22 March
2012

Gay Marriage: a Tale of Two Petitions (and Facebook)

From a guest blogger: On 20 February the website of the Coalition 4 Marriage was set up. Since then its petition has obtained, online and on paper, well over quarter of a million signatures (275,928 on 22 March).

About four days after that petition was set up another website was set up in opposition: the Coalition 4 Equal Marriage. At the time of writing its petition has just passed 33,000 signatures.

Both petitions can be ‘liked’ on Facebook and even ‘tweeted’ on Twitter. Interestingly the Coalition 4 Equal Marriage site has nearly 6,000 tweets and more than 16,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook. Here the Campaign 4 Marriage lags behind with just over 3,000 tweets and about 3,000 Facebook ‘likes’.

It is tempting to interpret these figures as suggestive of a younger demographic favouring gay marriage and of ‘marital conservatism’ as the line of the ‘well preserved’ and greying in the population. This is very likely true, but it should not be allowed to obscure the fact that, in spite of all the noise and activity of social networking sites, the Coalition 4 Equal Marriage petition trails the more ‘conservative’ petition by a factor of 1:8. Even if a younger demographic does favour gay marriage there is no sound reason why the country should be run by and for a vocal group of 18 to 25-year-olds. With the mean age of first marriage in the UK standing at 29.6, the experience and wisdom of the already-married ought not to be discounted in so important a matter of law and social organisation.

Obviously, we do not know at present how things may develop over the next couple of months. It is not inconceivable that a committed and determined Coalition 4 Equal Marriage will garner more support. It might be foolhardy to venture predictions, but there is one point that can already be asserted with assurance. With so many signatures collected, the Coalition 4 Marriage petition deserves the attention of Parliament. The whiff of rumour that the Government’s ‘consultation’ is not really interested in objections to gay marriage is a matter of serious concern. It is time, dare we suggest it, that our leaders spent less time looking at Facebook, Twitter or the liberal media, and started to take more seriously what the people say at large.

3 Responses to Gay Marriage: a Tale of Two Petitions (and Facebook)

J says: 4 April 2012 at 1:20 am

The anti-marriage petition is mean-spirited. Denial of marriage to a minority is not something one should be proud of. Inevitably some signatories will have the good sense to regret their actions someday. How many have, unbeknownst to themselves gay or lesbian nice es, nephews, grandchildren or neighbours. No matter how you dress it up, it’s mean-spirited to exclude lesbian and gay people from civil marriage.

Reply
Thomas More Institute says: 4 April 2012 at 2:20 pm

J,
Thank you for your message.

Sentiments obviously run very high on both sides of this debate, and I appreciate the clarity and straightforwardness of your comment. Yet, however emotionally charged this debate is, and understandibly so, we cannot leave basic human nature out of the equation.

In discussions of sexuality and marriage we naturally need to discuss both sex, and the day-to-day aspects of people caring for each other. While gay couples doubtlessly do care for each other in the same way as straight couples the same cannot be said of sex. For heterosexual couples sex naturally leads to procreation. Miscarriages and sterility aside, pregnancy is part of the natural functioning and cooperation of male and female genitalia. You may object that there are couples who are married but also sterile. However, this cannot be regarded as normal or ‘normative’. Sterility in heterosexual couples is regarded as a kind of disorder (notably by those wishing to conceive). In one way or another their genitalia do not function as they should. We might say of someone who is blind; that their eyes don’t function as they should. We can extend this principle to sexual organs as well.

Moreover, even if not every act of sex leads to a baby we can at least say that every baby is a product of sex, or, in the very limited case of IVF, the product of cooperation between male and female genitalia. In the case of straight couples, sex and life are naturally bound up together unless they are artificially separated through contraception. This is obviously not true of gay couples. Sexually speaking their relationships are naturally sterile. There is no way that 2 men or 2 women can cooperate sexually to make a baby.

Making babies is extremely important, and all human life comes from heterosexual cooperation of some kind. Whatever other similarities exist between gay and straight couples this is clearly not one of them. You may object that plenty of couples use contraception, but this does not give us a natural similarity since it is artificial.

The current laws saying who can and cannot get married have a natural foundation; that under natural conditions, sex leads to babies. The argument that marriage should be extended to include gay couples requires that we acknowledge an artificially created, or medically disorded similarity between straight and gay couples, namely sterility. This moves the definition of marriage from resting on something that we have no control over (the source of new life), to being simply mutual support and care. While such support is a great, great thing, and is a natural and wonderful part of human existence, it is not tied up to a function such as procreation. Mutual love and support can exist between married people, unmarried people, siblings, large groups, and between heterosexual people of the same sex, but no one is suggesting that we ought to extend the definition of marriage so as to accomodate all such groups.

Of course, there are gay couples who see their relationships as far more than just friendship and as something much deeper. I imagine that they would like that depth to be recognised publicly. But, since third parties (such as the state) cannot experience that relationship directly, there is no way that the depth of their relationship can actually be acknowledged publicly. What should the state recognise? Sentiment? Shared property? Our newspapers are awash with celebrities declaring their ‘love’ for each other who get married only to divorce after 6 months, and thus bringing the institution of marriage into disastrous disrepute.

I have no doubt that the sentiments of gay couples are sincere and profound (more so than many celebrities), but sentiment and mutual support are not enough by which to define marriage. Procreation is a material fact, bound to heterosexual relations. It is something the state can recognise. While I don’t wish to sound mean-spirited, I’m afraid sentiment is not.

Yours,
P

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