

October 10, 2012 (Mercatornet.com) - Back in January I set out David Cameron’s proposals for creating same-sex marriage, which he announced at the British Conservative Party’s annual Conference in October 2011, alongside some arguments against those plans.

A year later, the controversy has moved on. There are now two parallel movements for same-sex marriage in the UK, a result of the devolution of powers to the Scottish Government. A consultation in Scotland ended in December 2011 and its results were snuck out shortly before Olympic fever dominated the Isles.

It is notable how divisive same-sex marriage has been north of Hadrian’s Wall: an ‘unprecedented’ 77,508 responses were received in the ‘largest consultation exercise of its type ever held in Scotland’. Over 33,000 responses were submitted via forms amended by organisations with an interest in the two core proposals of same-sex civil marriage and religious civil partnerships. Opponents of same-sex marriage pipped supporters 52:48, but more than two thirds opposed religious civil partnerships. Nonetheless, the Scottish Government intends on continuing to legalise both relationships, and the Catholic Church – numerically and financially the largest single supporter of traditional marriage – has since ceased dialogue with Edinburgh on the matter.

Down south, we are a step behind. The Home Office has also consulted on its plans to create such relationships in England and Wales, but they are effectively limited to same-sex marriages and not religious civil partnerships. After months of campaigning, two umbrella organisations broadly covered the diverse faiths, standpoints and interest groups in the opposing camps. In favour of same-sex marriage stands the Coalition for Equal Marriage, and its slick media campaign, Out4Marriage.org, which publishes clips of well-known proponents of gay marriage such as Boris Johnson and Hugh Grant ‘coming out’ in support of the move. Against liberalisation is the Coalition for Marriage, based out of the Christian Institute’s offices in Newcastle, which has mobilised tens of thousands of Christians to sign petitions and dominate the postbags of Members of Parliament.

The Home Office consultation ended in June, and the results are unlikely to be known this calendar year. It is safe to say that there have been a considerable number of responses from both sides (although, as in Scotland, many will be standard pro-forma that campaign groups have handed out and emailed to supporters). Polls favouring both positions have been published. If, following the publication of the consultation document, the Government in Westminster puts legislation before Parliament in the new year, it is likely to be passed by the second anniversary of Cameron’s speech in 2013. But will that legislation be tabled?

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Opening Pandora’s box

The best hope for opponents of same-sex marriage in England is for the Government to conclude it is too difficult to pass coherent and stable legislation that creates such marriages in the narrow circumstances so far envisaged. Social conservatives should not be too hopeful that such sense will prevail: Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, gave a glimpse of the liberal class’s mindset when his staff trailed a speech in which he described supporters of traditional marriage as “bigots” – a slur he was rapidly forced to retract.

As an example of the radical legal consequences of redefining marriage, the Coalition for Marriage has recently released a précis of a legal opinion by Aidan O’Neil QC, an expert in equality and discrimination law who practises from the same barristers’ chambers as Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie Booth. O’Neil was instructed to consider the implications for religious conscience and religious liberty arising from redefining marriage in England and Wales, and he considers the interplay between the Equality Act 2010 (including the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSEQ)), the European Convention on Human Rights, and case law on point. The PSEQ compels public authorities – including state schools, councils and the National Health Service – to “have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited…” when exercising their public functions. This includes the obligation to “tackle prejudice” and “promote understanding” between homosexual and heterosexual people.

It is a far-reaching obligation on an enormous range of bodies and organisations, and it reduces substantially the lawful opportunities for supporters of traditional marriage to explain – let alone mention – their views. The Coalition for Marriage asked O’Neil to consider some hypothetical situations where religiously-minded people could find themselves in difficulties – and potentially fired from their jobs. Here are elaborations of some of his examples (the précis contains more), which focus on practical positions that readers of MercatorNet might find themselves in, should the prohibition on same-sex marriage be removed. (For brevity, the precise legal reasoning is omitted. What follows is a characterisation of the legal positions, which are necessarily latent or untested propositions.)

The chaplain

A hospital chaplain is also a local Church of England vicar. Suppose he preaches, at a private wedding service in his church, that marriage is between only one man and one woman. If his hospital employers were to hear of this action, they could take into account his conduct outside of the workplace when determining whether the chaplain was acting in accordance with the requirements of his hospital work and the ethos of the hospital. This is true for any chaplain employed with the public sector (e.g. within a university or the Armed Forces) who, in all likelihood, would have a duty to accept only that marriage could be between two people of the same sex, and that any contrary restrictive view would lead to their lawful dismissal as this view would be ‘un-ethical’, ie, against the prevailing ethos.

