Saunders’ List

Let’s take a look at Peter Saunders list of Ten reasons not to legalise same-sex marriage in BritainI won’t be quoting his full arguments for the whole list, because this is already doomed to be a very long post.

1. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman

Throughout history in virtually all cultures and faiths throughout the world, marriage has been held to be the union of one man and one woman. Marriage existed thousands of years before our nation began and has been recognised in our laws as the ‘voluntary union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others for life’ (Hyde v Hyde 1866). The UN Declaration of Human Rights (article 16) recognises that the family, headed by a man and a woman, ‘is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State’. It is not up to governments to redefine marriage – but simply to recognise it for what it is, and to promote and protect it as a unique institution.

Wow, factually wrong right out of the gate. Throughout history the most common form of marriage has been polygamous. It’s even in the Old Testament of the Bible, according to 1 Kings 11 king Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, though I suspect he may have inflated the number while bragging.

Check out the basic point here, though. Saunders appears to be saying same sex marriage shouldn’t be allowed because right now it isn’t allowed. So we shouldn’t change the rules to allow it because right now it isn’t allowed.

I’m getting a headache already. 

2.Same sex couples already have civil partnerships

All the legal rights of marriage are already available to same sex couples through civil partnerships so there is no need to redefine marriage to include them. The President of the Family Division has even described civil partnerships as conferring ‘the benefits of marriage in all but name’. Such a move would also inevitably lead to calls to open civil partnerships to opposite sex couples on the basis of ‘equality’. But marriage and civil partnerships have been designed for two very different types of relationship and should be kept distinct. It is not and should not be ‘one size fits all’.

It amazes me that people keep saying this. We’ve seen “separate but equal”, and we know that it’s not equal. Here in the States hospitals refuse to let domestic partners see their loved ones, even when they’re dying, because the rules say “family only”. Perhaps the civil partnerships in the UK genuinely do confer all the benefits but name, however the fact that the name is considered a benefit shows that it’s not equal.

It also suggests that Saunders is only really opposed to gay people using the word “marriage” to describe their relationships that are identical to marriage in all but name. Strangely, he then goes on to say they’re very different types of relationship. I’d be interested in seeing a list of those differences.

3.Redefining marriage without consultation is undemocratic

The tyranny of the majority. This one boils down to “people should be able to vote on the rights of unpopular groups”. I’m also a little disgusted that he uses the word “appease” to describe the legal recognition of equal rights. Small minorities are the people governments should be working hardest to protect, the big groups are much better able to take care of themselves.

I like the phrase “foisted on the British people”, as though letting gays marry the people of their choosing is forcing some terrible burden on everybody.

4.Equality does not mean uniformity

More “separate but equal”. More “we shouldn’t change it because right now it’s not that way”. I kind of feel like this one was added because he wanted a list of ten but didn’t have ten good reasons.

5.Protecting traditional marriage safeguards children and society

Children do best when raised by two parents, most of the studies which have established this don’t take into account the sex of the parents at all. I always figured it’s because when one parent gets frustrated the other can take over, but I don’t think anyone’s really studied the why of it. But this part is outright pissing me off,

social policy has to be concerned with what is normally the case

Bullshit, social policy has to be concerned with everybody. You don’t get to say, “well, there aren’t many people in this situation, so they don’t matter”, a government exists to serve its citizens. All of them. You can make general strategies based on “what is normally the case” and allow for exceptions, sure, but you can’t just pretend that exceptions don’t exist or don’t matter.

Same sex marriage doesn’t have to be compared to marriage, it is marriage. As for “unproven and experimental social model”, it’s been working just fine for eight years in Massachusetts. Canada, Argentina and South Africa haven’t been destroyed by marriage equality. It’s being proven every day.

6.Marriage is a unique biologically complementary relationship

Marriage is the only legal union which can naturally lead to children. It takes both a man and a woman to produce a baby. The fact that there is a natural link between sexual intimacy and procreation is what makes marriage distinctive and different. Redefining marriage will undermine this distinctness and difference and risks normalising the technological instrumentalisation of reproduction and increasing the number of families where there is confusion of biological, social and family identity.

This is a mess, I’m not sure what he’s actually trying to say here. Marriage is a social institution and a legal contract. Biology is irrelevant.

I guess “undermine this distinctness” means it won’t be as special any more in that weird category he invented to contain only marriage as he understands it, and as near as I can figure “confusion of biological, social and family identity” means there’d be more families that aren’t like his, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what “the technological instrumentalisation of reproduction” means.

7.Redefining marriage will be complex and expensive

This just sounds like whining. “Why do we have to treat them like human beings? Change is haaaaard!”

Yes, change is hard. It was complex and expensive to end slavery. It was complex and expensive to let women own property. It was complex and expensive to introduce child labor restrictions, and to outlaw truck schemes. Forcing the Catholic church to be accountable for its history of abuse is a long, complex and expensive process. Developing the vaccine that wiped out smallpox was complex and expensive.

Fuck, when we redefined marriage so that was a partnership between equals it was complex and expensive!

Making things better usually is complex and expensive. Especially when it has to be fought for at every step against people with no stake in the matter who seem to be opposed to it for the most petty, trivial reasons. I’m continually amazed at how hard people will fight to maintain the status quo.

