Posts tagged ‘marriage’

A small bit of common sense

The private company masquerading as a public body which is the Advertising Standards Authority has ‘ruled’ that those who are campaigning to keep marriage as it is should freely be allowed to advertise:

We noted the complainants believed that [the] ads … were offensive as they considered them to be homophobic.

However, the ads focused on the current legal definition of marriage and its history.

We considered that, although some people might disagree with the advertisers’ opinions on the matter of same sex marriage, the ads in themselves did not contain anything that was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.

Well that’s jolly nice of them to say so but quite frankly the whole business has been unnecessary and they should have told those few wannabe Stazi fools who complained in the first place to run along.

Freedom to Oppose

Whilst I am on the opposite side of the marriage debate debate to His Grace, I am vehemently opposed to the actions of those who have complained about him carrying an advert (show below) by the Coalition for Marriage on his blog.

Coalition for Marriage advert

The UK is, supposedly, a democratic, civilised country and in such a country the freedom to express opinions which others might not disagree with should be an inalienable right.

Complaining about someone who has a different opinion to you – and expecting it to be followed up – is an action which Erich Mielke would be proud of.

If the Advertising Standards Authority had any common sense whatsoever it would have gone to the source of the advert, found out what the information used within it is based upon and told the complainants to go and play in the traffic.

Instead they went and harassed a blogger about it. If I were His Grace my reply would be, as others have already suggested, along the lines of Arkell v. Pressdram.

Marriage revisited

The subject of marriage is once again in the spotlight after Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Equalities (and not, as the Telegraph described her, ‘Equalities Minister’), used her speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference to announce:

We are a world leader for gay rights, but as this conference made clear last year with your call for equal marriage, there is still more that we must do.

That is why I am delighted to announce today that in March, this Government will begin a formal consultation on how to implement equal civil marriage for same sex couples.

And this would allow us to make any legislative changes necessary by the end of this Parliament.

Civil partnerships were a welcome first step – but as our constitution states, this party rejects prejudice and discrimination in all its forms.

And I believe that to deny one group of people the same opportunities offered to another is not only discrimination, but is not fair.

Predictably this idea has gone down like the preverbal lead balloon with the Christian religious traditionalists/fundamentalists* with commentators such as the likes of His Grace frothing at the mouth and saying that religious marriage is nothing to do with politicians. Strangely I agree with him, but not, I think, for the same reasons as I would go further and say that the State has no place in deciding who can – or indeed cannot – marry.

However, as with so much these days, we are starting from a point in the UK where what should be a simple contract between the involved parties has instead been heavily influenced by both religion and State for many hundreds of years.

Wikipedia tells us that:

A requirement for banns of marriage was introduced to England and Wales by the Church in 1215. This required a public announcement of a forthcoming marriage, in the couple’s parish church, for three Sundays prior to the wedding and gave an opportunity for any objections to the marriage to be voiced (for example, that one of the parties was already married), but a failure to call banns did not affect the validity of the marriage.

Marriage licenses were introduced in the 14th century, to allow the usual notice period under banns to be waived, on payment of a fee and accompanied by a sworn declaration, that there was no canonical impediment to the marriage. Licenses were usually granted by an archbishop, bishop or archdeacon. There could be a number of reasons for a couple to obtain a license: they might wish to marry quickly (and avoid the three weeks’ delay by the calling of banns); they might wish to marry in a parish away from their home parish; or, because a license required payment, they might choose to obtain one as a status symbol.

There were two kinds of marriage licenses that could be issued: the usual was known as a common license and named one or two parishes where the wedding could take place, within the jurisdiction of the person who issued the license. The other was the special license, which could only be granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury or his officials and allowed the marriage to take place in any church.

To obtain a marriage license, the couple or more usually the bridegroom, had to swear that there was no just cause or impediment why they should not marry. This was the marriage allegation. A bond was also lodged with the church authorities for a sum of money to be paid if it turned out that the marriage was contrary to Canon Law. The bishop kept the allegation and bond and issued the license to the groom, who then gave it to the vicar of the church, where they were to get married. There was no obligation, for the vicar to keep the license and many were simply destroyed. Hence, few historical examples of marriage licenses, in England and Wales, survive. However, the allegations and bonds were usually retained and are an important source for English genealogy.

Given the period of history in question, I suppose it is not a surprise that the Catholic Church attempted such a complete and total power grab. Prior to then marriage had been considered a private affair but once the Church had had its way it became a religious arrangement – the echos of which are still present today.

The Church though did not thoroughly subjugate the institution of marriage within England and Wales until 1753 when the State, perhaps pressured by the (by this time) Church of England (CoE), passed what is known as Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act. This conjoining of the country’s two most powerful bureaucracies of the age formalised the previous arrangements for everyone except Jews and Quakers (although it stopped short of ensuring the legality of their ceremonies).

(As an interesting footnote, because the Act was not binding in Scotland, the rise of Gretna Green as a place of elopement can be traced to this Act. That and the building of a toll road which passed nearby.)

For the CoE though this enshrining of its wishes into Law can also be considered the high water mark in terms of their control over the institution of marriage.