The teacher

A teacher is told by her head that she must use in class a book recommended by the local council and a gay advocacy charity. This book is about a man who falls in love with a prince and marries him. If the teacher asked to opt out of using the book on the grounds of conscientious objection, she would be refusing to obey the otherwise lawful instructions of her employers, thus constituting grounds for her dismissal. Moreover, it would make no difference if the school was a faith school or any type of school with a religious ethos or none.

The child

A child says in a school assembly that he thinks marriage is only between a man and a woman, on religious grounds. The assembly theme is on marriage and same-sex marriage is discussed. The child is subsequently bullied but the school takes no action. Because the school is under a duty to teach about marriage, and because marriage would mean same-sex marriage, a school which taught marriage equality (same-sex and opposite-sex marriages are the same) would not be discriminating against the child’s religious views. Furthermore, the school is potentially under a duty to ensure that the curriculum it teaches is delivered in a way that discourages and even eliminates the attitudes held by its pupils that involve sexual orientation. This potentially implies that it may brook no dissent from the redefinition.

The parents

Concerned parents learn that their school is planning a gay and lesbian history month, including lessons on ‘the campaign for marriage equality’. The parents insist that they have the right to withdraw their child from these history lessons. In fact, even if the school were a faith school teaching a subject in a manner contrary to the orthodox teachings of that faith, the parents would be completely unable to withdraw their child from these lessons, and the European Convention would not facilitate it.

The foster couple

Couples who apply to become foster carers and, during the interview process, let it be known that they could not support same-sex marriage, could be barred by a local authority or council from continuing with their application. The local authority is under an obligation to investigate the views of potential foster parents, and to consider the extent to which those views might influence and affect the behaviour and treatment of a child in their care. As a public authority, the council is under an obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare of looked-after children and this could be construed to include the prevention of exposure to an environment that is potentially exclusive of same-sex marriage.

The crucial lesson of civil partnerships

It is worth noting again the analogy between same-sex marriage and civil partnerships in England and Wales. When the Civil Partnerships Act was winding its way through Parliament in 2003 and 2004, Tony Blair promised that no religions would be compelled to carry out partnerships. In fact, religious readings, music or symbols were prohibited from the partnership ceremony. However, with only cursory scrutiny by Parliament, this ban was lifted in December 2011. This substantial change in civil partnership policy demonstrates that religious leaders should be very wary of accepting any ‘red line’ promises from ministers (even the Prime Minister) as a way of ameliorating opposition to the current proposals.

In the current proposals, there will be a blanket ban on religious ceremonies in England and Wales. This is effectively a religious exemption and means that churches and ministers cannot host or celebrate same-sex marriages. However, the O’Neill opinion suggests there would be a strong case that a blanket ban would be overturned by European human rights law. The material provision is Article 12 of the European Convention, which establishes a right for two individuals to marry: “men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and found a family…”

O’Neil raises the spectre of a fundamental reinterpretation of this Article, from the right of one man and one woman to marry, to same-sex couples, if redefinition occurs in English law. The consequence of this would be to open up other legal avenues, like human rights law, to support same-sex marriage. This could spell the end of the religious exemption.

Even if churches were allowed to conduct same-sex marriages, it would be mistaken to think that a happy settlement could be reached whereby those vicars who accepted it would be free to do so, whilst supporters of traditional marriage would be free not to. Because of the established identity of the Church of England, granting the Church a unique and privileged place amongst religions in England, once any vicar allows same-sex marriages it becomes untenable in law for the whole Church not to participate. Thus O’Neil concludes:

“Churches might indeed better protect themselves against the possibility of any such litigation by deciding not to provide marriage services at all, since there could be no complaint then of discrimination in their provision of services as between same sex and opposite sex couples.

“And, in principle, the Church of England might be better protected under any such claim if it were disestablished in the sense that its clergy were no longer placed under formal legal obligations by the general law to solemnise the marriages of all and any person otherwise eligible to marry under the general law…”

It isn’t too late, Mr Cameron

Already, MPs are queuing up to remove the hypothetical ban on same-sex marriages in religious places, and Ed Milliband, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, appears to have outflanked Cameron in the latter’s rush to social liberalism.

