This week the long-brewing news that religious institutions will be allowed (allowed, mind, not compelled) to conduct same-sex civil partnerships in places of worship, proves a slippery and confusing concept for Cristina Odone.
Completely missing the point that, as per her paper’s own Q&A on the subject, no religious institution will be forced to conduct same-sex unions, Cristina Odone manages to write an entire article about same-sex marriage in churches without being able to conceive the possibility of any religious practitioner genuinely believing it was desirable and good for a religious same-sex couple to have their ceremony in a church. It could, apparently, only possibly be “fake” goodwill and a “pantomime”. (See this HumanistLife article from last year for a quite different view, by a Unitarian minister campaigning for the right to marry same-sex couples.)
Here’s Cristina at work, so trapped inside a particular Catholic mindset that a genuinely gay-friendly church is a totally alien, distant, unimaginable thing:
Yes, the gay, like the divorcee, can shop around for a liberal priest or imam to perform a religious ceremony. They will no doubt find some churches available for the purpose, an organist willing to play Mendelssohn’s wedding march and a parishioner to arrange the most exquisite bouquets. But as the couple go through the motions, repeating those familiar vows and exchanging rings, everyone will be conscious that this is a facsimile of the real thing, a pantomime ceremony for the thrill of re-enacting a romantic tradition.
Anonymous conservative religious blogger “Archbishop Cranmer”, meanwhile, believes he will surprise his readership by welcoming the moves, on the liberal grounds that “If consenting adults wish to read the Bible, the Qur’an, the Gita, the Upinishads or a divine piece of Shakespeare as they make their vows, that should be a matter for them”. Indeed. His concern is that to ban such choices even in the case of same-sex unions, as at present, is an act of “fundamentalist secularisation”. The British Humanist Association broadly shares the view that consenting adults should be able to practice religion in their ceremony if they so choose; the only real departure is that the BHA want to say it’s a bit more complicated than that because we don’t want a situation where religious same-sex partnerships have the freedom to include philosophical content in a ceremony but the same freedom is denied to non-religious partners, and why on earth don’t we just call gay marriage “marriage“ anyway. Despite the reasonable area of overlap in his views, Cranmer feels compelled to accuse both the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society of adopting aims and objectives which “happen to coincide with the homosexualist agenda” (this apparently is a Bad Thing, whatever it is).
The British Humanist Association campaigns for reform of marriage laws, both for humanists and other non-religious people in England and Wales to be able to have legal ceremonies outside of the register office (in England and Wales only the religious have the option of a legal ceremony reflecting their beliefs outside of the register office), and for full equality under the law between same sex civil partnerships and marriage.