Homosexual Marriage: England Needs Another Thomas More
The state opening of Parliament is one of those bits of pageantry in which Britain excels:clinking horse-brasses and jingling reins, the clip-clop of cavalry on wet London streets and the Queen, resplendent in robes and crown, entering in state through the gothic archway and walking through the red-carpeted corridors of the House of Lords.
By tradition, members of the House of Commons are summoned to hear the Queen's speech, read from the throne in the Lords — but as members of the lower house they cannot enter the chamber, so they stand crowding around the door. It's all the more absurd because of course the speech — outlining government policy for the next parliamentary session — has been drafted entirely by the cabinet team headed by the prime minister.
This year the absurdity was seen at its height as Her Majesty, nominal head of the Church of England and defender of the faith, sitting amid all the glorious panoply of stained glass, chandeliers and coats of arms that speak of heritage and history, quietly announced the end of one of the basic institutions on which our society and community is based: marriage.
The Queen's speech contained the announcement that a new concept of civil unions — formalized, state-recognized, homosexual marriage between two partners of the same sex — will be introduced. The benefits, status and social recognition hitherto given to a man and woman who marry and raise a amily together will, following legislation in this Parliament, be extended to two lesbians or two homosexuals who choose to set up a partnership.
The details of course still have to be worked through — and debated in Parliament — but it is understood that as part of the package deal, public-policy documents will, whenever possible, no longer refer to marriage. The understanding that marriage is a lifelong, unique and socially recognized union between a man and a woman will be abolished.
The stage was set for this earlier in the week when the Conservative Party — the official opposition in Parliament — announced it would not oppose this new law as a matter of policy but allow its members a free vote on the issue. Given that Labor members of Parliament support the measure — as it is government policy this means it will have an easy ride. Even if the Conservatives had opposed it, Labor has such a large majority that it would have become law, but at least the legislation would have had a rough ride and some concessions in favor of traditional marriage might have been obtained.
Now, we can expect nothing of that kind.
The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have already announced their general opposition to the notion of “same-sex marriage,” and it is to be hoped — and assumed — that this opposition will be maintained throughout the passage of the legislation and the media discussion that ensue. Already, the general line on talk shows and the like is to assume that anyone who opposes some form of legalized homosexual unions is a bigot, a religious prude or (at best) so hopelessly old-fashioned as to be irrelevant.
The main opposition to the proposals to date has been the evangelical movement — including some in the Anglican Church, together with numbers of people in Baptist and Free Churches. The Christian Institute, an evangelical-based group that has also fought nobly on the pro-life front, has been astute and hardworking in getting people to write to members of Parliament and members of the House of Lords. It launched a courageous and well-argued campaign to protect children from homosexual adoption — to no avail — and has repeatedly drawn attention to the gross and offensive material put out by homosexual lobby groups via health authorities to schools and youth groups.
Do I sound gloomy? Of course. Wouldn't you if you belonged to a nation that was the first outside the communist bloc to introduce legalized abortion and you now had to watch as this new and latest nasty piece of social engineering gets under way?
Naturally, we will be doing what we can. There are various lobby groups presenting the case for the traditional family. The Catholic Herald newspaper has been producing good material. And we have our never-failing British sense of humor, which we must hope will not leave us. But all in all, things don't look good. Did I mention that the Conservative Party has just announced its new head of publicity — a self-proclaimed homosexual whose “long-term partner” was, until recent tempests, working in public relations for the royal family? (I am not making this up.)
What will we do? Work to point out the anomalies in the proposed law, of course — some mentioned already in the press and elsewhere. It took an American, Dwight Longenecker — yes, the very same person whose name occasionally graces these columns — to point out, tongue-in-cheek, that if we are going to say it is wrong to limit marriage to members of opposite sexes, surely it is equally wrong to limit it to just two people. What about Bill and Jane, who have a great partnership, but Bill is bisexual, and Jane is comfortable with that and happy to accommodate Jim, who is Bill's long-term lover?
St. Thomas More went to the scaffold rather than allow that a king could disobey the law of God and marry a new wife while the first was yet living. As lord chancellor, More was tried and found guilty of treason in the Great Hall at Westminster. Yes, you've got it — the same building that is part of the Palace of Westminster today. The lessons for today's Catholics who seek to give public witness to the laws of God are rather worrying.
The whole point of martyrdom is that it gives witness to those who follow. We cannot say we have not been taught what is right.
Joanna Bogle writes from London.