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Civil Partnership of Lawful Marriage?

The debate – or rage depending on your perspective – about same sex marriage engulfs the full panoply of human emotion. Even the ‘don’t care’ brigade get in on the act. One modern day ‘philosopher’ has expressed the view that whilst he sits on the moral fence about homosexuality, he would definitely prefer to see men marrying each other rather than killing each other!

Same sex marriages are now legal under the law of England and Wales. However, they were illegal at common law. The earliest recorded case is in 1680 when under the pretext of being a man X had married Y. The marriage was annulled 2 years later on the basis that X was a ‘perfect woman in all her parts’. No weight was given to the fact that ‘psychologically and emotionally’ she was in fact a man. Even post-operative trans-sexuals could not legally abandon their previous sex for the purposes of satisfying the Church or indeed the Court. They had to content themselves with “living in sin” until 2004 when civil partnerships were legalised, thereby giving same sex couples almost all of the same rights as lawfully married couples.

The new law on same sex marriages, like the debate which encircles it, throws up some interesting anomalies. Whilst it is still treasonous for a man to have an affair with the King’s wife it would not be so in relation to a future King’s male partner. It will not be possible for there to be a male Princess of Wales. The bereaved of same sex marriages will not be able to describe themselves as widows or widowers. Whilst some of this may seem a mere matter of semantic exactitude, the new law has forced the Government to re-word a whole raft of legislation dating back to 1215 in order to make it clear that the Holy estate of matrimony now describes same sex marriages as well as heterosexual marriages.

When researching this article, I literally lost count of the number of judgements which start with or include the words “Marriage as understood in Christendom is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others.” This is an example of legal mores exactly mirroring religious ones. The clock has now turned full circle however. From 29th March 2014 the first same sex marriage can lawfully take place and all existing civil partnerships may be recognised as a lawful marriage.

I recently read an article which boldly declared that ‘same sex marriages will strengthen the institution of marriage.’ I very much doubt that, but on the other hand, over the years, marriage as an institution has seen many declines and resurgences based upon all sorts of social, economic, legal and financial explanations.

At one end of the spectrum are the biblical arguments about ‘perilous times’ in the ‘end days’ but it is really important not to confuse law with religion. That is the surest way to turn a war of words into a war of terror. The tenets of most religions coincide with a moral code. Any coincidence of law with morals is literally that – just a coincidence!

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