If same-sex marriage legislation is pushed into the House of Commons, David Cameron will likely see a back-bench rebellion from his own MPs on the right of the Party, who are vociferously opposed to the measures. He knows that many Tory MPs hold seats where the UK Independence Party and the Liberal Democrats cannot oust the incumbent Conservatives in a fair fight, but they can succeed if the Tory vote is split (over Europe, for instance) or because Conservative voters simply absent themselves on election day because they are angry or disappointed at the Party leadership. Gay marriage is such an issue.

In any event, Cameron will be left in the embarrassing position of relying on Liberal Democrat and Labour support for a majority to be secured (particularly as he is likely to give a free vote), and he will see the Parliamentary Conservative Party split cleanly on this social issue, conservative/liberal, when unity is needed to push through controversial healthcare reforms.

Given the political difficulties of creating same-sex marriage and the legal consequences of doing so, it would suit him well to put the plans back on the shelf and move on to getting Britain out of its slump and recession.

Peter Smith is a lawyer living and working in London. This article reprinted under a Creative Commons License from Mercatornet.com

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Maine Supreme Court denies rapist contact with his daughter

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By Ben Johnson

A ruling from the Supreme Court of Maine denied a rapist any visitation rights to his child, refuting a prevalent claim from abortion activists that rape victims who keep their children will be tied to their abusers for life.

Richard Sullivan began raping his victim when she was 13 or 14 years old – and he was 60. She endured his abuse at least weekly.

Like many rapists, he “took steps to conceal his abuse,” in the words of the court ruling, written by Justice Donald Alexander. “Once, when she was sixteen, Sullivan arranged an abortion for Doe, without her parents' knowledge.” Maine has no parental consent requirement, according to Planned Parenthood.

Sullivan fathered a second child, a daughter, with the young woman in September 2007 when the victim was 20. In 2011, the young woman obtained a temporary protection order against Sullivan, who promptly sued for custody of his daughter.

In a 13-page decision in Sullivan v. Doe on August 28, the Maine Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that denied Sullivan all custody or contact with his child, cut off access to any of her records, and required him to pay $38,019 in back child support.

Sullivan is now facing five charges of sexual molestation in York County, Maine, for the molestation of the girl's mother.

The pro-life community welcomed the decision.

“Rapists don't deserve rights, innocent children and mothers do!” Monica Kelsey of Save the 1 told LifeSiteNews. “A woman who is raped deserves to be protected from her rapist at all costs, and if there is a child involved the child deserves protection, as well.”

“Women won't choose life for their child as often as they do now if they feel that they have to be associated with the rapist for another 18 years,” Kelsey, who was conceived in rape, warned.

Pro-abortion lobbyists often exploit this fear in their public attacks on the pro-life position. In 2012, Health Care for America Now (HCNA) blasted a “militant, absolutist Republican” position that would force women into “submitting to the rapist-father’s assertion of paternal rights regarding visitation, religion, education, health care and countless other issues...Welcome to the GOP’s shocking approach to women’s rights.”

Health Care for America Now (HCAN) is a national “grassroots” organization comprised of more than 1,000 left-wing activist groups – mostly labor unions and left-wing political organizations funded by billionaire George Soro. Its members include the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Abortion Federation, Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

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Studies show approximately 70 percent of rape victims choose not to have an abortion.

“We as a society need to protect these women and children from further trauma, and these men need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Kelsey told LifeSiteNews. 

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Janna Darnelle

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My husband divorced me for his gay lover - then took our children

Janna Darnelle
By Janna Darnelle

Every time a new state redefines marriage, the news is full of happy stories of gay and lesbian couples and their new families. But behind those big smiles and sunny photographs are other, more painful stories. These are left to secret, dark places. They are suppressed, and those who would tell them are silenced in the name of “marriage equality.”

But I refuse to be silent.

I represent one of those real life stories that are kept in the shadows. I have personally felt the pain and devastation wrought by the propaganda that destroys natural families.

The Divorce

In the fall of 2007, my husband of almost ten years told me that he was gay and that he wanted a divorce. In an instant, the world that I had known and loved—the life we had built together—was shattered.

