- Monday, 21 January 2013
- Written by Jane Carnall
On 17th January, the Coalition for Marriage published a video, promised as the first of many.
Video: Marriage Minutes #01: What is C4M?
The Coalition for Marriage was launched on 20th February 2012, billed as a "grassroots campaign group against the redefinition of marriage". Nearly a year later, they feel so unsure that anyone knows what they really are that they have to launch an explanatory video?
Hello. And welcome to Marriage Minutes.
Over the next few weeks I am going to address some of the questions commonly raised surrounding the debate on same-sex marriage.
The speaker is Doctor Sharon James. She isn't a medical doctor: she has degrees in history (Cambridge University) and theology (Toronto Baptist Seminary) and is the author of several useful books on Christian womanhood such as God’s Design for Women, In Trouble and in Joy, and Gentle Rain on Tender Grass: Daily Readings from the Pentateuch. She and her husband Bill James work together at the Emmanuel Church in Leamington Spa where Bill is the pastor: Sharon James has been particularly involved in teaching Focus on the Family's "Truth Project". Focus on the Family has spent millions on anti-gay campaigns in the US.
We're going to start by asking, What is the coalition for marriage?
C4M is a grassroots movement that has one simple aim: to support the current definition of marriage and to oppose plans to redefine it.
Coalition for Marriage's claim to be a "grassroots movement" is somewhat doubtful. It is a public limited not-for-profit company, with four directors: Colin Hart, also director of the Christian Institute; Nola Leach, head of the pro-life organization Christian Action Research and Education (CARE); Donald Horrocks, head of public affairs for the Evangelical Alliance, and Andrea Minichiello Williams, a founder of Christian Concern for Our Nation (CCfON) and CEO of the Christian Legal Centre. The CfM postal address is the same as for Christian Medical Fellowship. All six organisations named have consistently campaigned against any move towards legal equality for LGBT people.
Our law defines marriage as; "the voluntary union for life, of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others."
This is a common-law definition of marriage in a judgement given by James Wilde, 1st Baron Penzance (1816-1899) in 1866 when ruling in Hyde vs Hyde on polygamous marriage.
Lord Penzance's definition in full was:
What, then, is the nature of this institution as understood in Christendom?...If it be of common acceptance and existence, it must have some pervading identity and universal basis. I conceive that marriage, as understood in Christendom, may for this purpose be defined as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.
Because Hyde vs Hyde was a decision on polygamous marriage, the key point in Lord Penzance's judgement may be taken as
"the voluntary union for life of one and one, to the exclusion of all others"
It is a commonplace in the US, where polygamy as practiced by some isolated Mormon communities causes real harm to the "surplus boys" driven out and to the daughters married off to the elders of the community, to claim that same-sex marriage will somehow lead to polygamy.
In fact, polygamous marriage as practiced by some fundamentalist religions is invariably an unequal form of marriage where the husband has privileges, rights, and responsibilities that his wives do not. Whereas same-sex marriage is invariably the result of countries having reformed their marriage legislation so that husband and wife have identical responsibilities, privileges, and rights - so that it is no great step to lift the legal ban on including same-sex couples.
While people raise children in all sorts of difficult circumstances, marriage is the best, most stable environment for children to grow up in. That's why government has always had an interest in protecting and nurturing marriage.
This argument by opponents of lifting the ban on same-sex marriage both ignores the fact that many same-sex couples have children, but also argues falsely that government legislation on marriage applies only and exclusively to married couples who have or intend to have children together. Neither is true.
If marriage is regarded by C4M as the "best, most stable environment for children", why campaign against the children of same-sex couples having married parents?
But marriage existed way before any legal system. it's older than our nation, and older than the Christian church. It's a natural institution, uniting men and women so that they can become a new family unit.
Marriage, down the millennia and across the world, has existed in multiple forms. In Gran Canaria, Tibet, Nepal, and among many tribes the Amazonian basin, marriage was between one woman and her husbands: in the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, the princess Draupadi becomes the wife of all five Pandava brothers, who each also have several other wives. More commonly, both historically and today, marriage has existed as polygyny: one man, two or more wives. Group marriage, line marriage, and levirate marriage (where a man is bound to wed his brother's widow) are all known and practiced traditionally.
