Monday, 21 November 2011
There is a debate going on in the UK about civil partnership; and whether in particular religious institutions should be allowed to perform them.
Currently there is a legal prescription against civil partnerships being described as marriage; or being associated with religious symbolism. This can cause problems for gay couples, as very strict registrars may veto certain types of behaviour, decoration, or forms of words. Certainly a top tip Fella and I have already had is to get to know our prospective registrar very well.
Some members of the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber that can delay and amend legislation – but not veto it – are opposingthis proposed opening up of options for gay couples. Tories, they are. A reputation for nastiness they have; sometimes they subsume it long enoigh to win power. But they always return to type.
I should make clear that no religious group or building would be forced to undertake civil partnerships. Currently gay people may not be discriminated against on the provision of a good or service; and the point of civil partnerships is to give gay couples the same rights and protections in law as them there proper married types. So it’s not such a radical step forward, but a welcome one.
Still those members of the Lords are opposed. And they are dressing up this opposition as what I have seen described as a victimisation meme. A simple equation; gay equality demeans religious freedom.
Well, gentle reader, time to introduce a new technical term to our rarefied debate. Horseshit.
It’s Horseshit because religious views should not be used as a way of attacking other people. It doesn’t damage anyone’s freedom to be stopped from doing that. Religion is being used as an absolute; but the argument is that it should be a supreme get-out-of-jail-free card.
It’s true that no-one’s freedom should be limited until and unless it impinges on someone else’s or is liable of causing harm. So you hate gays? Well, you get to shout it from the roof-tops, pray for our destruction; you’ll never be denied healthcare or the right to vote. Maybe you need to be careful what you say and do at work, or in public, or to your family – but hey, welcome to our world.
No, it isn’t equality they want. But if they do, let’s give it to them. Time, I think, to get the bishops out of the Lords. Time to disestablish the Church of England and all the subsidies that entails. Time to stop treating your vast portfolio of land as a charity, and get you to pay your taxes. Come on – you want to be like the rest of us – by all means.
Because, although we don’t claim to be special, it doesn’t mean you get to say we are less than what we are. So live. Grow. And marry me.