Sexuality and the State

Thoughts on Gay Marriage

By Dr. Sean Gabb

Not looking at the general circumstances, I’m in favour of gay marriage, and have been at least since I first wrote about it in 1989. If two consenting adults want to live together in close union, and can find a consenting minister of religion to bless their union, who are we to object? I also can’t get worked up about polygamy, polyandry, incest, or any other kind of union between consenting adults. To a libertarian, the sole function of state marriage laws is to offer individuals a package of legal agreements and declarations that they could make for themselves if they wanted to find the money and time.

Nor can I feel sorry for devout Christians in the administration who object to recognising these unions. There was a registrar a while back who objected to conducting civil partnership ceremonies. Well, if you’re a Catholic – and if you belong to various other denominations – civil marriage, even between men and women, is only state-recognised fornication. Such people are public servants. If they don’t agree with the duties they are called on to perform, they should look for other jobs. This isn’t an absolute principle, of course. Doctors should not be obliged to involve themselves in abortions; and any official who refused to carry out legal injustice would be well worth supporting. But, as said, the function of the marriage laws, to any libertarian, must be to enable and to recognise the commitments of consenting adults.

This being said, I’m not happy with the changes that are being made. I suspect the new law will be used to attack any denomination, or whole religion, that does not allow its ministers to perform the ceremonies. It doesn’t matter what guarantees are given this time round – this is a progressive change. Also, I’m reluctant to welcome any legal changes that are a fundamental break with the English past.

I thought civil partnerships were one of the few good things we got from thirteen years of Labour. At the very least, I expect a better debate over gay marriage than we’ve had so far. On the one side, it’s religious denunciations that would have served just as well against Catholic Emancipation. On the other, it’s vapid PC agitprop.

And that’s all I can presently think of saying.

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