Scottish Gay Marriage Consultation

Over on Archbishop Cranmer’s blog, His Grace observes:

Hitherto, we have been led to believe that the consultation in Scotland on the introduction of ‘gay marriage’ was a matter for the Scots alone: no-one else in any corner of the UK was able to vote.

However, yesterday the pro-‘gay marriage’ groups let it slip that they are asking people outside Scotland to respond, suggesting that the Scottish Government will accept non-Scottish responses.

The consultation closes tomorrow. I strongly urge you to fill out this form and register your opinion.

I filled mine out earlier, with the following explanation of my position:

I believe that redrawing the institution of marriage around individual sexual agents is dangerous, jeopardising the common goods that are invested in the institution.

Marriage is a recognition of the centrality of the relationship between the sexes – the two halves of the human race – in the constitution of society. It is a recognition that sex is not a univocal reality, but that the bodies of males and females are ordered together in a manner that is intrinsic to their unique and specific phenomenology.

It is a recognition that a lifelong committed sexual relationship between a man and a woman is generally procreative. Society’s sanction and celebration of their sexual relationship recognises that their children are an extension of their marital union, expressed in the bodies that they pledged to each other in their wedding.

It is a recognition that the sexual relationship between a man and a woman is oriented, not merely to the good of bringing the sexes together, and expressing our natural sexual dimorphism, but also to the good of procreation. The sexual relationship between a man and a woman has potential public consequences on account of procreation that no same sex relationship can have. The two are not equal, and it is natural that marriage should be given a particular and especial status, as society has a peculiar vested interest in such sexual relationships that it does not have in the case of relationships between persons of the same sex.

The connection of marriage with procreation is one of the primary reasons for its institutional character, as society has a clear interest in surrounding marriage with a serious of social norms and expectations, as through procreation the ends of marriage powerfully transcend the mere interests of the sexual partners within it. Lacking this same means of rendering a private sexual relationship public through procreation, same sex marriage will hasten the redrawing of our understanding of marriage around partnerships completely detached from the end of procreation, and the deinstitutionalisation of the union.

Marriage is a recognition of the rights of children to be, when at all possible, raised by their biological parents, and that being raised and socialised by a parent of both sexes, exhibiting the loving and lifelong commitment and cooperation that should exist between the sexes, is in the best interests both of the child and of society more widely. It is a recognition of the irreplaceableness and gendered character of both fathers and mothers.

It is recognition of the importance of holding genetic, gestational, legal, and social parenthood together as closely as possible. Marriage idealises the fusion of all of these, as the various aspects of parenthood are integrated into a single institution. The redefinition of marriage that the admission of same sex couples to the institution involves no longer upholds this.

Marriage protects children’s rights to a lineage, simple origins and an assured paternity. The admission of same sex couples to the institution will hasten the normalisation and widespread use of reproductive technology, removing the origins of our relationship with our offspring from the intimate and aneconomic union of the marriage bed to economic and legal transactions in the marketplace. This encourages the depersonalisation of children, making abortion, for instance, considerably more conscionable.

Marriage protects the bonds of blood that constitute the wider life of the family, the bonds between siblings, generations, extended relations, etc. It involves the recognition that marriage is not merely ordered to serve the interests of the merely living, but also exists for the sake of generations past and future. Same sex marriage focuses the rationale of marriage too closely on the interests of the sexual partners. On account of its necessarily non-procreative character, same sex marriages cannot protect and extend the bonds of blood to the same extent.

Marriage is monogamous, but same sex marriage threatens the monogamous character of marriage, by undermining its rationale. Monogamy is not solely or primarily concerned with the inviolability and exclusivity of the romantic and companionate attachment to a single sexual partner, but is chiefly based upon the realities of gender difference, sexual dimorphism, reproductive pairing, and biological parenthood. Absent these realities, and monogamy loses most of its rationale. Recognising same-sex partnerships as marriages goes beyond marginalising these realities to undermine or deny their significance, attacking the very things that monogamy seeks to protect. It opens the door to the watering down of the concept of monogamy as lifelong sexual exclusivity in an ordinarily procreative partnership between a man and a woman, or to the recognition of polyamorous partnerships and the social countenancing of open marriages.

The real question here is whether committed same sex partnerships should be recognised as marriages, or whether they should be seen as sui generis, with a distinct character of their own, unlike that of marriage.

Although my convictions on this matter are deeply informed by my Christian faith, I believe that a clear understanding of what is involved in such redefinitions of marriage will reveal that this is a matter that Christian and non-Christian, religious and non-religious, and, dare I say, even gay and straight, can find common cause on. Once again, the form to fill out is here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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6 Responses to Scottish Gay Marriage Consultation

  1. Ali says:

    A great argument for marriage, but I’m thinking it’ll float right past the people for whom it’s intended. I hope I’m very, very wrong. My opinion is that any defense of traditional marriage needs to be constructed using the moral framework of the hearers. I’ve written a little something about this on my blog. The above point is under the second subheading “Re-tool”.

