Cardinal Keith O’Brien On Same-Sex Marriage

Yes, this is another post about the UK government’s stance on introducing same-sex marriage. I do not apologise for this fact, but I am well aware of the volume of material written over the past 2 weeks on the subject.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, leader of the Catholic Church of Scotland, wrote an article for today’s Sunday Telegraph.

He said many things I do not agree with, on legal, social, and historical grounds. One such argument, which I will likely return to at a later date is that of family integrity, mothers, fathers, and teaching marriage in schools. What I want to address here, however, is his use of a hypothetical comparison. Near the end of the article, he stated:

No Government has the moral authority to dismantle the universally understood meaning of marriage.

Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that “no one will be forced to keep a slave”.

Now, what I have a problem with is his use of a hypothetical alternative which does not correlate to the question at hand. In this scenario there is the option to opt into, or out of, the direct taking of another person’s human right to freedom, and being subjected to ownership. In this scenario there will always be individuals, the slaves, who have had their right to freedom removed against their will.

However, with the case of legalised same-sex marriage, no one’s rights are being forced or removed. Legal rights are being made universal and open for same-sex and different-sex couples regarding civil marriage; it will be their choice to form one or not. Those who do not agree with same-sex civil marriage will not be forced to enter into one, and they will not be forced to perform a civil-marriage in a religious setting. As is the case now in UK law for different-sex couples, there is a distinction between a civil-marriage and a religious-marriage. This distinction would continue so as to not override individuals religious freedoms.

The issue of allowing same-sex civil marriage is one of equality within UK law. This is, in fact, where the C4M advocates have got it right. As they have pointed out, currently a civil-marriage, and a civil-partnership, do indeed afford the same legal rights in UK law. C4M, however, wish to maintain this form of legal segregation, whereby same sex couples can be similar, as long as they are kept separate.

Maybe a more apt scenario, or hypothetical comparison to liken the argument to, is not the government attempting to reintroduce optional slavery, but of campaigners trying to retain racial segregation, allowing a social sub-class similar rights, as long as members of the sub-class are kept separate from them.

Or, maybe we can stick with Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s scenario, but change its interpretation. His scenario fits perfectly to the current legal system regarding same-sex couples and civil-partnerships. Currently, Same-sex couples are enslaved to a civil-partnership, without the freedom of a civil-marriage, and the onlookers in society can either agree with this subjugation, or reject it.

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