I listened to some of the debate in the House of Lords last night, and poor stuff it was. In fairness I only listened for a couple of hours, missing the start and with a gap, so perhaps all the wisdom, insight and facts were discussed then. What I heard was superficial and largely ill-informed. But they were very self-congratulatory about the quality of the debate.
I heard no serious discussion of marriage as an institution, its meaning and function in society, and the consequences of changing it.
The arguments pro were largely around a presumed need for fairness and equality, the inevitable march of history, and the inadvisability of the Lords rocking the boat; the arguments contra were largely about the dangers of ill-thought out and hasty change and lack of proper process - reasonable concerns, but scarcely the main issues.
Two speakers particularly stuck in my mind. One was Lord Deben (John Gummer, as was). He is, apparently, a convert to Catholicism. His speech was a travesty, referring to his Catholic Faith, but his higher calling as a legislator... He did not express any understanding of a Catholic view of marriage, but made explicit that he could lay any such understanding to one side for the sake of people who are not Catholics. I suppose it is not his fault that his catechesis was so inadequate, but it was highly disturbing to see him lending credence to the idea that any Catholic could support this measure in good conscience.
The other was Lord Phillips of Sudbury, the chap who used to be the Legal Eagle on the radio for many years. He is always an entertaining and individual speaker. He recognised the strength of feeling on both sides of the debate and suggested that a simple solution would be to re-name SSM as 'Espousal;' this would confer full and equal rights, but avoid pretending an equivalence between SSM and marriage, which is what so many antis feel so strongly about.
He had the intellectual honesty to be clear that SSM and Marriage are different - but completely missed the point. This legislation is not about equal rights: that was what Civil Partnerships were for. This is about precisely the lie he nailed: pretending that SSM and Marriage are in fact the same. It is designed to do a few things: to bestow societal approval on same-sex partnerships; to move public opinion further towards the complete acceptance of them; and to ensure that anyone who disputes this new orthodoxy can be persecuted and punished. His 'espousals' proposal will be deemed homophobic as it would subvert those ends.
As I understand it, we already have legislation on the books that makes truth-telling illegal in some situations (eg re someone who has had their 'gender' 'changed'). This legislation seeks to extend that Orwellian practice to make it de facto a hate crime to maintain that Marriage and same sex relationships are different in any way: despite the fact that the legislation implicitly acknowledges and sustains some of those real differences.
This is dangerous and pernicious. At some stage there may well be a backlash, and that too I fear.
Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.
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