Tuesday, February 05, 2013

On Today's Parliamentary Vote In Favour Of Allowing Homosexuals To Marry In England And Wales



If anyone considers the above image to be in poor taste, I would remind them that I am the author of this blog, and if I feel like remembering those who really know what being discriminated against is like, and who could really be doing with a measure of equality, I'll do it if it feels right.


If the debate on Narvik was anything like this, it's a wonder we won the bloody war. 

I only flitted in and out of what seemed like a buttock-bustingly long session, but my favourite highlight from what I saw was Debbie Abrahams' interjection on Ian Paisley that marriage was all about love, only for him to answer that and then take an interjection from Chris Bryant about marriage being about mutual society instead. It's about love! No, it's about mutual society! Love is about mutual society! No, mutual society is about love! It was as if Charles I and his goons had burst into the House of Commons singing 'Love Changes Everything' as they went.

It was clear that all speakers' minds had been made up before they got on their feet, and equally clear that not one word said by anyone made the slightest dent on any opinion held by anyone else. Accordingly it wasn't really a debate, and doesn't therefore deserve the name. It should instead be remembered more as a collective exhalation of breath; a democratic burp. 

Oh, the future was plain to see, and it's quite clearly more of the same. What was, to my mind, the unpleasantly authoritarian and exclusive suggestion of Margot James, that continued opposition to homosexual marriage within Conservative circles means that the party hasn't been reformed enough, is a message upon which the party's leadership will assiduously and tenaciously latch. Today the political class, a beast that's often talked about but rarely seen in one place, was on parade for all to see, and it was not a pretty sight. For groups that claim to be in favour of diversity, it's quite clear that the one area in which our centralised parties do not encourage diversity is that of thought. 

The mean-spiritedness which comes so naturally to many on of the left is shown by this entry on 'Harry's Place',  one of those many blogs I've read about rather than actually read, which describes Stephen Timms MP, who indicated that he'll vote against the bill at a later stage, as an 'idiot former Labour minister'. This is an interesting contrast to the example of the left's incompetence provided in the same post, with its description of Frank Roy and Jim Sheridan as Conservative MP's; news which will certainly come as a surprise to both them and their electorates in Labour's west of Scotland heartland.

It was, of course, ironic that the political class gathered in numbers to debate an issue which will only and ever affect a tiny proportion of the population on the day it was revealed that an elderly woman named Gloria Foster had died after having been left without food, medicine or water for over nine days after a care agency had closed down. We will no doubt learn why this was allowed to happen in due course, but you'd think it would be the sort of situation that Parliament is really there to address; not to try to change that which cannot be changed, nor redefine that which has already been finally defined. Today, on one of those apparently very few days when every member of the House of Commons seemed to be in attendance, there might not have been one word said about Gloria Foster in the chamber all day; and if that was the case, that's a scandal. That's exclusion. That's inequality.

There is one principal lesson that can be drawn about our Parliament from all this. 

That lesson is that if devolved democracy is good when it justifies inflicting elected so-called 'Police Commissioners', Frankencops without constitutional precedent and for whom there is no apparent justification other than that the Americans have them, on some parts of the country, devolved democracy along American lines could be good in other areas. Accordingly, the Registration of Political Parties Act 1998 should be repealed (if that has not happened already) and a primary system introduced for all candidates for Parliament. 

Yes, we should have primaries to select who is going to stand for election to Parliament. The obsessive centralisation of all political functions over the past thirty years is the consequence of having had a Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who even at the summit of her career never overcame the grossly provincial conceit that the British government operated on precisely the same lines as a Lincolnshire grocer's shop. The public finances were in the iron grip of someone who might very well have believed that the best places to keep money were either the loft or the mattress, and who may have all her life been petrified that people are going to cheat her. Pace all those commentors who have sweated blood and tears trying to work out why Thatcher centralised everything that wasn't actually nailed down, there might have been nothing more to it than that, with millions of people being cast out of work on the basis that as she was looking after the pennies the pounds would look after themselves. 

Yet one catastrophic aspect of this centralisation has been the central selection of candidates for Parliament, with democracy reduced to a rubber-stamping of whoever is put in front of the electorate. The need for primaries might perhaps focus a few minds more closely on what is important to their potential electorates; and quite a few of the self-satisfied faces on display today, such as that of Willie Bain, might benefit mightily from the challenge of a primary (I'd love to know where the Scottish Catholics he trumpeted as being in favour of gay marriage were found; I imagine there might be a statement from our bishops on the way about that one, once Peter Kearney stops singing 'We Shall Overcome').

