August 25, 2012

The More Things Change

As England continues to debate the question of marriage equality, the Church of England, or at least a "spokesman" for it (according to press reports, summarized at Thinking Anglicans) continue to complain that such a change in the marriage law will necessitate changing the definition of marriage for everyone.

This is far from true. Marriage is an estate or manner of life, not a definition. What is changing is a matter of eligibility and capacity to marry, permitting couples who formerly were not able to marry to do so. Allowing same-sex couples to marry is a change, but not a change that will have significant effect upon anyone married at present, or on any future mixed-sex couples. The only conceivable change that might have any impact on a very small minority of people would be in changing the current English definitions of consummation and the grounds for adultery — which will only concern those seeking to nullify or terminate their marriages; in short, those trying to get out of the estate, not those who choose to remain in it. (And isn't it about time to recognize that same-sex sex is sex, and that a man married to a woman who has an erotic affair with another man is guilty of adultery rather than "unreasonable conduct?" Jesus, after all, noted that the eye and the mind could be instruments of adultery, so the more "dishonorable parts" ought to be capable of just as much, and perhaps more obvious, infidelity, regardless of how specifically employed.)

Think of two analogies in legal change: expanding the voting franchise to include women did not take the vote away from men. But lowering the speed limit affects all who drive. Marriage equality is clearly more like the former than the latter. It is a change, but not a change that need concern those who will be unaffected by it.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

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