I tried to convince him to stay, to stick it out and fight to save our marriage. But my voice, my desires, my needs—and those of our two young children—no longer mattered to him. We had become disposable, because he had embraced one tiny word that had become his entire identity. Being gay trumped commitment, vows, responsibility, faith, fatherhood, marriage, friendships, and community. All of this was thrown away for the sake of his new identity.

Try as I might to save our marriage, there was no stopping my husband. Our divorce was not settled in mediation or with lawyers. No, it went all the way to trial. My husband wanted primary custody of our children. His entire case can be summed up in one sentence: “I am gay, and I deserve my rights.” It worked: the judge gave him practically everything he wanted. At one point, he even told my husband, “If you had asked for more, I would have given it to you.”

I truly believe that judge was legislating from the bench, disregarding the facts of our particular case and simply using us—using our children— to help influence future cases. In our society, LGBT citizens are seen as marginalized victims who must be protected at all costs, even if it means stripping rights from others. By ignoring the injustice committed against me and my children, the judge seemed to think that he was correcting a larger injustice.

My husband had left us for his gay lover. They make more money than I do. There are two of them and only one of me. Even so, the judge believed that they were the victims. No matter what I said or did, I didn’t have a chance of saving our children from being bounced around like so many pieces of luggage.

A New Same-Sex Family—Built On the Ruins of Mine

My ex-husband and his partner went on to marry. Their first ceremony took place before our state redefined marriage. After it created same-sex marriage, they chose to have a repeat performance. In both cases, my children were forced—against my will and theirs—to participate. At the second ceremony, which included more than twenty couples, local news stations and papers were there to document the first gay weddings officiated in our state. USA Today did a photo journal shoot on my ex and his partner, my children, and even the grandparents. I was not notified that this was taking place, nor was I given a voice to object to our children being used as props to promote same-sex marriage in the media.

At the time of the first ceremony, the marriage was not recognized by our state, our nation, or our church. And my ex-husband’s new marriage, like the majority of male-male relationships, is an “open,” non-exclusive relationship. This sends a clear message to our children: what you feel trumps all laws, promises, and higher authorities. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want—and it doesn’t matter who you hurt along the way.

After our children’s pictures were publicized, a flood of comments and posts appeared. Commenters exclaimed at how beautiful this gay family was and congratulated my ex-husband and his new partner on the family that they “created.” But there is a significant person missing from those pictures: the mother and abandoned wife. That “gay family” could not exist without me.

There is not one gay family that exists in this world that was created naturally.

Every same-sex family can only exist by manipulating nature. Behind the happy façade of many families headed by same-sex couples, we see relationships that are built from brokenness. They represent covenants broken, love abandoned, and responsibilities crushed. They are built on betrayal, lies, and deep wounds.

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This is also true of same-sex couples who use assisted reproductive technologies such as surrogacy or sperm donation to have children. Such processes exploit men and women for their reproductive potential, treat children as products to be bought and sold, and purposely deny children a relationship with one or both of their biological parents. Wholeness and balance cannot be found in such families, because something is always missing. am missing. But I am real, and I represent hundreds upon thousands of spouses who have been betrayed and rejected.

If my husband had chosen to stay, I know that things wouldn’t have been easy. But that is what marriage is about: making a vow and choosing to live it out, day after day. In sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, spouses must choose to put the other person first, loving them even when it’s hard.

A good marriage doesn’t only depend on sexual desire, which can come and go and is often out of our control. It depends on choosing to love, honor, and be faithful to one person, forsaking all others. It is common for spouses to be attracted to other people—usually of the opposite sex, but sometimes of the same sex. Spouses who value their marriage do not act on those impulses. For those who find themselves attracted to people of the same sex, staying faithful to their opposite-sex spouse isn’t a betrayal of their true identity. Rather, it’s a decision not to let themselves be ruled by their passions. It shows depth and strength of character when such people remain true to their vows, consciously striving to remember, honor, and revive the love they had for their spouses when they first married.

My Children Deserve Better

Our two young children were willfully and intentionally thrust into a world of strife and combative beliefs, lifestyles, and values, all in the name of “gay rights.” Their father moved into his new partner’s condo, which is in a complex inhabited by sixteen gay men. One of the men has a 19-year-old male prostitute who comes to service him. Another man, who functions as the father figure of this community, is in his late sixties and has a boyfriend in his twenties. My children are brought to gay parties where they are the only children and where only alcoholic beverages are served. They are taken to transgender baseball games, gay rights fundraisers, and LGBT film festivals.

