Tuesday, February 01, 2011

vi

The example that keeps cropping up, and which proves that gay now runs the country and everyone else is an oppressed minority is the case of an hotel, run by a Christian family, who allegedly refused to let a homosexual couple rent a room.

The story strikes me as rather more nuanced than either side is admitting. As I read the story, no-one was turned away for being gay: and neither have the Secret Elders of Frankfurt launched an attack on the hotel owners for being Christians.

What seems to have happened is that the hotel had a policy of only renting double rooms to married couples (and had, in fact, frequently required unmarried straight couples to sleep in separate rooms). Now, this might very well be silly and priggish. We might very well ask why the hotel wasn't equally strict about kicking out guests who didn't go to church on Sunday or honour their parents; or people who take the Lord's name in vain and go around coveting other people's oxes. Or, why God was okay with people committing fornication in single beds. Or what they did to stop unmarried straight couples signing in as "Mr and Mrs Smith" in the time honoured fashion.

But the rule that said "We only rent double rooms to married couples" wasn't illegal per se. Daft, maybe, but there's no law against being daft.

The problem arose because the representatives of the Secret Gay Conspiracy were Civil Partners. They regarded themselves as married under the law. Mr and Mrs God did not. And therein lies the problem. Mr and Mrs God were perfectly free to turn away unmarried couples. What they were not free to do was to pick and choose which forms of marriage they regarded as valid. They would not have been free to say that Mr and Mrs Smith were not married because they got married in front of a registrar, as opposed to a priest; or to say that Catholic weddings didn't count.

So everything turned on whether "civil partnership" is legally the same thing as marriage.

Common sense suggests to me that it is not: the clue would seem to be that one is called "civil partnership" and the other is called "marriage"; that registry offices hold "civil partnership ceremonies", not weddings, and that The Gay Lobby is still lobbying for the right to marry. However, after due consideration, M'Learned Friends decided that civil partnerships and marriages were the same thing.

This strikes me as a rather subtle point of both morality and legality. It's not illegal for someone to say that it's immoral for people who are not legally married to have sex; but it is, apparently, illegal for someone to say that an institution which is not legally the same as marriage is not morally the same as marriage.

It makes my head spin, rather.

The question about whether gay people should be allowed to get married in the eyes of the law is a good one. Getting individual judges to decide whether civil partnerships are or are not marriage on a case by case basis may not be the best way of answering it. But it's a rather subtle question and it has been argued about right up the legal system to the highest court in the land: and a judge (himself an Anglican) has given a considered judgement, which Mr and Mrs God have the right to appeal against. (They may even have the right to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.)

It is hard to see how that equates to dragging too poor innocent Christians before an Un Gay Activities Panel. 

28 comments:

Sam Dodsworth said...

It's not illegal for someone to say that it's immoral for people who are not legally married to have sex; but it is, apparently, illegal for someone to say that an institution which is not legally the same as marriage is not morally the same as marriage.

It doesn't look that complicated to me. The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 specifically says:

The fact that one of the persons is a civil partner while the other is married shall not be treated as a material difference in the relevant circumstances.

So for the purposes of the act, a civil partnership is legally the same as a marriage.

(It also specifically says that treating a person in a civil partnership more favourably than one who is married is discrimination under the Act.)

Sam Dodsworth said...

...and, as it turns out, the actual judgement is quite interesting. The judge is concerned about the possible conflict between the Equality Act and B&B owners' right to freedom of religion under the European Declaration. He comes down on the side of the Act (because the B&B is a business, and because actual law takes precedence over the Declaration of Human Rights) but clearly thinks there's room for an appeal and further interpretation.

Mousie762 said...

What I'd like to see is civil partnerships only as far as legality is concerned; no government marriage at all. Here in the US that's the only option that will satisfy the freedom of religion clause of the first amendment of our Constitution.

I think it's an embarrassment to Christianity that the hotel owners would turn down a same-sex couple, but since they are concerned with the morality not the legality they should be permitted to interpret it in their own way.