All in all, an inglorious day for Parliament; the day on which the phrase 'the old ball and chain' assumed a whole new meaning.

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23 Comments:

Blogger PTET said...

I just wonder if you think it should be OK to discriminate against Catholics... Or should it only be OK to discriminate against homosexuals?

06 February, 2013 11:34  
Blogger Martin said...

Help! Help! I desperately need the help of an atheist intellectual! Somebody's erected a straw man in my comboxes, and I don't know what to do!

Where is Dawkins when you need him?

06 February, 2013 13:53  
Blogger PJMULVEY said...

The secular West reminds me of the fool sitting on a table and sawing off the four legs one at a time. We are doing everything to destroy a Christian civilization which has lasted 1700 years. And we want to replace this marvelous edifice with a progressive new future dictated by fascist moral relativists? PTET is correct in one sense....Catholicism is being persecuted as a result of these legal changes by his own kind. What he doesn't realize that once orthodox religion and its influence is once again underground as it will be in a decade or less......he and his kind will be told when he turns 65 y/o that he is socially redundant and no longer useful and should take a poison pill and die and make room for more productive humans. Why would an atheistic and utilitarian government pay retirement and health benefits to the elderly and disabled when it would be much more beneficial for them to depart - voluntarily or not.

06 February, 2013 17:50  
Blogger Martin said...

As a disabled person, Patrick, I expect to live to see the day when I am told that Scotland expects to me to perform my patriotic duty and cease being a burden to the country; and hope that I have enough breath to answer in Scots.

06 February, 2013 22:22  
Blogger PJMULVEY said...

Let's hope that day never comes for you Martin. I expect the politically correct police (you know the ones who proclaim to be so tolerant) will come after people like us before long........best regards to you and the family.

07 February, 2013 00:15  
Blogger PTET said...

Neanderthals were compassionate and caring without Christianity - and modern humans are whatever our religion or lack of religion.

It's quite incredible to watch you guys call everyone else "fascists" and "moral relativists" when you selectively choose which parts of the Bible you want to impose on us, while sobbing into your cornflakes because gay people are allowed the same rights as straight people.

I note yet again you suport discrimination against homosexuals while wanting special protection for your religious beliefs.

Welcome to democracy.

07 February, 2013 10:05  
Blogger Martin said...

PTET, I'm not quite sure who you're talking to - are you responding to me, or to Patrick? You seem upset, and I'm sorry if anything I've said has caused you to feel that way. I don't think I've been anything but civil during our conversations, which I have very much enjoyed, because you have been a civil and good-humoured interlocutor; if I haven't been civil, I'm sorry. I get cocky when I'm in my own front room and when I have time to think about what I'm saying. It's a very bad habit rooted in pride, and I don't get called out for it as often as I should.

I don't think I've written anything about imposing parts of the Bible on anyone. I happen have very firm views on the nature of marriage; specifically, on between whom a marriage can exist. You do not seem to share those views. Mine are rooted in religious teachings which you are free to accept or reject if you wish. If you go back that what I wrote in my post 'On The Oppositionalism Of Atheists', you'll see that my view is that the state exists to say what is legal or not, no matter how nonsensical it might appear to be to me (this might surprise you, but I am a firm supporter of the existence of civil partnerships, particularly here in Scotland, for reasons I might one day post about).

While reserving my right to criticise Parliament for passing what I think are silly laws, I don't think I've ever in any way advocated inhibiting Parliament from passing whatever laws it thinks fit to pass.

To repeat my view, or perhaps express it more clearly than I migght have one before, legislation allowing homosexuals to go through ceremonies called marriages is a waste of time, on the basis that in my view the substance of what is a marriage is, which is the joining of one woman and one man who then forsake all others, cannot be created from homosexual relationships - perhaps a simplistic and antiquated view, but not a discriminatory one, as the right of the State to pass whatever laws it likes, democratically or otherwise, must be respected. If the State allows gay marriage, the State allows gay marriage. If the State allows comment against gay marriage, the State allows gay marriage. If the State allows for freedom of speech and conscience, the State has to reconcile those freedoms with its own laws against conduct it deems to be discrimination, and people can comment upon the means by which it resolves such dilemmas as they wish.

