The popular argument runs: If two homosexuals have a relationship enshrined in law, as in a civil partnership, and this is understood by them and others to be a marriage, this doesn’t affect the status of the marriage of heterosexual couples. We should allow homosexuals to find the same opportunity of fulfilment that heterosexuals have, anything less is unjust.
In the popular consciousness a civil partnership is already de facto a ‘gay marriage.’ We also have elements within the Church agitating to extend what they term a ‘blessing’ to civil partnerships in much the same way that a heterosexual couple married in a registry office can later have a church blessing.
If we equate civil partnerships with marriage, and sanction and celebrate such a union in church, we re-define what marriage is for everyone. Such a position would require us to say that marriage is no longer what it has been known to be, but instead it is now to be understood as a ‘specific commitment to another person.’ In other words, the redefinition of marriage becomes such that any who are committed one to another and are prepared to enter a legally binding contract to that effect are married and all the social authority and the institutional meaning that has surrounded marriage as an institution applies to them. All that marriage comes to mean under this altered definition is a legally binding yet private relationship between two people, effectually marriage itself gets defined away.
If uniting same sex people is called marriage and receives the social and legal equality normally associated with marriage then it removes the very distinction that has always defined marriage. If you want same sex unions call them civil partnership, don’t use it to ruin the clear definition of marriage.
Some argue that to deny civil partnerships the status of marriage is merely to try to impose value judgements belonging to one religious group on all of society. This is to mistake difference for inequality. Whilst I would claim that there are value judgements to be made they play no part in this specific argument. We can acknowledge difference without ascribing value. Apples and oranges can be distinguished without claiming superiority for one over the other. There are inherent differences between the marriage of a heterosexual couple and the civil partnership of a same sex couple. No amount of special pleading can invalidate biology.
Marriage has already been weakened to the extent that in most of the western world it is entered into with the intention of true commitment but with a readily available opt-out clause which in effect makes marriage a temporary arrangement which may last for a shorter or longer period of time. This weakening of marriage has a considerable and easily observed impact on the wellbeing of society.
To claim that civil partnerships are marriages is to strike at the very basis of marriage itself and effectively destroy the institution. Allow two men or two women to marry and you have no logical basis for denying the right of civil marriage to one man and two women. Allow two men or two women to marry and you cannot logically ban a brother and sister from marrying.
Homosexuals don’t just want to extend marriage; their endeavours would effectively end it. When a word can mean anything it means nothing. Homosexuals may claim the ‘right’ to be ‘married’ but this does not equate to the right to devalue and ultimately overthrow that which is valued by others.