Both of my children face identity issues, just like other children. Yet there are certain deep and unique problems that they will face as a direct result of my former husband’s actions. My son is now a maturing teen, and he is very interested in girls. But how will he learn how to deal with that interest when he is surrounded by men who seek sexual gratification from other men? How will he learn to treat girls with care and respect when his father has rejected them and devalues them? How will he embrace his developing masculinity without seeing his father live out authentic manhood by treating his wife and family with love, honoring his marriage vows even when it's hard?

My daughter suffers too. She needs a dad who will encourage her to embrace her femininity and beauty, but these qualities are parodied and distorted in her father's world. Her dad wears make-up and sex bondage straps for Halloween. She is often exposed to men dressing as women. The walls in his condo are adorned with large framed pictures of women in provocative positions. What is my little girl to believe about her own femininity and beauty? Her father should be protecting her sexuality. Instead, he is warping it.

Without the guidance of both their mother and their father, how can my children navigate their developing identities and sexuality? I ache to see my children struggle, desperately trying to make sense of their world.

My children and I have suffered great losses because of my former husband’s decision to identify as a gay man and throw away his life with us. Time is revealing the depth of those wounds, but I will not allow them to destroy me and my children. I refuse to lose my faith and hope. I believe so much more passionately in the power of the marriage covenant between one man and one woman today than when I was married. There is another way for those with same-sex attractions. Destruction is not the only option—it cannot be. Our children deserve far better from us.

This type of devastation should never happen to another spouse or child. Please, I plead with you: defend marriage as being between one man and one woman. We must stand for marriage—and for the precious lives that marriage creates.

Janna Darnelle is a mother, writer, and an advocate for upholding marriage between one man and one woman. She mentors others whose families have been impacted by homosexuality.

Reprinted with permission from the Public Discourse.

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Stevie Nicks confirms she wrote hit song about baby she aborted with Don Henley

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By Ben Johnson

Stevie Nicks is no stranger to rumours. She finally confirmed longstanding conjecture that she wrote one of her best-known songs partly about the child she conceived with Eagles frontman Don Henley, then aborted.

Henley said more than 20 years ago that the Fleetwood Mac song Sara, which hit number 7 on the Billboard charts in 1979, was about the baby they never saw.

“I believe, to the best of my knowledge, [that Nicks] became pregnant by me. And she named the kid Sara, and she had an abortion – and then wrote the song of the same name to the spirit of the aborted baby,” he told GQ magazine in 1991. "I was building my house at the time, and there’s a line in the song that says, ‘And when you build your house, call me.'”

In a special interview with Billboard magazine on Friday, Nicks said their baby inspired many of the song's lyrics.

“Had I married Don and had that baby, and had she been a girl, I would have named her Sara,” she said. But Nicks said the song – which was originally 16 minutes long and included nine verses cut from the album – also dealt with Mick Fleetwood's wife, Sara, and other aspects of the band's disintegrating relationships.

The revelation sheds light on the song's lyrics:

Wait a minute, baby
Stay with me awhile
Said you'd give me light
But you never told me about the fire...

Sara, you're the poet in my heart
Never change, never stop
And now it's gone
They say it doesn't matter what for
When you build your house, call me…

All I ever wanted was to know
That you were dreaming
There's a heartbeat
No, it never really died
You never really died

Four years after the song's release, she said, “Sara was my favorite, for that kind of song. Sara was, and is, the love of my life.”

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Nicks and Henley's torrid two-year affair had been no secret, and the subsequent abortion had been well-known. According to Eagles biographer Marc Eliot, Nicks “was deeply upset about what she considered his fast and easy consent to her decision. Nicks took it as Henley's way of saying he wasn't interested in any type of serious long-term commitment.”

But Nicks had never acknowledged that the song was dedicated to her child until last week, 35 years after its release. The closest she had come was a statement in 1979 that “If I ever have a little girl, I will name her Sara. It's a very special name to me.”

Nicks never had children, something she blamed on her cocaine addiction.

Sara cast a shadow over her life for years to come. When she entered the Betty Ford Center in 1986 – doctors said she had come dangerously close to a brain hemorrhage – she used the name “Sara Anderson” and commemorated the experience in the song Welcome to the Room...Sara for Fleetwood Mac's last album, 1987's Tango in the Night.

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