Campaign for Conjugal Marriage
Since the prime minister’s shock announcement in September 2011 that his Government would legally redefine marriage to open it to same-sex couples, Catholic Voices has been one of the most prominent organisations present in the media putting the case for preserving conjugal marriage.
We have held Academy briefings, taken part in and organised debates, commissioned polls (one showed British people in favour of retaining the current definition, the other exposed gay peoples’ relative indifference to the move), written a briefing paper which was circulated in Parliament, and made the case against same-sex marriage in dozens of media interviews, blog posts, articles and books (the latest is a chapter by Austen Ivereigh, ‘The destruction of Conjugality’ in Anastasia de Waal (ed.) The Meaning of Matrimony (Civitas; an electronic edition is available here). And we have kept a close eye on the passage of similar legislation in other countries, particularly France (we produced, for example, an abridged translation of the Chief Rabbi of France’s much-admired paper on the topic).
Listen to a selection of recent media appearances by Catholic Voices speakers on the marriages bill.
While accepting that ‘love is equal’, that no group in society should face unjust discrimination, and that the Church has no a priori right (or desire) to impose its sacramental definition of marriage on the law of civil marriage, our arguments have focused on the reasons for the state recognition of marriage, and the consequences of dethroning that understanding. We have shown how the state’s recognition of the purpose of marriage is directly related to the conjugality of marriage, namely the raising of children by their natural parents, and the benefits to society of sustaining that purpose.
We have shown how making marriage will be harder to understand and value when it is reduced to a mere domestic partnership. We have shown how such a move would weaken marriage over time, while failing to deliver equality to gay people. And we have shown how the effect of redefining marriage will be to shrink freedom of religion, exposing church institutions to the threat of lawsuits, and making it hard for teachers and public officials to continue to hold to the understanding of marriage which makes sense to most people. Lastly, we have argued that at the heart of the Marriages (Same-Sex Couples) Bill is a scandalous authoritarianism which is inimical to the British pluralist traditions: not only does the state have no right to redefine a natural institution that belongs firstly to civil society, but that this Government has no specific mandate to do so, the matter never having been put to the electorate in a general election.
We will continue to make these arguments as the Marriages (Same-Sex Couples) Bill goes through the committee stages of the House of Lords. And we will assist the Church in other countries to make those same arguments, faced with similar threats.