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Archive for the ‘Gay Marriage’ Category

Since publishing my blog yesterday about why the case of the PJS (currently under injunction) is in the public interest, a few commentators have suggested that the argument doesn’t necessarily wash, because it’s widely known and accepted by the general public, that gay male relationships don’t tend to be monogamous in nature.

Anecdotally, I would agree with that up to a point. Regular readers will know that I worked as cabin crew in the late 1990’s, a profession which seems to attract a disproportionately high number of gay men. My observation was indeed that there were very few stable monogamous relationships; they did exist but they were in the minority. Whether or not the gay scene that I socialised in is representative of the wider population is difficult to say, but it was characterised by promiscuity, multiple concurrent sexual partners and a entirely different set of sexual norms to those which the female crew were expected to adhere to.

But as I said, this was only my personal observation and for those who would believe that I  looked upon my friends and colleagues with disdain, nothing could be further from the truth. It all seemed like jolly good fun to an untravelled twenty-something. I notched up my fair share of wild nights on the razz in gay joints in places as far afield as Bangkok – miles apart from a suburban upbringing on the outskirts of Essex, it felt at times as though I was living a surreal and glamourous dream!

And this is why I have always been reluctant to extrapolate or discuss my intimate experience of the gay male scene, because I don’t know whether or not what I experienced had as much to do with the fact that I was living an international jet-set existence with other people who were as young, free and single as myself. As long as everything was done by consenting adults where was the issue? I witnessed quite a few sordid and distressing incidents, but was happy to push them to the back of my mind. So what if someone wanted to spend take-off discussing the graphic details of their multi-way encounter with a bunch of strangers in a Cologne sauna, while in earshot of fare-paying passengers, it was all part of the craic! So what if I caught two strangers who’d only just met in the briefing room a few hours earlier, engaging in sex acts in the forward galley? Any objection, distaste or disgust would surely be homophobic?

But should I have dared to venture in any public forum, any suggestion that gay relationships (and I am talking about male ones here, the lesbians I know do tend to have life-long partnerships) do not, in my experience, lend themselves to monogamy, then one can only imagine the public shaming exercise to which I would have been subjected. All sorts of high-profile couples would have been trotted out to highlight and condemn my bigotry. Nonetheless the statistics, especially those surrounding male-to-male HIV transmission would also seem to support the contention.

As I said, I’m not sure that even is my opinion, because I’m not sure that one can generalise  using the example of the social bubble of long-haul cabin crew  and I do have friends who are in committed, faithful monogamous romantic relationships with people of the same sex.  All I can say is that I still have gay male friends in the industry who support my stance on marriage, believing that their lifestyle doesn’t lend itself towards either fidelity or children. But then again I also have straight friends who are clinging on to their lucrative, long-since abolished BA contracts which earn them more than a GP, who do manage both a monogamous marriage and children – no mean juggling feat when you are spending a good proportion of the month in another country!

It’s astounding and infuriating therefore to hear other people glibly expounding the principle that gay relationships and marriages are an entirely different proposition to heterosexual ones. Yeah sure you are going to be into monogamy and all that Caroline, because you are innately socially conservative, but other more liberal types, aren’t quite so bothered.

It’s not only annoying because they articulated something which I dared not to mention (Catholic bigot says that gay people are incapable of keeping it in their pants or being faithful to each other) but also because this is absolutely not what was sold or argued to the general public when a new definition of marriage was undemocratically imposed upon us, in 2013 and couples such as PJS were waved about as examples.

Every time anyone tried to argue that the definition of marriage was changing, we were told time and time again it was not, and that this was simply just opening up a conservative institution, one which had many benefits to society, to a wider group of people. If you attempted to make the case, that the fundamental nature of the institution was being changed, you were told that it had changed throughout the ages (which is not strictly true, the conditions under which you could enter marriage were altered along with the way in which it was formalised) but the institution itself was not in any event being radically altered, rather being made ‘equal’.

As I argued yesterday, the new definition did not abolish differentation between the types of union because those in a gay marriage, are not implicitly taking vows of fidelity, because they are unable to use adultery for grounds of divorce.

Had you asked the general public about whether or not there should be two types of marriage and whether or not marriage should no longer mean monogamy for some couples, they would not have endorsed such a prospect. What was the slogan? ‘Different families, same love’! In every single country which has recently legalised gay marriage, from the UK, to Ireland to the US it has been on the grounds that it would be cruel to deny gay people the dignity and privileges of marriage.

Those who argued that marriage was being irrevocably redefined in a social experiment were told that we were reactionary doom-mongering, hate-spreading bigots.

