War etc

What’s Wrong With Equality?

Good to see some common sense in the conservative press about the issue of gay civil unions. This is a leader from the Daily Telegraph earlier this week:

There is no good reason why a homosexual man or woman, bereaved after decades of faithful union, should face the additional burden of selling a shared home to meet death duties when a partner dies. To state this truth is a simple matter of what is just and practical. It is perverse that existing law should actively discourage any two people in a lifelong relationship from enjoying legal and financial security. Michael Howard was wise to signal that Conservative MPs would have a free vote on the issue.

We understand the reservations several Church leaders have expressed about extending this civil union into some sort of pastiche gay marriage, which would be in breach of so much Judaeo-Christian teaching. But that is a religious issue. What is proposed is a civil matter. It is wrong to oppose a sensible and modest civil reform for fear of where it will ultimately lead. Allowing gay people to affirm their relationship within a civil contract does not undermine the institution of marriage. It might even reinforce it. We will all benefit from greater recognition of stable relationships, of whatever kind.

Quite right. While I don’t share all of the Telegraph article’s explanation for the decline of marriage and think it ommits some important points (increasing forced geographical mobility, the invasion of work into the home being just two ommissions) it is to be welcomed that the main voice of British conservatism in the media has taken this stance.

There are some sections of the right who are however opposed to legal equality for gay couples. Melanie Phillips for example blurs the distinction between the religious issue and the civil issue and concludes:

Gay ‘marriage’, in short, is a means of destroying monogamous heterosexual marriage as a normative social and legal institution. That is, indeed, what its more honest advocates acknowledge, in order to remove – they think – the stigma that accompanies behaviour that is not considered the norm. Since homosexuality is not the norm, it follows that the heterosexual norm has to be destroyed. It is therefore a direct, outright attack on heterosexual, monogamous marriage.

Obviously legally registered gay civil unions would end the exclusivity of registered heterosexual union but I just don’t see where Phillips and her supporters draw the link that an end of exclusivity becomes an attack on the institution of marriage.

I see little merit in some of the campaigns in America to make Christian Churches bless what they see as a ‘sin’ – that seems to be a pointless battle to fight. But in terms of the British debate about civil unions, I really don’t see how the presence of legally recognised gay couples in committed relationships is going to effect the life decisions of heterosexual couples at all.