Paula's Place

Paula's Place

Marriage

There is a growing tide of opinion in the UK led by our Prime Minister to allow same sex marriages. As a Christian my gut reaction is to oppose this, now it has been stated that no Church will be forced to conduct marriages against their religious beliefs, but I fear that the unique position of the Church of England could make it difficult where one Parish will be set against same sex marriage and a neighbouring Parish in favour. Because of this when I was asked to circulate a request for people to sign a petition supporting the status quo I did, I sent the request out to everyone in my e-mail address book. I only had one reply, this is what my friend wrote


"Er no, I won’t be signing this.

My gay sisters-in-law have a civil partnership, which amounts to marriage in my view, as the level of commitment is the same, and I would support the right of my gay friends to have the same opportunity to live a peaceful life with a partner of their choosing. "


Now I find it very difficult to argue with any of this, except maybe is Civil Partnership equal to marriage, if it is then why do we have the two separate institutions? why cannot different sex couples have a civil partnership? I feel that the Civil Partnership was both a fudge and missed opportunity. I strongly feel that any two people who are prepared to make a life long commitment to a shared life should be able to enter a Civil Partnership. At the moment it is only open to same sex couples who are not blood relations and will be living together as if married.
A lot of my concern is down to the number of marriages that break up, I understand that nearly half of all marriages and civic partnerships now end in failure. To me it is "A Bad Thing" when a marriage fails, and there doesn't seem to be much difference in the number that do fail whether the ceremony is in a Church a Registry Office or on an exotic beach. So I find I am asking myself about the very nature of marriage.

In a Christian context marriage is the permanent exclusive union of one man and one woman made by God in the sight of the community for the purpose of having children and raising a family, but Christians cannot claim any sort of unique ownership of marriage, it has been practised in one form or another by just about every society since the dawn of time. Sometimes it has been relatively easy to end a marriage, at other times it has been almost impossible, I would like to see more marriages survive, but what right have I to say that somebody should live in misery, in an abusive relationship, or with an adulterous partner. When I see friends on their third divorce can I really claim that someone entering into a civil partnership is making a lower level of commitment.

I often hear it said that divorce is too easy, although rarely by anyone going through a divorce, I do not believe that anyone would willingly go through a divorce unless they felt it necessary. I do wonder if marriage is too easy. At a number of Churches couples do have to go through a course with either the priest who will marry them or an established couple, experienced in these things. However from a legal point of view all you have to do is remember your name, and that of your partner.

One thought I have is that Civil Partnerships should be opened up to any couples committed to a joint life, so this would include siblings sharing property, two people of different gender who wish to make a commitment, Civil Partners should enjoy all the tax and inheritance benefits of a married couple, with the possibility of partnerships being dissolved on the same basis as any other legal contract. Marriage could then be an optional addition above and beyond a simple legal contract, on top of the civil partnership, for those who need to make that extra religious or romantic declaration. I know we would still have the same issues as to whether marriage should be open to same sex couples, and where and who would conduct the ceremonies, but maybe the demand would be different.

I don't know what the answer is, indeed I haven't even worked out the question properly, but I do think there is something fundamentally wrong with our current approach to marriage, it's just that I can't work out what it is, and whether these proposed changes will help. I know some people will and do want to remove the religious aspects from marriage, but to a Christian (or a Muslim or a Jew and probably most other faiths) it is a sacrament, and therefore impossible to separate from our faith.
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