The judges in the case of PJS certainly seem to be holding them to a different standard than everyone else – are they reflecting a new expectation that society doesn’t demand monogamy from same-sex couples? Or is it the principle that monogamy no longer matters in a marriage and that arguments surrounding it, don’t advance any sort of debate? But if monogamy is no longer a vital element of civil marriages, then it might be nice were there to have been some consultation about this.

It seems to be widely accepted that the celebrities who blazed a trail and became standard bearers for same-sex marriage and surrogacy are not living as one might expect and yet no-one should ask any questions in terms of whether or not they have the right to bring children into this situation and encourage others to do so. (And there’s no doubt that their example has given succour to the exploitative surrogacy industry. I can think of at least one couple who cites the example of PJS and who give the impression of living in a similarly open relationship). Instead of addressing the potential damage done to children in these sorts of situations, the judiciary seems to be a signalling a head in sand approach of stopping people from talking about it. How long before we are all subject to a re-education policy by a concerned lobby group, wanting to teach children that it’s okay for parents to have lots of simultaneous sexual partners? In reality, the children of PJS are going to be brought up in a protective and supportive celebrity bubble, rather than running the gaunlet of their local comp-turned-academy.

Many people were concerned that the attempt to redefine marriage by extending it to same-sex couples was in fact a subtle attempt to breakdown the family, by altering and remodelling the insitution and removing the requirement of monogamy. According to Marxist thought, the family needs to be obliterated in order to establish and justify state intervention into every element of people’s lives.

At the time, I was inclined towards a more charitable approach, believing that those in favour were acting out of a short-sighted compassion. It’s hard to take on board the concept that a lie may have been deliberately marketed and peddled to us, in order to breakdown the family allowing the state to step in. But when one sees how the couple involved in PJS deliberately manipulated public opinion in order not only to financially profit but also to affect public policy, then it does give cause to wonder. Not once was it ever mooted that due to the nature of gay relationships which are not naturally fruitful, that the element of monogamy may thought of as an unecessary element and dispensed with.

Was this really just all about removing the idea of a lifelong faithful, monogamous, one-man, one-woman relationship as the gold standard for society and the raising of children and just giving egual legitimacy to other forms of relationships in an attempt to undermine the family? It certainly feels like it from where I’m standing.

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Imagine dear reader, what would happen were someone to discover that I, a Catholic with a moderately high profile, someone who advocates the beauty and sanctity of the Christian meaning of marriage, was actually in a consensually open relationship? What if a third party with whom I’d had sex, while ostensibly in a committed relationship, wanted to sell their story to the tabloid press?

Like the vast majority of the British public, I wouldn’t have the funds to pursue any sort of legal action or injuction to protect my family’s privacy and would have to suck up the embarassment, but just say I did manage to get to court. Would a sympathetic judge rule that the privacy of my five children is paramount and that despite it being accepted that I would have sexual encounters from time to time, the image which I portray to the public of my husband and myself of being in a committed relationship, is essentially correct?

Would they buffalo? There would be none of this “commitment does not entail monogamy” guff, they would rightly rule that there is a public interest, given that I have participated in public debate on the nature of marriage. If I were to be found to be in a clandestine open relationship, or to have had extra-marital affairs, then my hypocrisy ought to be exposed. If I am worried about the effect on my children, then perhaps I ought not to have engaged in sexual activities outside of a relationship while at the same time as attempting to maintain a certain public image and accepting media invitations while promoting the good of marriage.

So why is the case of PJS any different? Because my friends, if this blogger is correct then he is a rich and famous celebrity, who just happens to be in a same-sex relationship. This is important because the conduct of these individuals, cuts straight to the core of the debate about marriage, and they were held up as an exemplary model of gay families. If these were private individuals thrust into the temporary spotlight, through no fault of their own, then arguably there would be a much better case for allowing their privacy.

But this is not the case with PJS and his partner. They have repeatedly put themselves into the media, including in 2014, inviting the whole world to their  wedding  via Instagram, posting intimate photos of the event, together with the hashtag ‘share the love’, with no disclaimer that their love was not monogamous. Prior to that they had been in a civil partnership since 2005.

I don’t give two hoots about the specifics of what PJS got up to, apart from noting that it all appears rather squalid. When the entire issue of same-sex marriage was debated in Parliament it was assumed that gay marriages would be conducted under the same auspices as heterosexual marriage and have the same level of commitment. As it turned out, the legislation was so tricky to enact, gay men and women actually enter into a different version of marriage to that of straight couples. Fidelity is not a legal requirement – gay men and women are unable to use adultery as grounds for divorce. 

Perhaps this is why the High Court has ruled that their infidelity is of little consequence to the overall image of commitment and loyalty which they attempt to cultivate amongst the public? This is a relationship which has acquired two children using the means of surrogacy. We don’t know whether or not their two sons are still maintaining contact with their mother, but what if the couple do split up as has been suggested by some outlets? The case of poor Rocco Ritchie demonstrates how difficult life is for children of divorced celebrity couples? What stability will they have, split between two warring male households, one of which is headed by a man soon to hit his seventies?

