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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Gay marriage causes a stir

There have been a lot of ruffled feathers, indignant spats and religious dogma over the last couple of weeks around the issue of gay marriage. This is something that has been on the agenda for some time, not quite since biblical times, but for some time nonetheless.

The soap opera started when Cardinal Keith O'Brien – the most senior Catholic in Britain – described gay marriage as "grotesque” amid ongoing speculation that a change in the law would soon make it legal for gay couples to marry rather than just be joined in a civil partnership. This provoked furious debate, mostly in the media, about antiquated attitudes in the church, what is socially acceptable and the meaning of true love, among other things.

Just as things were calming down, the Catholic Church stoked the fires again with a letter from the Archbishop of Westminster calling on Catholics to oppose same-sex weddings. All in all, an almighty, unholy row about whether same sex marriage should be allowed or not. And I think most commentators are missing the real point.

I talked about this in a previous blog last year when it was a surprise headline grabber during the political conference season.

Most religions preach tolerance. Some have changed their views over the centuries to move with the times. Others, some might say the Catholic church being one of them, have not. However, there is no reason logically or legally why same sex couples should not be married. Whether you agree with it or not is largely irrelevant. Laws are passed every day which some people agree with and others don’t. That is the nature of a democratic society.

David Cameron has signaled his intention to legalise gay marriage and in today's news I read that the Government plan to introduce legislation before the next election. Church leaders have set up the Coalition for Marriage, a pressure group that intends to lobby against any equalisation of Britain's marriage laws.

As I have previously said, it is really semantics over words. Many gay couples joined in civil partnership already consider themselves married. Other heterosexual couples want the right to be joined in civil partnership rather than marriage. It is individual choice over words but the family law underpinning all is very similar. If, ultimately, gay marriage is formally adopted, priests who don’t agree with it, I would guess, won’t carry out any ceremonies but everyone should be able to make up their own mind on the topic.

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor


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