Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, last week launched an attack against the British Government’s decision to legalize same-sex civil marriage. In a piece written for the Daily Mail he alleges that this change will destroy the institution, but the facts he uses to support this assertion are severely lacking.
Under the title “Marriage will ONLY remain the bedrock of a society if it is between a man and a woman” Carey opens by saying that he was “baffled” by Prime Minister David Cameron’s statement to the Conservative Party Conference last year in which Cameron said that, because he is a Conservative who believes in commitment, he supports legalizing same-sex civil marriage.
Carey, while offering that he has no issue with gay rights or a particular interest in what should define Conservative Party policy, takes exception with Cameron’s stance. He believes same-sex civil marriage will “fatally weaken what is still one of our country’s greatest strengths — the institution of marriage.” He also calls the government’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage one of the biggest “political power grabs” in history.
Now these are bold claims. Let’s see what evidence Lord Carey has to support them.
He offers that the state “does not own the institution of marriage” and adds “nor does the church.” He professes:
“The honourable estate of matrimony precedes both the state and the church, and neither of these institutions have the right to redefine it in such a fundamental way.”
This appeal to history does Carey’s case no favors though, because the state – whether the British government or otherwise – has traditionally regulated marriage through various supporting networks as evidenced by the benefits, obligations, rights and responsibilities given married couples — all of which have changed over time to meet society’s needs.
The state, then, does not need to “own” the institution in order to observe how it operates in civil society and make adjustments according to changing demands made by that society. That the state has the power to do so is because the electorate confers that power through the political and democratic process.
Also, because Lord Carey is claiming that marriage is not “owned” by the church, he cannot later make an appeal to the religious definition of marriage and thus can only play in the secular arena. This is a bold move, and one that will wound his case later.
Carey next makes an appeal to tradition.
Read more: british government, british politics, civil partnerships, civil rights, conservative party, conservative party conference, gay rights, lgbt England, lgbt europe, lgbt rights, lgbt uk, lord carey, marriage equality, same-sex marriage uk
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