It’s not clear whether or not PJS and his celebrity partner were in an open relationship when they acquired their first son via surrogacy in 2010, but the alleged infidelity took place in 2011, with the next son coming along in 2013. Neither of the boys are listed as having a mother on their birth certificate. There is most definitely a public interest in debating whether or not a couple in an open relationship should be able to acquire children through surrogacy, and obliterate the name of the mother, who is deemed an irrelevance. In the case of two gay males in an open relationship, is two people who love them the basis of all child welfare, as is so often claimed? Is ‘love’ really all that matters? Are open relationships, whether gay or straight, the best environment in which to bring up children?

This is a couple who are often cited as being a wonderful example of surrogacy and gay parenting, and yet the public are not permitted to know that their relationship is not what one might reasonably expect. There is an implicit acknowledgement and understanding that married couples will be faithful to each other, a sacrifice commonly accepted by the public, as being in the best interests of the children. Open marriages no matter, who they are carried out by, contradict this principle.

What it means to be married, is of crucial importance to society as is the welfare of children. And yet in their wisdom, the High Court judges have decided, that we, the plebiscite are not allowed to know, that the relationship is not all that we might reasonably assume – that this couple have not, in fact, chosen to forsake all others. The judgement says “to publish will not advance the public debate or provide support for any of the competing opinions which are in circulation.” In other words, lets silence this debate before it’s even started, or identified what it’s all about because we don’t like what other people may have to say and furthermore, we don’t think opinions contrary to ours have any validity.

This couple chose to use their relationship and their profile to attempt to alter public policy. As a gay male friend of mine noted, this injunction feels like a gag to protect appalling social policy and dreadful decisions from public scrutiny.

We all have a right to a private life. But if you make your private life part of the public debate on marriage, hold up your relationship and family as being one which should be emulated and affect public policy, then if your relationship turns out to be founded on a questionable premise, the the rest of us do have a right to know, especially when the new definition of marriage affects not only our own marriages, but impacts upon religious freedom, education policies and is lauded as being a British value, with anyone who disagrees being branded a potential extremist threat.

It blows my mind that the judges have arbitrarily ruled that fidelity or monogamy can no longer be safely assumed to be an essential part of any committed relationship and that no-one is allowed to discuss the implications of this couple and their effect on public policy and debate, on pain of jail. What does it say about free speech in our society when a rich and famous member of the Establishment is able to use the state to force a person to stay silent about their sexual encounter with you, on pain of imprisonment? What is happening when the Speaker of the House of Commons is able to arbitrarily restrict Parliamentary Privilege and when Joe Public risk being put into jail if they dare to link to and discuss the wider implications of information easily available in another part of the United Kingdom.

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As expected, my debate with Benjamin Cohen made it into the pages of Pink News. “Catholic disagrees with gay marriage, IVF and surrogacy” shocker! I’m not too bothered, several people expressed the perspective  that the whole affair was about Ben trying to mine some controversial quotes.

That said it’s probably worth clarifying a few points. It is not my point of view that Benjamin Cohen is transphobic and neither as the report claims, was I trying to infer that.

What I was trying to get out is that Ben (and others) clearly do have a problem with Tara and myself being friends which is why he originally intervened.

 

This is the nub of the matter – Catholic teaching on sexuality means that instead of attempting to understand and respect each other’s point of view, Tara along with any other LGBT advocate and myself should hate each other.

That we come together on issues of mutual agreement and that I make no attempt to hector Tara into accepting a Catholic vision of sexuality, completely undermines this narrative of Catholics (and me in particular) of being hate-filled spittle-flecked individuals trying to force or impose our faith onto other people.

There are two tactics going on here. One is to undermine our friendship by pointing out Catholic doctrine on sexuality. “How can you be friends with her, she thinks this, ergo she HATES you, ergo you must have psychological problems and be filled with self-hatred to be friends with such a woman”. Our friendship must not be accepted or validated as genuine, built upon principles of mutual trust, care and respect, but instead painted as deeply dysfunctional. It is hoped that this will have the effect of ending our friendship, enabling the hateful horrible homophobe narrative to continue to be perpetuated. It’s pretty hard to claim someone is filled with hate and loathing towards the LGBT community if they number them as friends. Actually Tara is not my only LGBT friend (I expect Pink News will ask them to all come forward and identify themselves) by any stretch of the imagination.  But then again as Ben Cohen has tweeted that any gays who oppose gay marriage for anyone other than themselves are homophobes, then a quarter of the UK LGBT population merit this label according to the Com Res poll conducted  in 2012.

