The gay marriage debate has come up again in the US, this time with California’s rubbish governor vetoing a bill allowing same sex marriage.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating – there’s nothing ‘moral’ or religious about the need to allowing the registering of same sex relationships. Whether you call it marriage or not is moot – it certainly doesn’t have any effect on ‘straight’ marriages to call a permanent stable faithful committed same-sex relationship a marriage, but if they want a new name, that’s cool. The issue is one of supporting people’s right to self-determination under the law in terms of their lives, the power of attorney, legacies and decisions relating to property, illness and death. Beyond all the emotional nonsense talked about protecting the sanctity of marriage, here we have a very simple choice to do with protecting the equal right of a gay person to decide who is their life partner, and who they want to be linked to, legally.
As Peter Tatchell pointed out when he spoke at Greenbelt a couple of years ago, it’s an issue that goes deeper than just gay relationships – there should be a way for people who have spent their lives together in non-sexual relationships to have that recognised under law.
And Arnie’s dropped the ball. He says that it being a constitutional issue means that legislating on it now just makes it less clear, but I reckon it would have given a great push to the equal rights side of the argument for California to have brought it into law.
Meanwhile, the worldwide Anglican communion is still threatening to split over the same issue – the Nigerian church are threatening again to cut themselves off from Anglicans in the UK “if it followed the lead of the U.S. Episcopal Church by accepting a gay bishop or otherwise condoning homosexuality.”
While this is clearly more of a theological issue than the legal decisions being made in the US courts, it’s still pretty tragic that an entire country is going to cut itself off from another one within the Anglican church over the issue of ‘condoning homosexuality’. Especially given that for for the most part within the African church, there’s been very little theological discussion simply because a very simplistic reading of the Bible supports their ‘ewww that’s disgusting’ view of gay sex. It’s driven by the yuck factor rather than any serious theological searching.
I know some very intelligent, committed, wise and scholarly people on both sides of this discussion in England. At the moment none are threatening to leave the church. There are a few slightly mad right wing groups in the UK threatening to quit, but perhaps not surprisingly, I don’t know them personally.
I’m personally in favour of ordaining people who are called to the priesthood whatever their sexual orientation – the prurience of inquiring into the specifics of what people do with their chosen life partners seems absurd to me – it’s not as if straight married clergy get given a list of sexual sins laid out in Leviticus to tick off which ones they’ve done. I wonder how many vicars have ever been asked about bestiality, incest or whether they’ve ever had sex during their wife’s period in their time at vicar-hogwarts? So even if gay sex is viewed as a sin, there’s still a crap double-standard at work that says straight people can self-regulate and act according to conscience, but gay clergy have to be subject to moral policing. That’s clearly rubbish.
However, I also recognise that as a club with it’s own set of rules, the Anglican church does need to establish what those rules are, and allow people who don’t agree to them to either leave in good grace, or agree to abide by them for the good of the whole. I just hope that the church manages to find a way to accommodate the different ways of seeing things, and that everyone concerned learns something through it – that those on the more liberal wing see that the conservatives are (nutters notwithstanding) just doing what they see as right in the sight of God, and that the more conservative members realise that their more liberal brethren (nutters notwithstanding) aren’t on a quest to undermine the moral fabric of the church and society, but are genuinely seeking to apply their understanding of Biblical principles in the modern world.
FWIW, I’ve met some fantastic gay ministers, and some really shit straight ones – in neither case did their sexual orientation seem to play any part in their shitness as clergy-peoples.by