Less than 100 years later, the Marriage Act of 1836 restored the ability of people to get married outside of the influence of the CoE, legalising civil marriages and allowing ministers from other Christian denominations to conduct legal marriages. The then Bishop of Exeter was so outraged by this idea that he denounced the bill in quite strong terms:

…a disgrace to British legislation. (It) is pretended to be called for to prevent clandestine marriages, but I think it will greatly facilitate such proceedings. Not solemnised by the church of England, may be celebrated without entering into a consecrated building, may be contracted by anybody, and will be equally valid, whether it takes place in the house of God, or in the house of a registering clerk, one of the lowest functionaries of the state. The parties may take one another for better and for worse, without calling God to witness their plighted troth. No blessing sought; no solemn vows of mutual fidelity; no religious solemnity whatever…

The follow up act of 1949, reconfirmed much of what already existed but banned under 16s from getting married. Thus the state of play today is that:

…a couple has a choice between being married in the Anglican Church, after the calling of banns or obtaining a license or else, they can give “Notice of Marriage” to a civil registrar. In this latter case, the notice is publicly posted for 15 days, after which a civil marriage can take place. Marriages may take place in churches other than Anglican churches, but these are governed by civil marriage law and notice must be given to the civil registrar in the same way. The marriage may then take place without a registrar being present, if the church itself is registered for marriages and the minister or priest is an Authorised Person for marriages.

(As an aside, did you know that it is illegal in the UK to marry between 1800 hrs and 0800 hrs? The Freedom Bill (remember that?) will, if it ever passes, remove this restriction.)

And there you have it, an institution which, for all practical purposes, dates back to when the first caveman hit the first cavewoman over the head with a club and carried her back to his cave is now all neatly controlled by the State with a bit of a sweetener to keep the official Christian sect of the country happy.

It is thus possible to see why the CoE, having once joined forces with the State when it was the bigger beast, now complains bitterly when its secular successor announces changes to the civil side of the equation as they realise that their bone will be taken away next. If the CoE really wants to retain what little power it has left in the matter then it should be actively campaigning for disestablishment. This would allow it to revert back to its original status as an outsider. However their attachment to the State is so great that I can’t honestly see it happening – which means that they are condemned to suffer along with the rest of us. Quite ironic really.

Meanwhile the fact that the controlling monolith is considering (assuming this consultation is anything other than a formality) opening up the definition of marriage is to be applauded. That it will still retain control afterwards is not.

What it should do is get out of the game altogether and leave it up to the individual to marry in whatever combination of numbers and/or genders that takes their fancy under whichever rules they do so choose. Together with disestablishment this would leave the CoE, as a private organisation, free to impose its own restrictions on those who wish to use its facilities and membership. Then, if members of the CoE object to a particular policy (such as banning gays or lesbians from having a religious wedding service) they are free do what has happened every other time there has been a fundamental policy disagreement within the Christian Church: Schism.

* delete as you consider appropriate

An Internet Storm in a Teacup

In a textbook example of how a story of ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’ can get out of hand, a report in the Daily Mail on May 1st about a potential tightening up of what can – or can’t be show pre-watershed caused a small amount of righteous fury yesterday.

Given that this is the Mail, they led the story with the idea that lesbian kisses could be banned from being shown under this potential change and this was picked up by The Sun which initially didn’t bother to pass on more information than just that, preferring instead to run with the outrage of an soap opera actress, who portrays a lesbian, who hadn’t read the full story either.

Cue snowball effect as various right-on internet publications, which also hadn’t bothered reading the story, all accused David Cameron and the Tories of going back to the days where they were the ‘Nasty Party’.

As the Daily Mail was at the forefront of the whole Section 28 palaver in the mid-80s and has been regularly accused of being economical with the truth by groups claiming to champion the rights of minorities you would be forgiven for thinking that such organisations wouldn’t have taken the story that they got second or third hand at face value.

Indeed, the whole basis for the original Daily Mail report is a single, anonymous source apparently close to the Bailey Review, commissioned by the government last year to ‘look at the pressures on children to grow up too quickly’, who said that:

For some parents, what has been considered acceptable in the past – such as that Brookside kiss – is not appropriate for children to see early in the evening.

And that ladies and gentlemen is it. A single line which stirred up a small internet frenzy. I suppose it would have been a bigger one but for the apparent death of someone in Pakistan which mean that, in the end, almost no-one was listening to the howls of anguish being generated by a small number of interested parties.

Shockingly, although you could have been forgiven for missing it, that wasn’t all that the anonymous source had to say. Not that the interest groups cared. Indeed I’m not sure the Mail did either as they probably thought that their job was done after giving lesbians and most of their male readership heart attacks at the thought of having to find pictures of two women kissing somewhere other than on prime time television.

Other things apparently in the firing line include raunchy dance routines on pre-watershed TV, sexual explicit advertisements in public places (by which they are generally referring to large posters of lingerie clad women) as well as a crackdown on internet pornography by enabling parents to ask web service providers to block obscene websites ‘at source’ rather than relying on parental controls.

Strangely there were no cries of outrage at any of that. No suggestions that ISPs shouldn’t exist to backstop parents who are too lazy to use controls that already exist to restrict what their children look at online. No thoughts on whether hiding away the semi-naked form is all just a touch puritan. No complaints about the potential suggestiveness of dance routines performed by the likes of Christina Aguilera and Rihanna.

Honestly, anyone would think that those making a fuss didn’t care about anything outside of justifying their own blinkered existence…


A philosophical question for a Sunday morning:

What is marriage?

For myself I see it as a formalisation of an existing relationship between two or more people; a statement to let everyone know to they are in this for the long term. If the various parties wish at the same time to draw up an agreement to agree how assets should be divided in the event of the relationship failing then this should be recognised as a legal document by administrators dealing with the break-up.

How would you define it?