The second, more disturbing tactic is to attempt to cut Tara off from the support of the LGBT community on account of her views. The whole point of this piece was to highlight a member of their community who is bold enough to publicly deviate from group think and hold her up for derision. While I roared with laughter at the piece, Tara’s views as presented seemed perfectly reasonable and mainstream and not at all outrageous or extreme, what concerned me was an attempt to undermine her job and political career, by rendering her controversial, toxic, untouchable, someone who causes upset.

Tara is not opposed purely to same-sex IVF or surrogacy, but to all of these issues as she explains in her blog. Although she has mentioned that she is an NHS diversity consultant, she never talked about her job or her employers on the internet, nor has she been anything other than crystal clear that these are her personally held views. Nonetheless her employers have been contacted for comment.

It is my understanding that the role of a diversity consultant is to ensure that employees and clients are not discriminated against by virtue of their ethnicity, disability, sexuality, gender or any other characteristic. Their job is to provide equal access to employment opportunities as well as client services and ensure that the workplace is doing all that it can to serve the diverse needs of the community.

A diversity consultant would have no say over whether or not services such as IVF should be available and if so how many cycles each couple should receive; these are policy decisions which are made by senior management and clinical staff. I have no idea whether the area of the NHS in which Tara works is even concerned with fertility treatments; she assures me this does not form a part of her role, but her professionalism means that even though she may disagree with IVF as a concept, she still needs to ensure that everyone who qualifies for it under the NHS is able to access it.

There is no discernible reason why someone who believes that every child deserves the chance of a loving mother and father and that babies shouldn’t be removed from their mothers, unless there is a compelling reason to do so, is incapable of working as a diversity consultant. Believing that the state shouldn’t conspire to engineer a situation in which children are removed from their natural parents shouldn’t impact upon one’s diversity and equality credentials.

When did we become so emotionally needy as a nation, that we are unable to cope with stiff differences of opinion or disagreement? The reason why people are agitating for Tara to be kicked out of her job is because they cannot bear the idea of a state agency employing someone in an official capacity who will not validate their desires. A couple who have used IVF or surrogacy might feel ‘judged’ knowing that someone employed within a particular NCT trust disagrees with a life decision that they have made and that would never do.

If Tara had expressed a belief in Jesus Christ, son of God who was crucified, died, was buried and rose again on the third day, people may have looked upon her perhaps rather indulgently or patronisingly, but it would have not have created the storm of outrage. Which is why the secularist lobby are keen to disassociate life issues from religious conscience, arguing that these beliefs are not integral to religion which should in any event be kept private. Only those who believe that LGBT are inferior human beings could possibly object to a child missing out on their mum or dad.

The only imposition going on here  is of one particular viewpoint or mindset as being acceptable for certain state employees. Since when did diversity mean sanctioning every single viewpoint as being equally valid? Since when did diversity not allow for believing that women are exploited by the surrogacy industry and that children should not be treated as commodities? Why should this view disbar you from working to help enable marginalised sections of society access appropriate services?

The only way to avoid damaging culture wars is to listen to and attempt to respect the views of other people, even if we do not wish to sanction or implement their ideas. Surely we can agree to disagree on some issues, while working together on areas of common consent rather than turn certain other groups into untouchables?

When Benjamin Cohen described me as an ‘anti-euqality campaigner’ he was disingenuously implying that I work hard to perpetuate inequality and suffering and trying to paint me as a singularly unpleasant person. I can live with the ostracism of Pink News readers, but it doesn’t really do much to foster positive relationships and raises the emotional temperature. This is the kind of attitude that makes people afraid to speak out for fear of being labelled as fundamentalists. Believing that marriage is not a matter of equality, does not mean that one considers other people as second class citizens and as long-term readers of my blog will remember, I have been criticised in the past by some quarters for my inherent support of the rights that civil partnerships accord and for wishing for these rights to be extended.

In my previous post I outlined precisely my position regarding surrogacy and IVF which is not based upon any wish to discriminate. I have no experience of infertility, I cannot begin to imagine how painful it must be not to be able to have children, but the existence of certain technologies or techniques in order to conceive them does not automatically justify their use. The argument is essentially a moral one about whether or not the ends justifies the means and the values we place upon human life. Can we do what we like in order to secure the outcome we want, regardless of the potential cost?

