“Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman ... I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are ... We’ve seen dictators do it in different contexts and I don’t want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way ... "Dr Sentamu rightly alludes to the actions of "dictators" when referring to David Cameron's plans, for the following reasons:
Firstly, consider the enormity of what the government intends to bring about. David Cameron and his government intend to re-define marriage: a fundamental good of human beings, the first and vital cell and source of human society, which is upheld in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the following terms: “Men and women of full age ... have the right to marry and to found a family. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State."
As Mario Conti, the Catholic archbishop of Glasgow, put it (in the context of the Scottish government's plans): 9 Oct. 2011:
"Those in Government need to be respectfully reminded that a mandate to govern does not include a mandate to reconstruct society on ideological grounds, nor to undermine the very institution which, from the beginning, has been universally acknowledged as of the natural order and the bedrock of society, namely marriage and the family. In terms of law, its support and defence have been on a par with the defence of life itself. We weaken it at our peril."Secondly, David Cameron and his government are intending intend to redefine marriage without even the fig leaf of an electoral mandate.
Prior to the election neither of the parties now in the Coalition Government made any reference to changing the law in this area in their manifestos.
Moreover,the coalition agreement does not make any reference to changing the law in this area. (The Coalition: our programme for government, May 2010)
Yet Theresa May, the Home Secretary, on behalf of the Government, has told Archbishop Peter Smith, the Catholic archbishop of Southwark, "that the Government intended to introduce same-sex marriage and that the consultation was merely to help with the 'nuts and bolts' of the legislation".
Clearly, the government is refusing a consultation on the principle of gay marriage because they're afraid of the homosexual lobby** and because they're afraid that public opinion is being mobilised in defence of marriage and the family.
It's essential that British citizens, of all faiths and none, show no fear in opposing the government's plans. Let's keep the following key points in mind:
- The fundamental group unit of society is not the State; it is the family based upon the marriage of a man and a woman.
- Marriage is not the monopoly of Christians or of any particular faith group. As SPUC puts it in our position paper on same-sex marriage: "Marriage is a fundamental good of human beings and a natural institution. While different religions honour marriage and some raise it to a sacrament, they do not thereby deny that it is an institution natural to human beings – a basic human good. People of faith and those of no faith can and do agree on this."
- It's essential, in opposing the redefinition of marriage, to do so without prejudice to our opposition to civil partnerships in the UK which were in effect designed as, and are seen by many, as quasi-marriages, as leading homosexual activists have made clear (See SPUC's position paper on same-sex marriage and its accompanying background paper).
- To defend man-woman marriage is in no way to denigrate homosexual people, as is sometimes wrongly claimed. Rather, it is simply to defend a vital social institution which protects children born and unborn - and indeed, protects society as a whole. All of us, whatever our personal background, have an interest in supporting this vital, pre-political institution. It is part of the heritage of humanity.
"That the Council of SPUC, noting the various proposals currently being made by the present Government and others in regard to the status and standing of marriage and its consequent effect upon family life; and further noting the higher proportionate incidence of abortion in unmarried women compared to married women, resolves to do its utmost to fight for the retention of the traditional understanding of marriage in the history, culture and law of the United Kingdom, namely the exclusive union of one man with one woman for life; and accordingly instructs its officers and executive committee to conduct a major campaign to this end, to co-operate with other persons and societies in so doing and specifically to target the Government's consultation period starting in March, 2012, in regard to (so-called) same sex marriage."**Why is homosexuality (and sexual ethics generally) important specifically for the pro-life movement? The late Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, taught in no. 97 of his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae that it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection.
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