Gay Marriage - 16th October 2011
Despite the Fox affair, and really disappointing unemployment statistics, the majority of representations I received this week were on gay marriage. In his speech to the Conservative conference just over a fortnight ago the PM announced a consultation next spring before legislating to enable gay marriage. Indeed, he went further: he said that it was because he was a Conservative that he was in favour of gay marriage. Despite this, I know that some Conservative supporters see this as just another concession to the Liberal Democrats. They are wrong: the PM is passionate about the equality agenda and what is more there was a clear commitment on gay marriage in the Conservative election manifesto.
The concept of gay marriage is not new. 10 countries already allow it including Canada and parts of the USA. In 342 AD the Theodocian penal code banned the practice on pain of death – clearly there must have been a sufficient number of gay weddings to merit a ban with such a draconian penalty. Certainly, we know of at least two Roman emperors who married other men.
On an entirely practical approach I believe that marriage gives rise to greater social stability and all the statistics show that children of married parents fare best. Given that we allow gay couples to adopt, and such is science and ingenuity that they can also procreate, why on earth should we deny them the benefit of marriage?
The objections of my constituents are not practical however, they are religious: they believe that homosexual practice is plain wrong and that allowing gay marriage both encourages the wrong-doing and devalues marriage. I used to be vociferous in my opposition to gay liberation, so much so, that I am deeply ashamed of some of the things I am on record as having said. After thought, prayer, and studying scripture, I have now joined that growing number of Bible believing Christians who think that traditional church teaching has got it completely wrong. The stark fact is that there is nothing in the Bible about being gay (almost certainly because it is not a category that differentiates humans at all), and Jesus does not have a single word to say on the subject. Instead there are a very few scattered references condemning what might be considered as homosexual practice, but I think these are taken out of their proper contexts and poorly translated from the original biblical languages. This is true of the prohibition in Leviticus 18:6 and 20:13 where going to bed with another man is listed with other prohibitions about haircuts, tattoos, intercourse during menstruation, eating pork and shellfish, playing football (playing with pigskin), fortune telling, and mixing threads in clothing (a capital offence!). As for describing sleeping with another man as “an abomination” a more accurate rendering of the Hebrew would be that it is in “poor taste” -and something that really Holy people don’t do.
With respect to the destruction of Sodom in the book of Genesis, of the five Old Testament prophets who draw lessons on the fate of the city, not one puts it down to homosexuality. The graphic account of a crowd besieging Lot’s house demanding that he bring out his guests “that they might know them” (as the King James Bible quaintly puts it) –and which leads to God’s judgement on the city, is terrifying not because the crowd is homosexual, but because they are intent on gang rape.
In the New Testament it is the teaching of St Paul which is used to condemn homosexuality, just as his teaching was once perversely used to justify slavery and then the subjugation of women. If you look carefully at the context and sensitively translate the original Greek, then condemnation of gays just isn’t there. What St Paul was rightly against was the inordinate pursuit of pleasure and self indulgence, including the temple cults of fertility which included orgies, prostitutes of both sexes, straight and gay.
For millennia Christians have taken too great an interest in what other people get up to in bed, it is an unhealthy fascination. My starting point is that marriage is a blessing, and therefore I have no business denying that blessing to someone because they happen to be gay. I will go further than the Prime Minister: I am in favour of gay marriage because I am a Christian.