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Marc Heine

If you think that gay marriage is going to dominate political and cultural debate this year, you are going to find your expectations greatly disappointed. Most people don't really care, and opinion polls would appear to prove this.

This is really little more than an opportunity for much of the leadership of the Conservative Party to demonstrate its liberal credentials, and for those on the religious right, and the extreme secular right (if there is indeed such a creature), to demonstrate its capacity to forecast, in the most spectacular language, the decline and fall of civilisation as we know it. Of course, civilisation is not going to collapse any quicker because of gay marriage--though the collapse of marriage as a "straight" institution might have something to do with this putative collapse.

By the way, citing the pope as a model of thinking is not going to do you or your argument any favours, as for an ever-increasing number of people he and his church represent a busted flush. Indeed, for an ever-increasing number of people ALL religious denominations seem more and more irrelevant. And the reason why? Because most of them tend to concern themselves with sex, rather than love, and economics, rather than morality. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are just different ways of expressing love; either, when misapplied, is worthy of condemnation--but only then.


The British people desperately need a majority Government of REAL Conservatives elected in 2020.

For this to be guaranteed, Cameron MUST push ahead with Gay Marriage.

David Meacock

I do wish these people would stop publicising their sexual problems. What people do between their bed sheets is up to them, but Cameron et al trying to normalise the abnormal with heterophobic measures such gay marriage and allowing gay Bishops is madness. It will split the Conservative Party and Church of England to the detriment of both, and society as a whole. The Government needs to get back to sorting the economy and leave the thousands of years old institution of marriage as it is. The church needs uphold the traditional interpretation of the Bible and root out those who are quite clearly in breach of their vows to do just that, upon which they were appointed/consecrated to their positions in the first place.


The Pope may not be a hompphobe but he does want to control other people's lives, as befits an ex member of the Hitler Youth.


But it's OK to have homosexual activists and their advocates controlling what we're to think and say on these matters, and anyone who dissents (e.g. B&B owners, registrars, foster carers, and teachers who cannpot in conscience teach same-sex marriage) will end up on the wrong side of the law, sacked...


Excellent piece. Especially: "On the one side, you have a self-confident liberal lobby supported, ironically, by the Conservatives. Opposing them is the silent majority supported by real conservatives" That about sums up this whole sorry (for the "Conservative" party, and the nation as a whole) tale.

The Burkian arguments are interesting, as it shows conserving marriage isn't just a religious thing, of religions imposing their will. One doesn't have to be religious to instinctively know the true nature and definition of marriage, which has always been between a man and a woman from even before religion and the church.

"Lest we forget, the whole point of conservatism is to conserve." Yes, exactly. It seems this aspect of conservatism, i.e. "the whole point of conservatism", has been forgotten, the heart of conservatism ripped out in the attempt to bring the "Conservative" Party into line with a metropolitan liberal-left elitist agenda.

"a true conservative would never seek to ‘modernize’ time-honoured institutions like the law, the monarchy, the Church or the family." Precisely. Absolutely correct. And as marriage, based as it is on the different and complementary contribution of a man and a woman, lies at the heart of any healthy society, by being the best context to bring up the next generation (the CSJ studies have shown), it must be about the foremost institution to conserve. Perhaps questions need to be asked how we got to the current state of affairs whereby a "Conservative" PM is doing the opposite.


Phillip: nobody should be allowed to discriminate and those who face sacking are in public sector jobs where they are duty bound to follow the law and treat everyone in a non discriminatory way, whatever their so-called consciences dictate.


"But it does mean that reform must always be carried out, to cite Edmund Burke, ‘as if in the presence of canonized forefathers’."

So, how many generations of imagined canonized forefathers shall we include in the jury when considering our reforms?

Those who ruthlessly and callously exploited the poor in their Victorian factories while they themselves lived selfish lives of opulence and luxury? Those who supported slavery and made their wealth doing so? Or even further back, those who ensured religious "heretics" were tortured and burnt alive at the stake, or were hanged, drawn and quartered for infidelity to a despotic Crown?

The further back in history we go to include such "canonized forefathers," the more unsavoury the views of the individuals included. Enlightened Conservatism preserves what is best from the past, and respects only those forefathers who deserve respect, and not without proper discrimination.

The question of what is "best" for society is a contentious one. Modern western society is fast realising that dogmatic Christianity has led it into a blind alley. It has been a massive fraud perpetrated on humanity. To identify "Real Conservatism" with the brand that has historically been fused with sexually repressive and judgmental Christianity has no electoral or human future.

The unmodernised, unreconstructed Conservative Party repeatedly failed to win elections against Tony Blair. We now have a Conservative Prime Minister, and one whose personal popularity is polled to be significantly higher than that of the other leaders, notwithstanding the fact that David Cameron is inextricably associated with the Conservatives' commitment to introduce same-sex marriage.

The kind of Conservatism Mark Dooley advocates has little appeal in modern Britain, and it is to the credit of modern Britain that this is the case.


Gary james powell:

"sexually repressive and judgmental Christianity has no electoral or human future"

Fortunately this is true and the awful people who pursue it will remain a powerless whingeing minority for good.

Stephen W

"Opposing them is the silent majority supported by real conservatives"

Simply untrue. Polls have shown a majority support gay marriage. More relevantly 90% of people don't care.


Stephen W, no. When it is explained what this is about, i.e. redefining marriage, (and that is what this is about - the State imposing a new definition, not whether homosexuals should be 'allowed to marry' or 'equal marriage' because one cannot call something marriage that is not marriage), they are against. So when ComRes recently asked whether the definition of marriage should remain as between a man and a woman, 62% agreed and only 28% disagreed.