The most important thing to clear up here is accusations of being opposed to the Jewish religion as specifically alleged by Benjamin Cohen who states that I campaigned to stop liberal and progressive Synagogues from solemnising gay relationships. Firstly it’s worth noting that not all branches of Judaism support  gay marriage. Secondly, I did not specifically campaign to prevent Synagogues from solemnising gay relationships. I was part of an effort which campaigned to keep marriage defined as between a man and a woman in UK law. Synagogues, along with any other religious institution should be free to perform whatever ceremonies and rituals which their religion proscribes (with provisos surrounding physical harms). I do not adhere to the Islamic proposition that a man may have 4 wives, however I am not campaigning for Muslims to be prohibited from taking multiple spouses. Asking that the law reflects existing Judeo-Christian principles and only recognises marriage as one man and one woman, does not oppress religious freedom or prevent people from following different cultural or religious practices. Non-legal recognition or solemnisation of certain situations does not prohibit people from entering into them informally, nor does it make them illegal or against the law.

Yesterday Pope Francis tweeted the following.

He has also described gay marriage in far stronger terms than I, as being a move from the Father of Lies.

Anti-equality campaigner, opposed to Judaism, fundamentalist, or just someone who follows the teachings of the Catholic church as articulated by the Pope?

Kudos and prayers for Tara for her bravery. By daring to be friends with Catholics and supporting a pro-life point of view she has put her job on the line and has made an unlikely champion of religious freedom and rejected the frame of the culture wars.

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MY fertility matters...

MY fertility matters…

This piece from Philippa Taylor on the excellent new conservative woman website highlights how these days it increasingly feels as though we have all walked through the looking glass.

The complexities and ramifications of the case are headache-making. How on earth have we got to a point whereby children have a biological mother and father who have no legal rights over them and are at the centre of a battle between their biological mother who has no legal rights, and two legal parents, one of whom gave birth to them, the other who came into their lives later?

As Philippa points out case law now needs to define the three different types of parent; gestational, legal and social or psychological and accord respective rights.

No-one would disagree that this is a horrendous situation but it is the inevitable consequence which denies the importance of complementarity between the sexes and treats children as a right or option which should be available for every single couple who wants one and wishes to define every single romantic relationship as ‘equal’ and worthy of being given official family status.

Broken relationships cause havoc and heartbreak for children and I speak from the perspective of one with personal experience of having to manage and mitigate the fall-out for a child. The situation is a lot better than several alternatives, I have a happy and well-adjusted child, but nonetheless it isn’t ideal for her. It would be delusional to claim otherwise and no amount of civility, maturity or friendship between the the adult parties will entirely repair the damage for the child who is forced to emotionally navigate the complexities of having biological parents who live entirely separate lives and switch into different modes or personas depending on which parent they are with as well as the upheaval of splitting their lives between two homes.

There is no easy solution. My paternal grandparents’ marriage was a casualty of World War II, and it was decided that it would be confusing for my dad growing up if he had regular contact with his father. Consequently they did not meet until my dad had reached what was then legal adulthood at the age of 21. It’s a loss that he still feels keenly. Single-parent families and step-families can and in many cases do an admirable job, but there is an additional barrier when it comes to ensuring the psychological welfare of the child.

Knowing how hard these situations are for the child, why then contrive a situation in which a child will be deprived of a mum or dad? Leaving aside the manner in which such a child is conceived or procured which infringes their intrinsic dignity, you are from the very outset creating a set of circumstances which will require compensating for, regardless of whether or not you are a single woman exercising your choice to have a child at the most opportune age, or a same-sex couple.

Right from the moment of deliberately contrived conception, one is automatically creating an extra layer of complexity for a child to negotiate as they are growing up, regardless of whether or not the parent is single or in a same sex relationship. In both cases you often end up with the situation of a woman giving birth to a child who is not biologically hers. That matters, every child has a innate longing for identity, to know who they are and where they are from, as well as a curiosity, not least in terms of hereditary dispositions.

In the case of gay parenting, if the relationship is stable and lasts the course, that’s all well and good, but as gay marriage is a relatively new phenomenon there is little in the way of firm data to indicate whether these unions are likely to be more or less long-lived than heterosexual ones. This matters, because in the case of same-sex parenting, say in the case of two males, you then have custody of a child needing to be split between two ‘dads’, only one of whom may or may not be biologically related. Then if these two men go on to find new partners, you have the case of a child who has two fathers and then two step-fathers. Arrangements become extraordinarily convoluted and onerous for the child. Of course its fair to mention that it’s not right for any child to be subject to a series of transient step-parents or families, regardless of sexuality, but neither can it be right for a child to have to divide their time between two families each comprised solely of one gender with no other example of other gender parenting modelled for them.

Yet this is the risk that is being taken and these situations will become increasingly common. For those who point to the relatively small number of people who identify as LGBT (around 1-2%) and corresponding marriages, that the number of children who could be affected might be small, doesn’t justify the situation. Doesn’t every single child deserve a loving mum and dad or do the wishes of the parent trump the needs of the child? Do we treat children of same-sex couples as being less important in terms of their rights?