07 February, 2013 22:53  
Blogger PTET said...

Sorry, Martin, but the talk of 'facism' and killing the disabled and elderly is quite exasperating. I very much enjoy talking to you. (And Peter ;>).

There were various types of marriage accepted historically, both in Scots Law and elsewhere. There are man-to-wife marriages to to this day which are not 'recognised' by the Catholic Church.

If you support civil partnerships for gay people then that's great: but the opposition to allowing these to be 'marriages' comes down to semantics.

I absolutely support the right of anyone to have opinions I don't agree with. The problem is when their opinions are that others should not be able to live in certain way because it offends their religious or other sensibilities.

No-one is preventing Christians being Christians.

08 February, 2013 10:22  
Blogger PJMULVEY said...

PTET.....I think a very general and speculative statement about similarity of Neanderthals and Christians is off topic. I was responding to Martin's macro argument about the growing moral relativism in society and the impact of abortion, negative social impacts of widespread pornography, lowering the age of consent, massive illegitimacy, euthanasia and breakdown of the traditional family. Yes, Christians and Catholics in particular oppose these trends just as in a free society you are free to support them. However, it is another thing for Christians to be forced to change their worship and practices to conform to the new morality which is anti-Christian. Should Catholic priests be forced under law to conduct gay marriages? Which of the other six sacraments will be deemed to be bigoted and hateful towards particular groups? We see the male priesthood under attack. Should the Catholic church be forced to accept female and lesbian priests due to an enforced legal concept of fairness and equal opportunity? Forcing religious institutions and employers to perform same sex marriages, provide abortion and contraceptive coverage and as Martin and myself wrote about the participation in compulsory euthanasia which is coming due to the imbalance of aging population and health care deficits. If you can kill in the womb, why differentiate because of age? If you think I am exaggerating try finding anyone advocating gay marriage as recently as a decade or two ago. No, this social change only emerged recently and it is a symptom of an overall moral breakdown which is accelerating. It is not inconceivable that marriage can now be defined as the legal union of any two living beings. I know several people who love their animals probably much more than any human being. What stops society to enact laws concerning marriage,which may seen outlandish today, but in a few years time normal? It is inevitable that polygamy will make a roaring comeback and be legalized. Why not? Once the floodgates are open and moral relativism backed by the power of the State is paramount, it is inevitable that Catholic traditional and others will not only be the objects of derision but persecuted as well as being haters, deniers and counter revolutionaries. Absolute religion has no place is a moral relativistic culture.

08 February, 2013 15:03  
Blogger Martin said...

PTET,

Without wishing to get overtly technical about the irregular forms of marriage in Scotland (even now, the thought of having to study marriage established by cohabitation by habit and repute makes me want to gnaw my hands off at the wrists), they were all finally abolished in 1940, and none of them were ever recognised as valid by the Catholic Church.

"If you support civil partnerships for gay people then that's great: but the opposition to allowing these to be 'marriages' comes down to semantics."

But it's not just semantics, PTET, and that's the point. It's about what you're free to believe. The State is free to say that some classes of relationships that could not be classed as marriages before can be classed as marriages now. By the teachings of our Church, that is the State's right - but are people whose views on marriage are informed (no irony intended) by sources other than the laws of the State obliged to believe that these are marriages? Not merely to accept that they happen in order to ensure that the law is upheld and those who enter them are not discriminated against, but actually believe that they are marriages? For as you know there is a world of difference betwen acceptance and belief.

And should private citizens, or associations of private citizens such as churches, therefore be obliged to change their views on marriage because the State has redefined it? That's the core of the whole thing, the freedom to believe.

For sure, nobody is actively preventing Christians being Christians; what concerns me is whether the tension such situations create between the laws of the State and religious teaching (a tension that the Churches have not sought) might make the leading of a Christian life, something which if done properly is wholly compatible with good citizenship, more difficult?

That's really what people are afraid of.

10 February, 2013 00:43  
Blogger PTET said...

PJ

My point is that humans and even pre-humans have always cared for the elderly and inform. Modern secular medicine has made this possible on a scale never seen before. Saying that atheism always leads to eugenics is like saying Catholicism always leads to burning Protestants at the stake.

No-one is saying Catholics have to change how you practice your religion. That's just fantasy.

Christianity and Catholicism in general has never had a monopoly on morality and its frankly hilarious to watch you try to pretend it has.

You, along with Islamic Fundamentalists, may want to turn the clock back to before the Enlightenment. I don't.