Ricardo's Ghost

A couple of major problems here.

Firstly Burke wasn't a reactionary but a reformer. Although fiercely opposed to the Terror, he was no fan of the Ancien Regime it replaced. You can't really invoke him in an argument that demands an institution should never change.

Secondly, the Pope's address to the Roman Curia this year attacked the proponents of gay marriage by criticising Simone de Beauvoir - specifically her idea that one is not born a woman, one becomes one. His Holiness is of course, perfectly at liberty to join with the Chief Rabbi of France in critiquing this liberationist philosophy, but the argument for gay marriage isn't liberationist. Liberationists are not keen on marriage at all, viewing it as a tool of oppression. The gay marriage argument is fundamentally a conservative one - there are gay people, who aren't going to change, and therefore the very important institution of marriage ought to be opened to them. Indeed the gay rights lobby would firmly agree with Pope Benedict that one cannot deny one's nature and construct a new identity that one would prefer: gay people cannot choose to alter their sexuality. Given this the question is then what to do about it. The conservative, Bukean answer (I would argue) is to adapt the old institutions to take account of this new realisation about human sexuality.



Equal marriage is no more a redefinition of marriage, than modern democracy, which includes votes for women, was a redefinition of pre-women's suffrage democracy.

Just as democracy that allows women to vote is a perfection of the definition of democracy, rather than a redefinition, marriage that includes same-sex couples is a perfection of the definition of marriage, rather than a redefinition.


Ricardo's Ghost:
Having just read your post I think it needs firm rebuttal. You say 'There are gay people, who aren't going to change, and therefore the very important institution of marriage ought to be opened to them' As has been explained above marriage is a 'natural' institution for the union of a man and a woman to procreate children and form a family of father and mother in which children can be brought up naturally. This cannot be done by people of the same sex. Therefore quite simply homosexuals cannot be married.


Continued from above:
You have compounded this error by taking Edmund Burke's name in vain. To suggest that he , of all people, would have advocated or supported the overturning of the defined meaning of marriage and the natural and traditional family to meet the supposed needs of the homosexual community is absurd. of all the institutions inherited and made sacred for man this is the very last that he would have sacrificed. And by the argument one can it is as far from true conservatism as one can go.
let me end by commending the author, Mark Dooley , for his fine article



Your comment was a reply to Ricardo's Ghost, but please forgive me for commenting on it.

The attempt you make to exclude LGBT couples from getting married on the basis that only heterosexual marriages are "natural," makes the Humean mistake of trying to derive an "ought" from an "is". People dying from cancer is also "natural": that doesn't mean it is good, and it doesn't mean that we should not do all we can to find a way of countering nature and curing cancer.

In fact, the case could be made that everything that exists and happens in the empirical world is natural, including our interventions to change the course of events. After all, our brains are perfectly natural, our reasoning is natural, the scientific insights that arise from our reasonings are natural, and our interventions to improve the experience of humans are hence natural. Whether our actions in any circumstance are good or bad actions, cannot however be determined on the basis of whether or not they are "natural".

It may be a longstanding historical fact that marriage has traditionally been between a man and a women - or a man and several women, in the case of some cultures - or a man and a prepubescent or very young child in some cases if we consider the Middle Ages. But just because something has happened as a rule historically and empirically doesn't entail that that event is right because it is "natural". There was a time, as I say, when marrying prepubescent girls was considered to be "natural" and acceptable. There was a time when it was considered "natural" to keep and trade in slaves. There was a time when it was considered "natural" for democracy only to permit the votes of men.

If one considers such examples, the suspicion should arise that much prejudice, oppression and discrimination has been defended by apologists who regard the situations in question as being "in the natural order of things," for no other reason that the injustices have existed for a long time.

For a very long time, particularly as a result of the oppression of homosexuality and LGBT people by the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, society made it as difficult as possible for LGBT couples to form unions and live together, let alone in unions that enjoyed state and social affirmation and acknowledgment. It is "natural" for same-sex couples to want to form committed unions of the kind that heterosexual couples form, despite the successful efforts of religious institutions to prevent such unions until recently. There is no intrinsic qualitative difference between a same-sex and a heterosexual relationship: there are good relationships and bad relationships in both categories. It is also irrelevant that LGBT couples cannot have biological children containing the DNA from both partners. Plenty of heterosexual married couples adopt children, or cannot have children, or choose not to have children, while an increasing number of LGBT couples adopt children or have surrogate children. Having such biological children, or having the potential to have such biological children is not considered to be a defining characteristic of a marriage.

Neither the Christian Church, nor any other religious institution, has intellectual property rights to the word "marriage". It is a word in the domain of public language, and there is a public understanding of what it means. If civil society - as is the case at the moment in the UK where the recent Daily Mail poll revealed 60% support for the measure - decides it wants to allow LGBT people to enter into a civil marriage, then civil society has made the judgment that LGBT couples meet the essential criteria for being able to do so, despite the claims of religionists. Thankfully, we live in a civil, secular society, and not a theocracy. Religionists do not own the institution of marriage, and they do not own the definition of marriage, and they do not own the word "marriage".

I am sure that you are right, and that Edmund Burke would have been shocked at the idea of two people of the same sex being allowed to marry. He almost certainly would have been equally shocked at the decriminalisation of gay sex, as well as plenty of other developments that are generally regarded as positive civil rights developments. However, he lived over 200 years ago. Surely we should have learned a thing or two in the course of two centuries.

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