I think it's an embarrassment to Christianity because they are taking regulations about how they the hotel owners must behave, (they must abstain from homosexual sex), and putting their statement about how it applies to others above a greater commandment that again applies to them.

"Master, which is the great commandment in the law?"

Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

"This is the first and great commandment.

"And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

"On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Matthew 22:36-40, KJV

Dwayne said...

Andrew,

The line about coveting the ox was pretty funny and spot on.

On the US side of things, I think the biggest problem in the debate is that "marriage" means completely different things in different contexts.

On the one hand, some folks consider it a sacrament. On the other, it is a legal agreement. If it has often been both, ok... but that clearly isn't always the case anymore.

You don't have to be Catholic, or Christian, or believe in God at all to be married. You can just go down to the Justice of the Peace, fill out some forms and get that done.

I think a lot of the debate can be settled by clarifying what the person speaking means by "marriage" when they use the word.

Steve H said...

***This strikes me as a rather subtle point of both morality and legality. It's not illegal for someone to say that it's immoral for people who are not legally married to have sex; but it is, apparently, illegal for someone to say that an institution which is not legally the same as marriage is not morally the same as marriage.***

I'm not sure that that paragraph makes sense. Firstly, if the courts have now ruled that marriage and civil unions mean the same thing, then surely the two ARE legally the same. And no-one is making it illegal to say that a civil union is not morally the same as marriage, merely that it's illegal to treat the two differently.

SK said...

It's not the court ruling that makes them legally the same; it's the statute. This isn't a silly country like America, where judges can overrule the legislature!

Parliament is supreme; and it does seem quite evident that the intent of Parliament was that civil partnerships should be legally interchangeable with marriages.

This does rather mean that Christians whose beliefs say they should treat those married and those in civil partnerships differently in ways relevant to their business, must choose between the beliefs and the business.

However, one might legitimately ask even for Christians what the difference is between a civil marriage and a civil partnership. Both are entirely legal constructs invented by the state (whereas the Christian presumably thinks that Christian marriage is a spiritual state ordained by God) and so would seem to be the same kind of thing.

I wonder what the outcome of the case would have been if the couple in question had not just requested unmarried couples take separate rooms, but also couples who were married in registry offices?

Perhaps the effect will be to create a class of Christians who simply do not recognise certain aspects of the state. that would be interesting.

John H said...

As others have pointed out, the judge did not say that marriage is the same as civil partnership. He applied a law that says that for the purposes of the anti-discrimination regulations, the differences between marriage and civil partnerships are to be disregarded.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I still think that this is a subtle point of law. I also think it's bad law making: first of all you introduce a thing called 'Civil Partnerships' (when you could have said that as of next Tuesday, marriage was defined as being between 'two people' as oppose to between 'a man and a woman') and then you introduce a different anti-discrimination law that says from now on its against the law to treat 'Civil Partnership' and 'Marriage' as being different. The English law is full of messy cludges of this kind. The point is that it was subtle enough that you needed a whole series of judges to hear the arguments on both sides, deliberate, and come to a conclusion (which is subject to appeal -- to the House of Lords or even to Strasburg). This is not the same as a gay inquisition.

Louise H said...

Of course it was bad lawmaking. In my place we had to dig out every single bit of statute that referred to marriage, husband, wife and spouse and add "and civil partner/ship" to it. No exceptions at all.

Obviously it would have been far easier and wasted a lot less time if we'd put a bit at the beginning saying that all references to marriage etc include references to civil partnerships but we weren't allowed to do that because the compromise solution reached with those opposed to the whole gay marriage thing was to have a completely separate legal institution. However it was never intended that there would be any difference in practice whatsoever, hence the bit in the 2007 regs making that clear with respect to discrimination.

Eventually people will get used to the whole idea and government will quietly amend CP to marriage (or marriage to CP) and wipe out huge quantities of unnecessary legislation in one stroke.

John H said...

