As MPs in Westminster revert to their colonial ways and trample on the devolved powers of Northern Ireland by voting to introduce gay marriage and abortion into the province against the wishes of their lawmakers and population (a move now only preventable by the Assembly at Stormont reforming before October and cancelling it), it is a good time to remind ourselves why the fight against gay marriage is so crucial. What follows is a talk I gave at a Coalition for Marriage event in London last week. The event was called One Man-One Woman – The Truth About Marriage and the talk was entitled ‘The importance of defending marriage between a man and a woman’.
We’re all here today because we believe that the truth about marriage is that it can only truly exist between a man and a woman.
These days that can seem to many people as a narrow-minded even bigoted point of view. It is becoming increasingly risky to voice this view in public or to let on to those around us that we hold it, especially in the workplace, but also among friends, at our children’s school, or even in church. Society is becoming less and less tolerant of dissent from the liberal-progressive orthodoxy that a marriage can take place between any two people who love each other, regardless of sex. Yet here we are, taking time out of busy lives to show that we do not agree, and that we still believe in marriage as it was traditionally understood.
But why? Why don’t we just join in with where society is headed? Why aren’t we prepared to sign up to the LGBT equality agenda, which asks us to respect not just individuals but their relationships and treat them as equal to marriage? Given that same-sex marriage has been on the books in the UK for 5 years now, and is more widely supported than ever, why don’t we just give up and accept defeat? Is it because we are narrow-minded people who can’t recognise justice and progress when we see it?
No, of course not. It’s because we see things as they really are, and that doesn’t involve going along with the fictions our culture churns out to prop up its ideologies. It’s because we know what real progress and justice look like, and because we care about our children and want to guide them down good paths where they will flourish. It’s because we care about people and want a culture that helps everyone make good choices.
Our basic contention is that marriage is not something that makes sense when it comes to same-sex couples, and that the overall consequences of trying to make out that it does are harmful.
In these days where celebration of all things LGBT can seem almost obligatory it can be easy to forget that same-sex marriage is a 21st century invention. No country in the world had same-sex marriage before 2001 and even today more than 80 per cent of countries still do not have it. For those countries and for all humanity before the last 20 years marriage meant one thing and one thing only: the union of a man and a woman with a view to starting a family. Marriage, as the European Court of Human Rights was still prepared to affirm as recently as 2010, is the unique relationship ‘geared to the fundamental possibility of parenthood.’ This means, the court explained, that there is no requirement in human rights or equality law to extend it to ‘relationships of a different kind’.
Marriage is about the fact that at a fundamental level human beings come as male and female – an identity coded in our chromosomes and expressed in our basic biology. Marriage is the institution that protects the uniquely procreative relationship that results from the union of the sexes and provides the foundation for family life.
Now of course, not every married couple finds they are able to have children. But the small proportion of couples who cannot are still able to share in the marriage pattern in which, in better circumstances, their children would appear and be raised. And who knows, one day they might be able to conceive. Or they might adopt, giving children without parents the opportunity to have a mother and father of their own.
Most cultures including our own have traditionally regarded marriage as a pattern laid down not merely by human custom but by the Creator God from the beginning, to be the reuniting of the two halves of humanity into ‘one flesh’. But you don’t have to be religious to hold to a traditional understanding of marriage. Whether you see it as God’s will or just part of the way things are, marriage only makes sense, and only brings its social benefits, when it retains its traditional definition. Expand it and it becomes something else, something detached from the special responsibilities of parenthood and family life. It no longer stands for the gold standard to which all parents and potential parents are called.
How so? We don’t have to speculate about this. We know what happens, because it is the reality we are living. We see all around us how marriage becomes further devalued as a mere lifestyle choice, not a norm or duty of people to one another and to their children. Its sense of permanence is weakened. Our very identity as male and female – so closely bound up with our role in family life, as a mother or father or the potential to be one – becomes obscured and blurred. Relationships become even more chaotic and dysfunctional as children and adults are taught that anything goes when it comes to sex as long as it’s consensual.