Yet this attitude towards children as rights or objects is not merely confined to one section of the community. Yesterday as we were hurriedly bundling the children into a lift in town, another, slightly older couple bustled in. Looking at our family, the man noted the appearance of 4 girls and smiled benignly “ah so 4 girls then?” Yes we said, bracing ourselves for the usual “you’ve been busy, don’t you have a TV, don’t envy you when they are teenagers” banter,  when the man ventured that they too had four girls, but added “you need to do what we did, get  yourselves to the doctors for IVF for a boy.”

Not wishing to get into a protracted discussion we smiled weakly whilst exchanging wary eye-contact. There was just so much wrong with that statement, from the assumption that we only had 4 children because we were trying for a boy, the assumption that having a balance of genders in your offspring is important, that boys are better, more important and necessary than girls, so much so we ought to go in for physically, financially and emotionally costly treatment. The consequences of IVF, the wasted embryos and lives, the environmental impact and the eugenic nature  of the procedure all seemed to have escaped this guy. The fact of having four children of one sex meant that we were justified and entitled to take whatever action necessary to ensure that we had one of the opposite gender. All other ethical considerations should pale into insignificance next to our projected desire to have a boy.

The French have intuitively understood this, which is why the Manif pour Tous movement enjoyed such success. They realised that rejecting the notion of complementarity could have disastrous effects for the rights of the child, they recognised same-sex marriage as being all about imposing  gender theory of homogeneity on the wider population and blurring the differences between male and female. Gender theory, as promulgated by the likes of Judith Butler, is helpful for this cause in that in validates individual selfish desires. It allows for the importance of  gender and complementarity in child-rearing to be disregarded in order to qualify the pursuit of personal happiness. Which is what allows women to feel that their children don’t need fathers and has in turn allowed men to get away with irresponsible feckless sexual behaviour together with the idea that promiscuity can be consequence free. Sexual libertinism and gender theory are complementary; each feeds the other. Combined they produce a dystopian society which declares that children no longer need loving mothers and fathers as a way of justifying lust and all-consuming natural biological desires for children. In our brave new world a child (free of any discernible disability) and even of a specific gender is no longer a gift or blessing, but an inalienable human right and marker of equality.

Which is why we then wind up with a situation whereby a woman is jeered, booed and hissed at for attempting to point out that every child deserved a loving mother and father. There is a dissonance in a society which calls for equal numbers of men and woman in business and politics but wants to deny children the equality of a mother and father.

I’ve come in for a lot of “what about the children” mockery, but a child is not merely an object or a pet, which needs to be provided with resources from any loving or caring party in order for it to thrive. Why is the statement the needs of the child, supersede those to have a child, quite such a radical heterodoxy in twenty-first century western society? And why can’t we see that driving a coach and horses through the rights of a child and denying the importance of a child’s natural parents has terrifying implications in a state which seeks to impose its own vision of parenting and checklists upon the population, especially if they are perceived as disadvantaged.

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Party poopers?

same-sex-marriage_2560538b

The question on every talk-show host’s lips yesterday following publication of a poll that a fifth of Britons would reject an invitation to a same-sex wedding, was ‘would you turn down an invite’.

It’s what I was asked on both LBC and 3 counties radio as was any other Catholic Voice who did a press interview. (Do check out Fiona O’Reilly and Fr Edmund Montgomerie on the Catholic Voices website who both made outstanding representations of the Catholic position).

If nothing else, this poll demonstrates the undemocratic fashion in which the government pushed through the legislation despite a hefty opposition. David Cameron admitted that had he known the level of opposition that would have been stirred up, as indicated by the over 660,000 signatures on the petition by the coalition for marriage. that he would not have pushed the legislation forward. Perhaps this goes some way to explain why the government and other lobby groups have attempted to frame the issue as being purely about love and cast anyone who disagrees in the role of disagreeable irrational homophobic bigots.

A few Catholics have privately expressed their reservations to me about some of the Catholic Voices responses to the question about whether or not we would refuse to attend a same-sex marriage.

Obviously there is no  stock answer and a question such as that requires a nuanced response, which isn’t always possible in a short media slot. Speaking on a personal level, none of my gay friends, some of whom are in civil partnerships, some of whom are single, have expressed an interest in getting married. Some take a similar view to the leading art critic Brian Sewell who is gay.

The response that I might well attend the reception, provoked the understandable response that “you’d eat their food and drink their drink, but not attend their wedding”.

The attitude I would take would depend entirely upon the situation and those involved. There is no formal Catholic teaching on what we should do in these situations and it seems to me that we need to balance demands. On the one hand, a same-sex marriage is not what we consider to be a marriage, regardless of what the law might prescribe. The state has eviscerated marriage and stripped it of its meaning. As Catholics we have the need to witness to truth, therefore we cannot do anything which might imply that we accept or condone the state’s new definition of marriage. This would include doing anything that might cause confusion or scandal or imply endorsement, such as for example,participating in a ceremony  signing a civil marriage register or doing one of the readings.

