April 20, 2012
Gay couples may soon be able to marry in a church, but will they want to?
The UK Government has announced its intention to introduce same-sex civil marriage by the next general election, meaning gay couples can legally refer to their partnership as a ‘marriage’ and use the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ rather than the more cumbersome ‘civil partner’.
In another move, a law was passed in December 2011 stating that civil ceremonies can be conducted in places of worship in England and Wales, and can contain religious content such as prayers or hymns. While no religious group will be forced to host them, those who wish to can apply.
If the Government does indeed go ahead with a marriage reform bill to allow fully-fledged gay weddings, then equality laws will apply to churches, meaning that gay couples will be able to have a religious wedding ceremony within a church. This is a fantastic move for equality, but do gay couples actually want this?
The religious view
All religions have different interpretations, but very few endorse same sex relationships. The most popular religion in the UK is Christianity with 71.6% of the population describing themselves as Christian (UK census 2001).
Christianity accepts that some people have homosexual tendencies and that in itself is not wrong. Gay relationships are not recognised though and any form of homosexual activity is considered to be sinful which makes the concept of gays marrying in most churches rather tricky.
Judaism, Muslim and Sikh view homosexuality in a similar way, though a few churches and places of worship are more relaxed. Reform Judaism, the United Church of Christ and the Metropolitan Community recognise gay relationships. Liberal Buddhists and Quakers are also fairly neutral towards gays.
The Christian church believes that homosexuality can be overcome with prayer and help from God, so the proposed equality laws surrounding gay marriage could split the institution and cause a much ill-feeling between the gay community and the Christian community.
In December 2011 the church said ”A gentlemen’s outfitter is not required to supply women’s clothes. A children’s book shop is not required to stock books that are intended for adults. And a Church that provides a facility to marry is not required to provide a facility to same-sex couples for registering civil partnerships.”
Do gay Christians really want to marry in Church?
Due to its non-acceptance of gay relationships, it is fair to assume that very few of the “practising” gay population would consider themselves to be Christian. “Unpractising” gays who choose to remain celibate or enter into straight relationships would, of course, have no need for a gay marriage in a church.
Many gay people who were brought up as Christians have turned their back on the faith because their relationships are frowned upon.
It may be easy for a straight person to believe homosexuality can be overcome with prayer and that the gay tendencies will disappear. Most gay people will disagree and argue that they are born gay and crave the love, security and stability of a marriage just the same as any straight person does. Life for a gay person without the prospect of ever having a fulfilling relationship is not a happy concept.
Why, therefore, would gay couples be keen to marry in an institution that fundamentally does not agree with their union? Even if the church was forced to perform their marriage, surely a sense of pride will make most shy away? Why spend the happiest day of your life in a place where most people disapprove of you?
There is a long way to go before gay marriage will be palatable for the entire UK population. At present, roughly half the population agrees with gay marriage and 65 % believe in civil partnerships. Whether this is a religious issue, a homophobic issue or both, is impossible to say.
It will be interesting to see whether gay couples do decide to go ahead and book their weddings in churches, as statistics show that more time and patience is needed before these unions are accepted within society.
Until then there are plenty of other places for gay couples to wed; from local town halls to castles, from airports to museums. Quirky couples can opt for The London Eye and wealthy ones for Kensington Palace, who wants stuffy hymns and formal prayers anyway?
Lesbilicious Brighton Review – May 2012
Lesbilicious as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival 2012
May 22, 2012