Let Us Have Gay Marriage, But Not Yet

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by Sean Gabb Taki’s Magazine

Recently by Sean Gabb: Brief Reflections on the Revolution inEgypt


I have never shared or understood the moral prejudice against homosexual acts. Even as a boy, I thought the legal penalties were unjust. A quarter of a century ago, I wrote an essay in which, among much else, I called for gay marriage to be allowed.

There is currently a gay-marriage Bill before Parliament, and I have not changed my mind on the topic. I am still in favor of gay marriage. If two consenting adults want to live together in close union and can find a consenting minister of religion to bless their union, who are we to object? The same applies to polygamy, polyandry, incest, or any other kind of union between consenting adults. To a libertarian, the sole function of state marriage laws is to offer individuals a package of legal agreements and declarations that they could make for themselves if they wanted to find the money and time.

I accept that there are religious dimensions to heterosexual marriage and that there are utilitarian benefits, so far as strong and stable families give meaning to our lives and are a counterbalance to what might otherwise be the overwhelming power of the state. But these religious dimensions are something for religious believers to embrace. As for the utilitarian benefits, I cannot see how opening the package of legal agreements and declarations to other than monogamous heterosexuals should weaken family life. If two men are allowed to get married in front of a priest, I cannot see how this devalues my own civil marriage.

I also accept that gay marriage is not part of our traditions, and that traditions-especially those of English civilization-should not be attacked. But tradition is not a static force. It changes in the light of new facts. Changes in the law regarding homosexuality have largely followed changes in the social acceptance of homosexuality. We are not talking about the abolition of marriage and the bringing up of all children in state orphanages. It only involves the opening of a package of legal agreements and declarations to other than monogamous heterosexuals.

If you are a devout Catholic or a devout member of various other denominations, you must believe that civil marriages, even between heterosexuals, are state-recognized fornication. You may also deny the validity of any marriage not solemnized by a minister of your denomination, or the validity of a marriage between persons previously divorced. If those are your views, you should not become a civil registrar. There is no place for religious scruples in conducting the ceremonies.

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Sean Gabb [send him mail] is the author of Smoking, Class and the Legitimation of Power. His book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free. See his website.

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