Out of love, we must continue to witness to the truth. However there is also something of a delicate balancing act to consider. Any witness to the truth, must not include a rejection of the person. We must always leave open the opportunity for reconciliation and conversion of heart. Whatever we do, we need to do all we can to ensure that we do not facilitate a total breakdown of a relationship.

So it seems to me that not attending the ceremony but attending the after-party, might be one such compromise. Especially if it were a family member and one was under pressure to be a part of a family gathering. These are where the situations are often fraught with difficulties. Maybe a better compromise would be the other way around? Non-attendance of the ceremony could prompt questions as to why you weren’t there and provide a discreet opportunity for evangelisation, at a later more opportune occasion.

In any such situation, the only thing to do is to discuss the situation with the couple involved and also think hard as to what your presence might achieve. Would it signal an implicit acceptance or could it be a chance for reconciliation/later evangelisation. It’s a judgement call that is best left in the hands of the individual to prayerfully discern. The Church doesn’t ask her members to estrange themselves from their family. It really is a delicate balancing act of the demands of truth and the Gospel with those of personal relationships.

The situation is similar in terms of what to do when you have a family member who is going against the Church’s teachings on marriage in some other way. You cannot pretend that you approve of the situation, but must find a way to express this charitably making clear that it is the objective act of which you disprove, not the person themselves, whom you still love.

The Church’s teachings are that this is not a real and valid marriage. That is an uncomfortable and for many an unpalatable, truth. As to how we negotiate the delicate balancing act of being witnesses to truth and maintaining loving relationships and keeping the door open to future communication, that has to be a matter of personal conscience. If we are to rebuild the culture of marriage we have to ensure that we don’t close down opportunities to evangelise in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.

Looking at the coverage of the first same-sex marriages that took place last night and up and down the country today, what saddened me was that with Peter Tatchell as a witness and the rainbow themed cakes and flags, some of the ceremonies appeared to be concerned with making a political statement rather about love.

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Tonight I appeared in the audience as part of BBC’s Question Time.

I hadn’t been planning to, I was asked by a friend on Tuesday who had a ticket and couldn’t go. The questions I had planned were about the fetal remains scandal and teachers.

I hadn’t expected gay marriage to come up, it’s done and dusted now in the UK and I don’t expect to see a reversal in my lifetime. That’s not to say that I am not sad about matters, in my view this contributes to a weakening of marriage and a denial that as study after study demonstrates, unless there are overwhelming circumstances such as violence or substance abuse, children fare better with and have the right to be brought up by both biological parents.

I am not going to regurgitate once more my views on the issue – if anyone is genuinely interested they can look at the category tag on this blog.

I didn’t recognise Marilyn who asked the question about gay marriage as being from my parish until after the show. She didn’t recognise me either. Probably because I had brushed my hair and didn’t have at least 2 young children hanging off each hip. Catholic parishes are large. Mine offers two Sunday Masses which are packed out. I am usually too preoccupied with stopping the kids from immolating themselves on the candle stands and making mischief therefore many people I only know by sight and the questioner is one.

So I hadn’t planned what I was going to say on the topic, otherwise I would have made a few other more salient points, elaborating more precisely on Roger Helmer’s theme about how freedom of religion and conscience will be affected.

Dr Evan Harris and others have picked up on my appearance and membership of Catholic Voices. Firstly, I disclosed my identity to the producer when my friend nominated me for the ticket. Far more salient and relevant than Catholic Voices (which is unpaid voluntary work and therefore doesn’t count as an occupation), I did disclose that I write a paid weekly column for the Catholic Universe paper, present a weekly radio show on UCR Catholic Radio and write professionally for a number of socially conservative publications. Google is a tool available to anyone and they were at liberty to use it and decline me a ticket. I wasn’t asked to do the BBC’s 100 women with my CV hat on and neither was it in the blurb. So you can complain to them all you like, but actually this is precisely what Catholic Voices is about. Enabling people to take the initiative in getting their voice heard in the public square whether that be around the water cooler or on TV.

It does show that the BBC are willing to air diverse voices and as my view offered a counter-balance to the panel, that’s why it was given time. A secret stitch up it was not. It was a toss up whether or not to go earlier, I actually needed a night to catch up on work. You are not told to disclose your political or faith views prior to speaking. Several members of the audience were political activists and party members, with all sorts of specialised views. I am not sure why my faith needs to be disclosed before I am allowed to speak. I knew that if I did speak, there would be the inevitable outrage from the usual quarters.

