The bitter and divisive arguments in the struggles towards marriage equality have highlighted some important issues around the institution of marriage, challenging many common assumptions. For example:
- The claim by opponents that we cannot redefine marriage are groundless – marriage has been constantly evolving, or “being redefined”, throughout human history. Traditional marriage is not threatened by gay marriage – issues like widespread promiscuity, cohabitation without marriage, adultery and divorce are far more serious threats.
- In many modern weddings, the expensive social occasion and conspicuous expense, with the wedding planner a more important presider over ritual than the priest or pastor, has undermined the religious significance of the institution.
- The inherently patriarchal nature of traditional marriage, raises the question whether civil unions may be more desirable – for different sex couples, as well as for gay men and lesbians.
- It is untrue that same – sex couples cannot form enduring, stable relationships. There is abundant research evidence to show the contrary, and that on balance same – sex couples are often happier than different – sex couples, because they are more likely to be based on genuine partnership, equality and negotiation.
- While most gay men and lesbians are overwhelmingly in favour of equal access in law to marriage, some are ambivalent about the extent to which they want it for themselves, wondering if they really want to give up the more relaxed attitude to open relationships, or the single lifestyles, they’ve previously enjoyed.
- Conversely, some heterosexual people have begun to ask whether their relationships too, could benefit from some tolerance of relationships outside the marriage?
Not only is redefining marriage inevitable, doing so consciously and deliberately is desirable – and could well help to save, rather than undermine, marriage for all.
This is the theme of the 2014 annual conference “Redefining Marriage?”, of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Sexuality, which will be held in Birmingham later this month ( February 15th). Gay and lesbian Catholics who are able to get to Birmingham should find much of interest in the day’s proceedings.
Annual Conference 2014
A look at the wider issues
Saturday 15th February 2014
Carrs Lane Church Centre
Birmingham City Centre, B4 7SX
Introducing our speaker:
Adrian Thatcher is Visiting Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, UK.