Marriage as a same-sex union between two men was common enough in the pre-Christian Roman Empire to need to be banned by law in 342 AD: marriage between two men or two women was known in China, in North America, and in Africa.
Traditional marriage in many parts of the world is still that of a woman being joined to her husband's father's family. The claim that modern marriage of one man and one woman leaving their birth families to create a new nuclear family unit is "older than the Christian church" is historically false.
The political elites think they can simply redefine marriage over the heads of the people. But the Coalition for Marriage exists to give the British public a voice.
Every recent poll which has simply asked if the British public think same-sex couples should have the same freedom to marry as mixed-sex couples do, has given the British public a voice, and two-thirds of those voices agree with equal marriage.
The Coalition for Marriage petition reads
"I support the legal definition of marriage which is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I oppose any attempt to redefine it."
Sharon James continues in the video:
Our national petition to maintain the current definition of marriage has already been signed by over six hundred thousand people. This includes people of different faiths, as well as those of no faith at all, straight people and gay people.
An investigation carried out on the claimed signatures on the C4M petition shows that:
A source for PinkNews.co.uk has been gathering time-lapsed data from C4M website almost the day since it was launched. Using this data, whose original index files I have seen, the following chart was plotted which shows the number of signatures added to the website against date and time. Note the significant number of vertical jumps, which means several thousand signatures were added within the span of a few hours. There are nearly a dozen significant vertical jumps, which together accounts for roughly 250,000 signatures on the website. And that’s a conservative estimate.
(The video at this point displays the message)
DON'T PLAY POLITICS
ONE MAN + ONE WOMAN
SIGN THE PETITION
627,253 PEOPLE HAVE SIGNED THE PETITION SO FAR
The C4M petition also has the problem that none of the signatures added to it are verified:
Even at the risk of contributing a dozen or so (fake) signatures to their website, I conducted a simple experiment. I used the same name, and same post-code, but three different e-mail addresses, and they all went through, adding to the signature count. Note that none of these e-mail addresses were genuine or authentic. One e-mail address I added was homophobic-c4m at googlemail, which as far as I’m aware, doesn’t exist.
So, as far as you’re able to fill in an e-mail address, which doesn’t have to be genuine, and you have a valid post-code, no matter how many times you’ve used it before, your filling up the form counts as a signature to the petition. Fun, right?
Sharon James continues with the claim:
It's perfectly possible to defend traditional marriage while also respecting the rights of others.
But not one of the organisations known to be directly linked to C4M has a record of respecting LGBT rights.
Gay and lesbian couples have the same rights as married couples through civil partnership. They don't have the right to change marriage for everyone else.
C4M's claim that if the ban is lifted on same-sex couples marrying, this will somehow "attack" mixed-sex marriage is not explained. Nor is it explained why it would change any mixed-sex marriage for anyone because same-sex couples can marry too.
Civil partnership is not quite legally identical to marriage. Civil partners don't have quite the same pension rights as married couples do, and a civil partnership is less likely to be legally recognised in other jurisdictions.
Further, if one spouse in a marriage realises they are transgender and begins to transition, because same-sex couples are legally banned from marriage as mixed-sex couples are from civil partnership, the couple where one is transgender will have to choose between full legal gender recognition and their marriage: a gender recognition certificate can only be obtained after divorce.
In the video, the camera pulls away from Sharon James's face in close-up, to show her sitting next to a TV screen showing Big Ben at night. She says:
The government's commitment to redefine marriage is undemocratic, unnecessary, and wrong. It doesn't own marriage and it has no right to redefine it.
No one except the Coalition for Marriage thinks that lifting the ban on same-sex couples marrying will "redefine" marriage. If the government doesn't own marriage, then the government has no right to discriminate by sexual orientation in banning same-sex couples from marriage. A commitment to lift a discriminatory ban cannot be undemocratic, or unnecessary, or wrong. It is for those who want the discriminatory ban to be continued who have to provide a reason for it, and so far, the Coalition for Marriage has been unable to provide a reason.
C4M is determined to defend the current definition of marriage. Future Marriage Minutes will explore some of the important questions that have been raised about this issue. Thank you for watching.
Will future Marriage Minutes clarify where C4M is getting its funding, or explain the odd jumps in the petition signatures?
Watch this space.
Recommended: The Case for Mammy / Daddy Marriage
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