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Lord Carey’s Fact-Free Case Against Gay Marriage Examined

Lord Carey’s Fact-Free Case Against Gay Marriage Examined
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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.

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Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to Jack Newton.

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53 comments

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4:17PM PDT on Jun 25, 2012

This is the man that approved Sharai law in the UK

3:55AM PDT on Jun 14, 2012

Great article, thanks!

Marriage was around long before Christianity so it's rather arrogant for religious people to claim they own it. What I find deliciously ironic though is Carey's quote

“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.”

The Church of England was established by Henry VIII to allow him to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, when all other avenues laid down by the Catholic Church and the laws of the country had failed. So Carey says the Church of England should not redefine marriage, which was exactly what it was set up to do. Wonderful, don't you think?

Carey, go back to school and learn some history. In the meantime, do not spout such ill-thought-out, discriminatory drivel.

12:20PM PDT on Mar 14, 2012

Sandy E., do you get some kind of kick being so intolerant or were you born that way? Who says marriage is a heterosexual ritual? It is made for all consenting adults that love each other. It's made for them regardless or race, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation etc. By the way who says gays are trying to be different? All they want are the same rights, opportunities and protections that are available to all other people for the simple reason they are human beings and deserve the same rights as all other humans. Why is that concept so hard for you to get through your thick skull?! You are entitled to your beliefs but don't use them as a weapon to marginalize others you hate or as justification for your bigotry and ignorance!

12:00PM PDT on Mar 14, 2012

Sandy E...."If gays want to be different why are they trying so hard to be the same?

+++++++++++++++ They don't want to be "different," Sandy! They want to be just like anyone else...married and entitled to all the civil liberties guaranteed them by the laws of their country/State!

Be honest.....if you object to same-sex marriage, you object on religious grounds, don't you?

Why should YOUR religion dictate MY behavior?

5:59AM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Damn long winded posters. :)

Last comment:

That such behaviors based in social prejudices legitimated by religion seem to run counter to the fundamental principles of the religion (e.g., love your neighbor as yourself) is a matter of conscience which those bodies must address internally.

5:57AM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Lord Carey has been seen by many Anglicans as Margaret Thatcher's revenge. The British prime minister has the power to choose the Archbishop of Canterbury from the nominees made by the Queen. Thatcher wanted an evangelical who would support her Tory government. Carey was a decided break from a long line of ABCs who have historically been well educated, thoughtful leaders of the church.

The answer to the perceived problem here is a lot more simple than many would think. Legal marriage is the product of Roman law, a contract legally executed, recorded and carrying all kinds of legal implications. It can only be dissolved by a subsequent legal action, divorce. Removing legal barriers to a group of people to enter into civil marriage is not a redefinition of marriage, it is in keeping with its socially constructed nature historically.

This is the right which LBGQT people have demanded governments stop denying them. We ask for no favors and no rights are being created here. We simply ask that our rights stop being arbitrarily denied on the basis of a social prejudice.

The blessing of marriage, constructed as a sacramental rite in catholic traditions, is a liturgical rite occurring within the confines of religious bodies. Here, the ability (though not a right) to discriminate is unquestioned. If a church does not want to bless a civil marriage, that is its prerogative. That such behaviors based in social prejudices legitimated by religion seem to run counter to the funda

7:50AM PST on Mar 3, 2012

Thank you for answering my question.

6:22AM PST on Feb 29, 2012

I made a video about why Homosexuals should have equal rights.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdK5ETOJusw

Watch it, share it, and join the fight against the evil Homophobes.

8:34PM PST on Feb 28, 2012

First, one must understand what marriage does. Marriage recognizes that two people choose to join their lives together and all their stuff. This means they agree to the principle " What's mine is yours and vice versa" and that they are a unit which acts together as one in all aspects of their lives and confer on each other the reights to make decisions when one of them is no longer or temporarily unable to do so, as well as accepting responsibility for any children which may come along through their union.

That's what marriage does. There is nothing spiritual or esoteric about it. Marriage is a legal contract which MAY be embellished or NOT by a religious ceremony. Priests et al of the relgious bent MUST still be licensed by the state. It is a matter of civil law and without the authorised licensed person to perform it the marrige does not exist. Priests ect cannot perform legal marriages if they are not licensed by the state to do so. Here in Canada, for example, a Catholic priest who is licensed in one provence cannot perform marriages in another province without first obtaining a temporary license from the other province to perform that marriage. This means that religious persons cannot, simply by virtue of their offices, perform marriges. They must get a license from the state first. Using this reasoning, faith has no say in marriage, only in who they will marry within their purview, with a state sanctioned license at hand to make it valid.

8:28PM PST on Feb 28, 2012

If it is not one lot of so called Christians then is another, why can't this just leave the issue alone, marriage is marriage regardless of whether it is a man & woman or two people of the same sex, they love each other they want to get married end of story.

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