10 February, 2013 09:50  
Blogger PTET said...

Martin

The Catholic church doesn't recognise marriage between divorcees. It managed to survive that cultural change.

I presume you don't think Muslims should get any special say in what laws in the UK should and shouldn't apply because of their religion.

Sorry to have to spell this out for you, but the country has moved on form the notion that a celibate, male-only, priesthood should get to tell everyone else how to live their lives based on their interpretation (because that is all it is) of a 2,000 year old religious text.

10 February, 2013 09:58  
Blogger Martin said...

PTET,

"Saying that atheism always leads to eugenics is like saying Catholicism always leads to burning Protestants at the stake."

I'm afraid that atheist societies don't have a good track record of staying non-eugenic - Third Reich, USSR, Red China; in Mexico under Plutarco Calles, they eugenicised the priests.

"No-one is saying Catholics have to change how you practice your religion. That's just fantasy."

It's not PTET; we believe a marriage can be only one thing; Parliament has now said that another thing can be marriage; we must abide by the law of the State. It will not affect our religion, nor how we practice it; but how can it also not affect the relationship between the religious and the state?

"Christianity and Catholicism in general has never had a monopoly on morality and its frankly hilarious to watch you try to pretend it has."

I don't think anyone's claiming that, PTET. Free will precludes the granting of such monopolies; and we do happen to believe that people who are not Catholics can enter Heaven.

"You, along with Islamic Fundamentalists, may want to turn the clock back to before the Enlightenment. I don't"

Come on, mate. You know and I know that I know that you know that you can do better than that.

"The Catholic church doesn't recognise marriage between divorcees. It managed to survive that cultural change."

Did you know that the process for attempting the annulment of a sacramental marriage starts a civil divorce? That you can't get annulled without being divorced first?

"I presume you don't think Muslims should get any special say in what laws in the UK should and shouldn't apply because of their religion."

Not in the least, and any civil law that specifically targeted the teachings of Islam would automatically be discriminatory; wouldn't it?

"Sorry to have to spell this out for you, but the country has moved on form the notion that a celibate, male-only, priesthood should get to tell everyone else how to live their lives based on their interpretation (because that is all it is) of a 2,000 year old religious text." -

You've heard of the Second Vatican Council, right?

10 February, 2013 21:42  
Blogger PTET said...

Martin

The Third Reich, USSR, Red China were personality cults based on rigid dogma - the opposite of the open, secular cultures of the West.

Yes, there is an ongoing dynamic with the religious "values" (I do laugh when I hear those words together) and open society. I'm not sure what you are vaguely threatening here. Are you going to team up with Muslims to campaign against homosexuals?

11 February, 2013 09:14  
Blogger Martin said...

PTET,

"The Third Reich, USSR, Red China were personality cults based on rigid dogma - the opposite of the open, secular cultures of the West."

But they were also atheistic, and were cited in response to your assertion that "Saying that atheism always leads to eugenics is like saying Catholicism always leads to burning Protestants at the stake."

You got four citations for the price of one assertion there. Never let it be said that this blog does not provide value for money!

"Are you going to team up with Muslims to campaign against homosexuals?"

Oh, Jeezo, PTET, come on...

11 February, 2013 23:46  
Blogger PTET said...

Does Catholicism always lead to burning protestants at the stake, then?

The Catholic Church is facing major financial scandals, and a stream of bad news about coverups of pretty horrific behaviour.

Your Church may want to get it's own house in order before it pretends to have answers for the rest of us.

12 February, 2013 11:04  
Blogger Martin said...

PTET,

"Does Catholicism always lead to burning protestants at the stake, then?"

Come on, that's a reductio ad absurdum. Please, that's just silly.

"The Catholic Church is facing major financial scandals, and a stream of bad news about coverups of pretty horrific behaviour".

Can't disagree with you on that; an apparently endless diet of scandal upon which Catholicism's enemies can feast. But we must have hope.

"Your Church may want to get it's own house in order before it pretends to have answers for the rest of us."

In many ways it has done, but there is more, always more, to be done. For example, although the historic clerical child abuse scandals have been utterly horrifying, they have caused proper child protection policies to be implemented in many places, Ireland in particular. That might be closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, and be of no consolation to any or all of those whose lives have been scarred by having been abused by clergy - such a horrible thing in any context, but by priests, God help us! - but a determined effort is being made to minimise the risk of anything like this ever happening again. You know as well as I do that it is impossible to eliminate that risk completely; but something is at least being done.