It can sometimes be hard to see the social consequences of same-sex marriage because they are mixed up with those of the sexual revolution more generally. Yet same-sex marriage is a key plank in the consolidation of the sexual revolution, enshrining in law and culture the equality of homosexual and heterosexual relationships. It also provides a springboard to the next phase of the sexual revolution in the wholesale dismantling of gender and the traditional married family – what is dismissively termed heteronormativity.
This again is not speculation but reality. Since the advent of same-sex marriage in 2014 the LGBT lobby has become ever more strident and uncompromising in its demands, making deep inroads into institutions such as schools, universities, churches, government and the police. Equality legislation has been progressively interpreted to rule out as discrimination or hate speech the voicing of any scruples about same-sex relationships, and this dogma is increasingly being forced on children through state education. The celebration of homosexuality and transgenderism has become a wide and strong social expectation, epitomised in the annual Pride celebrations.
The consequences of all this promotion of homosexuality are striking, especially amongst the young. Between 2014 and 2017 the number of UK 16-24 year olds identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual increased by 50 per cent in just three years. That rise was driven by a doubling in the number of 16-24 year olds identifying as bisexual in particular between 2012 and 2017. What’s more, the number of the same age bracket identifying as ‘other’ sexual orientation (so not lesbian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual) more than quadrupled between 2012 and 2017.
These eye-watering increases in what is in historical terms the blink of an eye represent thousands of young people moving into new and experimental sexual identities and behaviours, spurred on by a culture that celebrates and encourages them.
Yet homosexual relationships have a number of features which mean people have good reason to wish to steer clear of them. Such as significantly elevated rates of instability, promiscuity, infidelity, substance abuse, risky behaviours, and sexually transmitted diseases, plus the inherent inability to produce joint biological offspring and so start a family.
Though supporters of same-sex marriage claim that it has made things better for gay people and encouraged them towards good relationship choices, in fact there is no sign of that at all. If anything the opposite, as increasing social acceptance of homosexuality has seen many more people move into experimental sexual lifestyles and adopt the norms of gay culture. What’s more, even within same-sex marriages studies show that more than half of married same-sex male couples remain promiscuous within their marriages by mutual agreement.
Supporters also claim that same-sex marriage is needed for same-sex couples who raise children together. But research shows that to have the best chance of developing normally children need the care and attention of both a mother and a father, and ideally their own mother and father. It is therefore not in children’s best interests for society to encourage same-sex couples to raise children, which leaves same-sex marriage as a solution to the wrong problem. It is worth bearing in mind here that around 70 per cent of children being raised by same-sex couples are being raised by lesbian couples who have inherited the children from previous relationships with men, so that in most cases it is a form of depriving children of having a father. Fatherlessness is known to contribute to a variety of psychological and social dysfunctions such as mental health problems, early sexualisation and involvement in crime. Likewise, being raised by lesbian couples is associated with, among other things, increased confusion about gender and sexuality and elevated use of illegal drugs. The deprivation of a mother or father inherent in same-sex parenting is, furthermore, an intrinsic harm.
So what now for those of us who believe in traditional marriage? Obviously in the long term our aim is repeal and a return to sensible attitudes to marriage, family and relationships that give everyone the best chance to flourish as human beings.
In the immediate term though it must be about standing up for our right to continue to believe in traditional marriage, to speak freely about it, and to teach it in our schools and in our churches without fear of legal sanction or social penalty. These are the kinds of issues on which Coalition for Marriage is fighting today, and it is a battle raging all around us. You may have experienced something of it yourself, in your workplace, your church, your child’s school, or even among your friends. We are at constant risk of being accused of discrimination and hate speech, no matter how graciously we set out our views.
That’s why organisations like Coalition for Marriage are so crucial. Precious few still dare to stand up and state the truth about marriage in the public square, or even contend for the rights of those who hold to belief in traditional marriage not to suffer legal or social penalty for expressing their views. These are dark days and Coalition for Marriage is a light in the gloom.