Same Sex Marriage: Speaking Truth to Power
I was asked to draft a letter on behalf of the governors of our school to our local MP regarding the proposed re-definition of marriage. I took my inspiration from the letter Bishop Philip Egan wrote to David Cameron and the letter our priests wrote to the Telegraph, as well as the educational consequences spelt out by, among others Fr. Tim Finigan. Here is the text:
David Amess MP
House of Commons
Dear Mr. Amess
We have decided that it is necessary and essential that we contact you as a governing body in order to express our deep concern and disquiet regarding the proposed re-definition of marriage by your party. It is our opinion that the proposals constitute a further erosion of the value and sanctity of the institution of marriage which will necessarily have repercussions for society. These repercussions do not seem to have been taken into consideration by the coalition government, neither do the legal ramifications.
Whilst we understand the Prime Minister’s espoused concern with regard to equality and the support of marriage as an institution which strengthens our society, notwithstanding, he seems to be labouring under some fundamental misunderstandings regarding the very nature of equality. This can never be an absolute value, only a derivative and relative value. We cannot make women men, or men women. Therefore a proper understanding of what constitutes equality must embrace an honest acceptance of diversity. In this, the Catholic Church presents us with an excellent model of unity in diversity, accepting everyone for who and what they are. Indeed, the teaching of the Church is that we are to recognise the dignity of all people and not define or label them in terms of their sexual orientation, thus reducing them to stereotypes of one single dimension of their complex humanity.
Marriage, ever since the dawn of human history, is a union for life and love between a man and a woman. It is a complementary relationship between two people of the opposite sex, the man and the woman not being the same, but different. They are not, in other words, absolutely equal but relatively equal. This is why gay couples, two men or two women, are not being ‘excluded’ from marriage; they simply cannot enter marriage with each other. They are not excluded from entering into marriage, it just cannot be between to partners of the same sex, instead it is a state which consists of a union between one man and one woman.
We have already seen a hint of what will result from this legislation. Section 403(1A) (a) of the Education Act 1996 imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to “issue guidance” to ensure that pupils “learn the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and the bringing up of children” as part of sex education. If the legal definition of marriage changes, the law will require that children learn about gay marriage as part of sex education. This is obviously far more serious than the right of teachers to object on an individual basis. This would affect all the nation’s children. We have seen a number of sample pages from books such as "Daddy's Roommate", "Hello Sailor", "Josh and Jaz have Three Mums" etc. which are aimed at young children. I'm sure you can understand our concern; we are talking about the state forcing a false and in the case of some of this material, what can only be described as a depraved morality on our vulnerable and impressionable children. Clearly, this will not stand.
As the recent letter to the Telegraph signed by 1054 priests and 13 bishops pointed out:
“After centuries of persecution, Catholics have, in recent times, been able to be members of the professions and participate fully in the life of this country.“Legislation for same sex marriage, should it be enacted, will have many legal consequences, severely restricting the ability of Catholics to teach the truth about marriage in their schools, charitable institutions or places of worship.“It is meaningless to argue that Catholics and others may still teach their beliefs about marriage in schools and other arenas if they are also expected to uphold the opposite view at the same time.”Both Michael Gove, Secretary of State, and Liz Truss, a minister in the DfE, have expressed doubt publicly that there is any protection that can be offered, in the event of legislation being enacted, to teachers who, on conscience grounds, refuse to teach equivalence between same sex marriage and heterosexual marriage. Links to both stories are here:
Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has said that teachers may express their opinion about same sex marriage, provided they do not offend or discriminate against anyone:
Since offence and discrimination are in the eye of the beholder, surely it can only be a matter of time before some poor teacher is dragged before the thought police for offending or discriminating against someone? Similarly, there is a world of difference between freedom to express a personal opinion as one among many, and freedom to teach Catholic doctrine as the truth. There is clearly an inherent conflict here which must be resolved at some juncture?
Aidan O’Neill QC, a partner in Matrix Chambers and a practising homosexual argues that, while there is no requirement or expectation in European human rights law that Same Sex Marriage should be legalised, if it is, then it must be made available on exactly the same basis as heterosexual marriage in every particular. A summary of his opinion is here:
Moreover, the recent ECHR case of Lilian Ladele, the Islington registrar, demonstrates that there is no defence against unilateral changes to an employee’s terms and conditions of employment if the change is to extend services to persons with homosexual tendencies.
In facilitating so called Same Sex Marriage and equating the union of people with homosexual tendencies with marriage, however well-intentioned, you are creating a situation which does not seem to be reconcilable with a world where individuals have a freedom of conscience and a right to teach their children about relationships. You are not only redefining what society means by marriage but actually undermining the very nature, meaning and purpose of marriage. Marriage, and the home, children and family life it generates, is inarguably the foundation and basic building block of our society. Normalising Same Sex Marriage can only serve to further remove essential societal ideas like commitment, sacrifice, responsibility from the institution of marriage, replacing them with sentimentality and the idea that if you love someone, you should be able to marry them. If the government proceeds with its plans, it can only serve to further erode the value of the family, which is the “school of deeper humanity” with serious consequences for the well-being and behaviour of future generations.
We therefore ask you to vote against these proposals, and to serve as our advocate in speaking out strongly against them.
The Staff and Governors