I support gay marriage but Bill has serious flaws
SOMETIMES, doing what you think is the right thing can win enemies on both sides. On Wednesday, I voted not once but twice on the same Sex Marriage Bill. I voted for and against it, in what was a 'positive abstention'. I generally do not like abstaining, and I want to explain why I chose to do so.
I voted for the Bill because fundamentally, I am firmly of the view that gay men and women deserve nothing less than equal treatment, and I understand why many feel that civil partnerships are not sufficient – "civil partnership" is essentially contractual, whereas "marriage" symbolises the more subjective elements of love, commitment, and union.
I know people disagree, but I do believe that same sex couples should have access to an institution such as marriage which recognises the more-than-contractual nature of their union.
However, I also cast a vote against the Bill as I believe it has serious flaws that undermine its aim of providing equality, and also encroach on the reasonable concerns of those who oppose gay marriage.
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Firstly, the Bill as it stands does not make provision for the concept of adultery in same sex marriage. For me, this risks making marriage for same sex couples a second rate version. A commitment to sexual fidelity, on which the marriage arrangement can depend, is fundamental to the very value of marriage.
Second, I also find it odd that the Government is not proposing to allow civil partnerships for heterosexual couples – if this Bill is about equality, the state should extend its institutions to everyone.
Thirdly I worry that legal protections for religious institutions are not strong enough to prevent them from being forced to marry same sex couples – that the Church of England would be banned from conducting same sex marriages to protect its religious freedoms, seems paradoxical.
I have also been concerned that individuals who do not support same sex marriage may face discrimination for their views – there is no protection against this in the Bill.
It is vital that those on both sides of the debate are able to air their profoundly held views without fear of prejudice.
But I think another solution altogether may be a better answer. Hear me out.
The institution of marriage, being part objective remit of the state (legal and tax affairs), and part subjective (commitment, and declaration of love, often in front of a 'higher authority') is a unique and odd institution for state debate.
One solution may be for the state to provide a civil partnership or union arrangement for all couples, heterosexual and homosexual, (the objective part) and for civic, humanist and religious institutions to validate or consecrate the 'subjective' meaning of marriage, as they wish.
With all this in mind, I felt that the only honest thing to do was to abstain; to positively register support for the principle of equality but opposition to some of its unintended consequences.