When the question on gay marriage came up, I hadn’t planned on saying much, because the questioner did so well, but when David Dimbleby asked who in the audience didn’t agree with the new law it was stand up and be counted time. Proposing a radical alternative point of view in that environment which was extremely hostile and pressurized, was I think, the hardest TV gig I have ever done. It was very much on the hoof and I was on the defensive rather than being able to reframe. Especially when David then interrogated me about my views regarding gay adoption and children which are far more nuanced.

I stand by my comment that children shouldn’t be made to order. Using a surrogate or sperm donor is exploitative, it treats another person along with a child, as a commodity. The practice of surrogacy, in particular, is beset with ethical difficulties.

Here is a more nuanced appearance. http://youtu.be/vB_g4kHeV8E

Afterwards Lord Wolfson and Roger Helmer MEP both made a beeline for me to thank me for my ‘bravery’. I didn’t feel brave, I felt frightened and sick. I didn’t know whether or not I would be able to add much to what Marilyn had said. It was only when Dimbleby specifically asked who didn’t agree that I realised that not to put my hand up would be cowardly. I did it so as not to let down James, who had dropped out and who wanted to ensure a Catholic voice (with a small v) was heard. We both thought that fetal remains would be the topic but I also knew that had I sat on my hands, I would be letting him and every single Catholic who has ever supported me, down.

Getting up from my seat, the girl who had asked a question about help for those who rent, sought me out to tell me I was disgusting. I asked her if she knew me or my friends and how she could make that judgement. Other people came and stuck up for me, reminding her that one of the warm up questions was about good manners. The lady I was sat next to was very warm and good-natured and apologised (I told her none was necessary) if she had been aggressive. She respected my beliefs.

Other people said that they wished they had also spoken up in support of traditional marriage but were too scared.

On the way back to the car, a group of young people spat at me. Marilyn then caught up with me, calling out “were you the lady at the front”, neither of us recognizing each other before the penny dropped. She is not an extrovert, doesn’t enjoy the spotlight and was shaking like a leaf. We saw each other to our respective cars safely.

I was expecting a Twitter hate-fest but have still been shocked by some of the vehemence and spite. I am not advocating penalising or punishing people on account of their sexuality and neither did I say that marriage was solely about children. The Twitterati were hearing what they wanted. What intrigues me as ever, is why no-one can see that not once have I judged individuals but instead made judgement calls on situations, which is what we are called to do as Christians. As ever ironically enough, it’s those who are accusing me of judgmentalism, who are in fact being the judgmental ones and claim to be able to gaze into my soul and confidently state that the position is based on hate.

But this is the kind of thing that faces those of us who will continue to stick to our guns and propound a traditional view of marriage. As the night has gone on, I am beginning to worry about my safety. Back in 2011 when David Cameron suddenly announced his intention to introduce gay marriage, I didn’t envisage things would get so nasty. Given my time again, I would still do the work I have done but definitely used the net under a pseudonym.

Anyway, have a look when it’s up on iplayer.

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Deacon Nick Donnelly has reported on a campaign conducted by a pro-marriage group which has been stopped due to vandalism, abuse and threats of violence. I can well believe it. The repercussions of my tweeting in support of traditional marriage in February 2012 still rumble on to this day – a horrific sexual threat was made against me, evidence of which is contained in a comment on this blog and of which the author is wholly unrepentant and still engages in sporadic bouts of social media bullying.

I am also very aware that I am a semi public figure who lives in an area noted for its tolerance (unless you are homeless) and no doubt it could be claimed that by posting in support of this campaign I am being reckless and putting my family at risk.

Surely this is the only bigotry at work here – people who are ideologically opposed to a traditional view of marriage are determined to impose their version of marriage and beliefs upon us, by fear and threats.

The government may be imposing this new definition of marriage upon us but they fail to understand that there are many who will not accept this and who will refuse to refer to gay relationships as marriage – certainly the definition is not anything that I had previously understood as marriage and not what I consented to when I got married. If any further proof were needed, we can see how the government has changed the understanding of the word and institution by its continued tortuous attempts at formulating the correct legal wording.

Numerous studies show that the best outcomes are achieved by children who are brought in a relationship where their birth parents are married. All other studies use marriage as a benchmark and attempt to prove that a same-sex relationship is as good. (The Iona Institute has much definitive research and evidence based peer-reviewed studies on this matter.)

Now one can deny evidence, or argue the toss over it as much as you like, but doesn’t democracy allow us to express our views, no matter how deluded and demented that others might think them. To attempt to prevent a campaign group from stating that they do not want a new vision of marriage imposed upon them is the only bigotry at work. Although of course bigot is becoming an impotent and redundant term.

It could be argued that posting this link is provocative and confrontational, but it perfectly expresses the views of this household. To refuse to post it accepts the climate of fear attempting to be imposed upon us. Time to batten down the hatches.

billboard

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