He may get away with bullying a great many – perhaps the majority – into accepting his proposals. But in doing so Cameron will create a less liberal and tolerant society. Those who have held fast to their principles, will have to accept what the majority wants. But will the majority respect what the minority believes in? Not in Cameron’s Britain, they won’t. The moment the vicar or priest refuses to celebrate a gay marriage in their church, the aggrieved couple will see them in court — in Strasbourg. Here, at the European Court of Human Rights, Christians will once again be thrown to the lions as their opponents will strive to set a precedent: equal rights means equal access to religious marriage ceremony. Anyone who stands in a gay couple’s way will be persecuted by the law (and those strident gay rights lobbyists who tolerate only those who see everything their way.)
As people of principle will be forced to go against their conscience, David Cameron will smile and play the charming host, welcoming Britons to the new age of intolerance.
Oh really? ‘Tis true that the courts are an arena in which weird dramas take place and no-one should necessarily suppose the outcome of any putative legal challenge to these putative restrictions. Nevertheless, it might be worth recalling that the churches already impose restrictions upon whose marriages they will recognise. And yet despite this no-one has yet thought to petition the courts in an effort to bend the churches to their will.
Indeed, to the extent that a religiously-defined estimation of marriage has been damaged in recent times it has been counterfeited by the churches themselves, not by outsiders demanding clergymen officiate at homosexual unions. There are many people – you will most likely have attended some of their weddings – whose allegiance to any kind of godly sacrament is a matter of temporary, technical convenience that lasts no longer than the day of their wedding ceremony. The churches – at least the christian ones – seem perfectly content to marry the unbelieving. This being so, why not marry gay couple either?
Not, of course, that I think the churches should be compelled to recognise far less host such ceremonies. That is a matter for their ain conscience. I cannot quite see how the churches can realistically be compelled to preside over homosexual marriages any more than I can see why anyone would object to their disinclination to officiate at other services either.
That is and as best I know, the catholic church is not compelled to bless a marriage between a protestant and a muslim. Far less is is required to host such a ceremony and, again to the best of my knowledge, no-one has yet suggested this manner of restriction is a ghastly affront to anyone’s human rights. I see no reason why homosexuality should be treated any differently. Nor, in the end, can I see how the government can, even if it wished to or thought it prudent, really insist that the churches declare open house for all-comers. (If it is a matter of “qualifying” for marriage then it must surely be easy enough to alter the criteria for qualification.)
Not, of course, that the government intends to do so. But it seems typical of those who shout loudest opposing this manner that they do so in the name of tolerance even as they invent spurious grounds for supposing that their rights are being offended when, in fact, it is more frequently simply their prejudices that are under the cosh.
That’s as it may be. Again, however, too many people are married in church as it is and there’s no obvious or compelling argument for extending that category error to include homosexuals. At least none that says it must be compulsory. Live and let live and all that (as Andrew Lilico suggests in this sensible, nuanced post). God may not like it but he’ll just have to lump it even though, in his own club, it is fine for him to make his own rules.