8.Schools will be forced to teach about the new definition of marriage

I remember hearing this one during the Prop8 debates in 2008. It didn’t make sense here then, and it doesn’t make sense in Britain now.

One of the strange things about Prop 8 was that it stripped away rights that existed, during the summer of 2008 any two consenting adults could get married, yet at the time the debates were always framed as “if we allow gay marriage” as though the question was whether to make it legal, instead of whether to ban it. This particular argument was an outright lie, California law had no such requirement, nobody was forcing schools to teach anything different because gay couples were getting married, and as far as I can recall there was no reason to think anything would change if Prop 8 hadn’t passed.

Unless the British education system is very different from ours, I very much doubt there’s a law specifying what schools teach about marriage and how they go about their lesson plans. Come to think of it, I don’t recall the subject ever coming up in my own education, perhaps I missed that day.

While I could see talking about it in class right after the decision was made, while it was still a current event, I’d be surprised indeed if a teacher took the time to discuss this every year. But by far the most important thing here is that if the subject came up it would be addressed honestly. Saunders appears to be complaining that schools would not lie to children.

Perhaps it would confuse some of the kids, but that’s a normal part of education. If the students are never outside of their comfort zone then the teachers aren’t doing their job.

9.Redefining marriage will not stop with same sex marriage

Ah, a good old fashioned slippery slope! I was really expecting him to go on about people marrying children or their dogs or something, but instead he brings up polygamy. Between consenting adults, even. Not only does it not necessarily follow, but it really wouldn’t be a problem as long as people aren’t being coerced into it.

Goodness, on this path we might not stop until everybody can live happily!

10.Redefining marriage will lead to faith-based discrimination

We have already seen a rising tide of discrimination against people who support traditional marriage as a result of the legalisation of civil partnerships coupled with new equality legislation.. If same sex marriage is legalised faith-based employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex ‘spouses’. They would also face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action – no matter how modest – against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil ‘marriage’ with a member of the same sex. Faith-based adoption and fostering services that place children exclusively with married couples would be required by law to place children with persons of the same sex who are civilly ‘married’. Marriage counsellors from faith backgrounds would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counselling in support of same-sex ‘married’ relationships. All these moves would place faith groups in the invidious position of being forced to act against their consciences or face marginalisation, exclusion and litigation and would further fuel social fragmentation, sectarianism, antagonism and civil unrest.

It’s a thing of beauty, isn’t it? Possibly the least self-aware thing I’ve ever read, he lists clear examples of discrimination and then claims that people who practice them will be discriminated against. He seriously claims that being expected to comply with the law and not discriminate against others is discrimination. I was tempted to give this its own post, there’s so much going on there. Let’s break it down a bit, shall we?

If same sex marriage is legalised faith-based employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex ‘spouses’.

Wait, they aren’t already forced to do that? So you were lying when you said civil partnerships were equal to marriage in all but name?

Peter, denying people health benefits because of their sex, or sexual orientation, or marital status or any combination thereof is discrimination. Being sued for not complying with the law is not.

They would also face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action – no matter how modest – against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil ‘marriage’ with a member of the same sex.

Taking action against an employee, no matter how modest, because you don’t like the person they got married to is discrimination. Being sued for not complying with the law is not.

Faith-based adoption and fostering services that place children exclusively with married couples would be required by law to place children with persons of the same sex who are civilly ‘married’. Marriage counsellors from faith backgrounds would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counselling in support of same-sex ‘married’ relationships.

Replace “same sex” with “interracial” and see if that looks different to you. Also, I didn’t realize that all people of faith hated the gays. In fact, I’m pretty sure I know many people from various “faith backgrounds” who appear to have no problem with equality! Have they been lying to me, or is this not as simple as you present it?

Seriously, playing the victim here is like a child screaming “it’s not fair!” when they get punished for beating up another kid.

Look, expecting people and organizations to abide by the same laws as everyone else regardless of their own religious affiliation is not discrimination. Faith-based discrimination would be if all the people & organizations associated with a particular religion were specifically treated differently than those not affiliated with that faith. Having the same laws apply to everybody is equality, not discrimination.

Sometimes we make exceptions to allow a group to do their own thing more easily, for example granting a special permit for a bonfire, or allowing use of ceremonial drugs that are normally illegal. These are examples of privilege, not entitlement. We make minor concessions like this because human beings and human comforts are important, and for that very same reason we should never make such exceptions when they could be used to hurt people.

On the subject of hurting people, you say that faith groups would be “forced to act against their consciences” if they were expected to obey the law and:

  • provide health care to the wives of women and husbands of men
  • not fire, censure, or otherwise take adverse employment action against employees who marry someone of the same sex
  • provide homes to children regardless of the sex of the adoptive or foster parents
  • provide marriage counseling to couples regardless of their sex

I want you to tell me what kind of conscience has a problem with treating people like equal human beings. What kind of conscience requires you to treat human beings badly because you don’t like who they married? What kind of conscience requires cruelty?

I’m trying to understand how you could, to take one of your examples, fire someone for marrying a person you don’t approve of and call that conscience. Or tell an orphan that they will not be going to live in a loving home because that loving family was two women, and your faith-based conscience says that’s icky.

You are openly claiming that religious traditions of treating minority classes like shit are more important than actual people. I’m trying to understand how you can call that conscience.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on May 31, 2012, in Daily Post and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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