  2. Ali,

    Sadly, I think that you are completely right. I am not sure whether I hold out as much hope as you do that a defence of traditional marriage can be articulated in terms of the moral framework of most hearers. Same sex marriage isn’t really a radical position any more, because the set of convictions that it is grounded upon have already been granted in the context of regular marriage. What is more, modern liberalism (in the broader sense of the world, including people on the right and the left) involves a mindset in which the traditional form of the family becomes unintelligible. The autonomous individual is the unit of explanation in liberalism, and the harm principle is paramount. The place of children, shared flesh and blood, and the ordering of male and female bodies to each other is fairly unclear or meaningless in such a paradigm.

    • Ali says:

      Well, I think a look at (1) how the feminists have captured the culture, (2) how the homosexual lobby have piggy-backed on that, (3) how the PCANZ (Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand defeated a decades long push for the ordination of practicing homosexuals to the ministry and (4) how the Bible and Systematic Theology can explain God’s and our opposition to homosexuality and same-sex marriage using cultural paradigms are all steps in the right direction.

      To skim over each far too lightly, (1) teaches us that just as feminists appealed to innate protectiveness of males for females and aggravated the Gen 3 curse, we can appeal to innate passions within people in our culture to get our point across, (2) teaches us that we need to adapt the freedom/oppression framework and keep appealing to legitimate innate godly perspectives in our culture, even if violently disagreed with and persecuted for a (long) time, (3) teaches us that when the majority have a voice, they don’t always speak in the way homosexual activitsts want them to, and (4) identifies many parts of today’s moral framework in the Bible and there needs to be theological development so that the reasons sin is sin can be expressed in those categories. (After all, it seems to me the present day freedom/oppression paradigm came from liberal Christianity which took it from the Bible and the rampant individualism came from an overemphasised Biblical teaching of personal responsibility and the breaking of family ties for the sake of the gospel.)

      I think it would be a mistake to make the prevention of same-sex marriage the goal, not least because when it is resolved one way or the other Christians will stop doing anything. I believe that, regardless whether same-sex marriage is stopped or not, Christians need to be taught truth on a variety of issues using the same paradigm they’ve grown up with in the culture so that Christians (old and new) can understand the why and avoid a struggle with an ongoing sense of injustice about God’s commands and prohibitions through the Bible. I mean, many churches themselves are even now struggling with the push for the affirmation of homosexuality as acceptable to God and find they don’t have the theological tools to fight it. It seems naive to think it won’t happen in our circles.

      • I confess, having debated this for a while in various contexts, I am less optimistic about the chances of having our message taken on board. However, my pessimism only extends to the shorter term. Reality has a way of reasserting itself in uninvited ways, and such a movement of collective suppression is unlikely to have either lasting success or a pretty ending.

        I agree with you that mere prevention of same-sex marriage is a poor goal. The most promising route that I see is that of reasserting the goods and virtues of marriage. As these are stressed, the incompatibility and incongruity of same sex marriage in the marriage framework will become more clearly revealed, without even having to cast ourselves as the ‘opposition’ of anything. Churches could stop speaking explicitly against same sex marriage altogether and simply articulate powerfully the purpose of marriage and a strong message would still come across.

        The same sex marriage battle will increasingly come to the Church’s own doors and will be fought within her walls. Marriage is about public meaning, and as long as there are those within society that deny the public meaning that gay couples claim for their partnerships, the fight for gay marriage will be incomplete. What the Church say on this issue matters a great deal, even to those who may never darken a church door. Perhaps we could learn a few lessons from Herod and John the Baptist on this front.

      • Ali says:

        Yes, I agree that the short term future looks bleak. I’m actually of the opinion that this may be an acceleration of the demise of Western dominance in the world – not necessarily a bad thing, I guess. I also agree that reasserting the goodness of marriage is the best positive apologetic, and not only asserting it, but living it. (There are some very encouraging steps in that direction. I personally have learned quite a bit from Jeremy Pryor’s ReFamily over at

        But no matter the outcome, I think we should not waste this sovereignly given opportunity to deepen our theological understanding and expand our theological expression by arguing against such a position as well. In fact, while I’m struggling to express it correctly, I’m of the opinion that we will do the most godly thing by applying the example of our Lord’s death and resurrection (as, for example, outlined in the sermon on the mount) to this situation. This may well mean losing this fight and so winning. That may look something like the senario you paint above, or it may look different. Whatever it looks like, God will be the one to get the glory.

  3. Pingback: Ten Years of Blogging: 2011-2012 | Alastair's Adversaria

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