Of course, it doesn't help when Roger Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles...well, I'll let you Google him yourself. He is not exactly Man of the Moment is many circles. It always seems to be two steps forward, one step back. Just when you think you've turned a corner, sometimes the kerb jumps and knocks you off your feet. But you've just got to keep going, and hope and pray that all that filth is consigned to history, and that the victims do not blame God for the sins of His most unworthy servants.

12 February, 2013 21:53  
Blogger PTET said...

Martin

With all that, you may think the Catholic Church is a worthy source of morality, but I'll hope you can see why other people are sceptical.

12 February, 2013 22:00  
Blogger Martin said...

PTET,

Of course, I do, of course, if one did not see how others might be sceptical one would be wilfully blind; but reaching out and trying to overcome that scepticism (and you might have noticed that reaching out is something I'm sometimes not very good at; depending on the situation the Glasgow Kiss does sometimes have its uses as a means of communication, but evangelistion is not among them) is our constant duty.

Reply away, but after tonight I won't be online for a few days, so don't be surprised if any comment doesn't appear until Saturday.

12 February, 2013 23:56  
Blogger PTET said...

I don't think the Church's reaching out has been much good either.

Have a great trip/time off the net :)

13 February, 2013 08:11  
Blogger Martin said...

PTET,

Was that the first item that popped up on Google when you searched that name against that subject matter? Its eye-catchingly salacious headline notwithstanding, that article makes clear, in a plain and simple manner, that the Pope was criticising the attitudes of some (ie SOME) theologians in the 1970's. He was not endorsing such views. He was damning them.

If you want to throw that kind of mud about, the 1970's also saw Harriet Harman as a panjandrum of the National Council for Civil Liberties at the time when PIE was affiliated to it. If you want to throw mud, then at least be even-handed.

15 February, 2013 23:28  
Blogger PTET said...

Hi Martin

That link came a twitter discussion about the Pope's resignation.

Ratzinger is very implicated in this "moral relativism" he complains of. He uses this as an excuse for the Church's behaviour systematically covering up abuse. Let's hope his successor is better at living up to the supposed moral superiority the Church claims.

I'm no fan of Harriet Harman, or of any body which makes excuses for adults sexually exploiting children.

16 February, 2013 10:30  
Blogger Martin said...

PTET,

I'm sorry it's taken a few days to get moderating again - energy levels not so good sometimes.

The partisan temptation is to say 'This is all stuff that aired when Richard Dawkins and Geoffrey Robertson threatened to have him arrested upon his arrival in the UK three years ago'. Which it is, but that's the wrong answer.

It would be easy to say, 'Freedland knows jack about the workings of the Catholic hierarchy; if he did, he would have known that the Archbishop fo Milwaukee would have been empowered to have Murphy removed from office'; which, subject to the vagaries of that case, might well have been the case. And that would also be the wrong answer.

You could say, 'If Joseph Ratzinger should be tried for permitting child abuse (a process which would, of course, always require to be subject to law, thus inviting a ramble into the thickets of jurisdictional disputes, whether his alleged crimes were considered to be crimes at the time they occurred and so on), so also should every BBC executive who heard allegations about Jimmy Savile but did nothing, because the nature of what was being said to them was so far removed from their own experience, so alien, so shocking to them, that they could not comprehend what was going on'; but that would also be the wrong answer. If that's what you mean by 'moral relativism' in this context, then I think you're using that phrase out of the context in which it's most commonly used; whether you're doing so obtusely is another matter.

In truth, I don't know the right answer. In my tradition, that is a matter which is between, and strictly between, Joseph Ratzinger and his Creator. I do know for sure that he seems to have done what he can to root out and punish abusers while in possession of sole authority in our Church. You might not agree with that, but that's what I think.

He is surrendering authority; I am quite sure he will have reflected upon, and prayed for guidance upon, whether he should continue in office should he then be liable to face the possibility of civil and/or criminal sanctions once he has left office. That he has acted upon the guidance he has received means that the good of the Church matters more to Joseph Ratzinger than his own ego and comfort, perhaps even his liberty; and the introduction of this element into the argument at this late stage has had no effect other than to increase my admiration for his decision.

Freedland is a bit screwed-up about Bernard Law as well. JPII was Pope at the time THAT scandal broke.

18 February, 2013 22:06  

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