Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Equal Marriage, a distinction between rights and services

I for one am extremely happy with the suggested law changes to do with marriage in this country. By all accounts it would appear the route is to make same sex marriage completely legal in this country, recognised alongside "normal" marriage equally, and able to be performed in religious ceremonies if those religious bodies wish to allow it.

This isn't an affront to religion since there have been a number of religious groups, Jewish, Quakers, to name only a couple, that have been asking specifically to allow this in law. All we are looking here is giving religious people the freedom to act freely as their religion would wish in a positive manner.

However we unfortunately have to recognise that some religions, the Church of England as a focal point right now, don't want to progress.

Now, here is where we're all getting a little bit muddled up as to what human rights should mean. Firstly, no gay couple should be unable to achieve the same status as a straight couple simply because they are homosexual or similar. To disallow this is an affront to their rights, which is why we can all be so happy about this change in the law.

It is also their right to associate with those who wish to associate with them. If a gay couple wants to say their religious beliefs are Church of England beliefs, that is their choice they're free to make. Others may choose to not recognise this, or label them in some way, but that is the prerogative of the organisation that they are all associating with.

The Church of England performing gay marriages for you...is not a human right. Marriage, currently only heterosexual marriage, is a service offered by the church just as is Baptism, funerals, etc. As any other organisation would have the right, they can offer the services they wish.

"But wait", I hear someone at the back cry... "What about B&B's, they can't choose to not serve Gay people!"

True, but their service is one of accommodation, and it would indeed by illegal to offer a straight-only accommodation service. The church is a little different, by it's own terms of association it is not offering "marriage" which can be accessed by all, and it's own version of marriage is...while almost identical to other religions...actually a unique act that is specific to that religion.

Imagine for a second that you went to Starbucks, possibly because you're a libertarian sticking it to the hippies. You go there because you like the taste, the specific *mix of ingredients* that Starbucks uses to make their coffee. Every day though you go in and want them to do it slightly differently, you want them to add some apricot juice to your coffee (you crazy bastard). They always say "No, we're not adding apricot juice to your coffee, we don't do that".

Now this is an awkward situation. Your right to buy coffee isn't diminished, you can go to Costa, or Nero, or one of many independent chains that would value your custom much more...but you know that the ingredient mix at those places just won't be as soothing for the Monday morning soul.

Unfortunately for you, this is a problem between you and the provider, and one that is a personal issue that needs to be reconciled internally or as part of the wider group. In short, you can either suck it up and stay loyal to Starbucks because you like their recipe too much, or you can club together and get Starbucks to put a damn apricot juice coffee on the menu.

No-one would legally interject on Starbuck's right to offer the service or products in the way that they wish to offer it. If you don't want to move brands despite them not catering for you, who's the one that really has the problem that needs to be solved?

The Church of England (legally protected in order to ensure that they can't be forced to marry same sex couples despite not wishing to, when the law changes to make same sex marriage otherwise legal), for reasons that should be acceptable by anyone campaigning for same sex marriage, should not be forced to change their beliefs to accommodate a minority of their members (as it would appear to be the case currently).

We should respect the bigots' rights to believe what they wish, it's really not in anyone's interest to force the church to do something that they do not want to do, it'll foster resentment or worse. As long as this doesn't filter through, as it has for far too long, to stop the legal status of married gay couples being equal to that of straight couples in law, then what is the big deal?

Unless you're religious of course...in which case...why haven't you considered that you might be going to the wrong coffee shop yet?