Andrew: Yes, it is a legal subtlety. But then, I'm a lawyer, so I enjoy that kind of thing. ;-)

I think the point is (as Louise points out) that CPs were invented as a way to introduce gay marriage without actually introducing gay marriage. While the CP legislation itself studiously avoids any mention of what sort of people might want to enter into a CP and what they might get up to within it, the intention was always to create a quasi-matrimonial institution for same-sex couples.

Is that bad lawmaking? Well, when CPs were introduced it's highly unlikely that there would have been public or political support for gay marriage. CPs were a way to give gay people civil rights broadly equivalent to marriage, while at the same time reassuring "conservative" people that marriage itself remained sacrosanct.

So the only real alternative to CPs back then was to stick with the status quo. I'd say bad lawmaking was preferable to worse status-quo-retaining.

SK said...

So -- hang on -- are you suggesting that civil partnerships were actually a sneaky, underhand -- some might say ulterior -- way to getting de facto same-sex marriage introduced in this country?

Well, that doesn't sound at all like the kind of thing that a loose association of people who had the goal of making same-sex relationships equal to opposite-sex ones -- one might say normalising them -- but thought that they couldn't necessarily get the required public support to do so openly, might come up with in order to slip the change in under the radar, in the hopes that people would get used to the idea so that eventually they can simply rename civil partnerships to 'marriage', and nobody will notice the difference.

Good thing we know (because Andrew has told us) that there is no such loose association of people with similar aims trying to slip their aims, their issues, their -- oh, what's the word -- agenda? -- onto the statues books in such a sneaky way.

(Here's an interesting question: why were all amendments to the civil partnership bill which would have allowed, say, two siblings of the same sex living together in a jointly-owned house to enter into a civil partnership and so avoid having to sell the house when one of them died, argued against so vociferously and then defeated in Parliament?)

Phil Masters said...

The whole thing is, of course, a mess. There are, I understand, still gay people annoyed that they have to enter into this weird hybrid thing called "civil partnership" when they feel that they should damn well be treated the same as straight people, and straight people who think that "marriage" is an archaic symbol of patriarchal dominance and who are going to court to demand the right to have civil partnerships themselves - and, yes, those siblings sharing houses and getting mauled worse by the tax and inheritance laws worse than married or gay couples...

But it's impossible to just wipe the whole tax, inheritance, and family law system clean and start over building something vaguely fair and coherent, even if you could get enough agreement about what "fair and coherent" would look like. The legislative system is more or less explicitly designed to make that sort of thing impossible.

(My own gut feeling is that the state should take the line that what people do with their houses or their squidgy bits is between themselves and whatever ethical systems they choose to adopt, and none of the state's business. But even in my ideal world where the state treated individuals as individuals, and left their social arrangements up to them, you'd probably want some way of registering next of kin for when people are unconscious in hospital and somebody has to make decisions about their treatment, and maybe sharing tax allowances or something on occasion...)

In other words, if you wanted to get anywhere I'd want to be, you wouldn't start from here.

Diani said...

@SK

Come off it, there was no stealth involved; pretty much everyone has referred to civil partnerships as "gay marriage" informally since they first came in.

And as far as I'm concerned, I'll be happy to accept the label of "agenda" for my desire for simple equality of rights once Mel Phillips and her ilk agree to being referred to as "the anti-equality lobby".

SK said...

If the point was to allow same-sex marriages, why not just put that to the country -- why go through the rigmarole of calling them 'civil partnerships' at all (and why make 'civil partnerships' an exact analogue of marriage, down to arguing against the siblings amendments)?

The idea, surely, was to get the laws passed without drawing the opposition that calling it 'marriage; would surely have brought; therefore, the aim was to have some of the people who would have objected to 'marriage' either not notice, or notice but not think it was important enough to object.

Aeroplanes that are designed so that the enemy doesn't notice them are called 'stealth aeroplanes'; missions that are designed so that the enemy doesn't realise how serious they are until it's too late are called 'stealth missions'.

Is the word 'stealth' not, then, entirely appropriate?

(That the word 'marriage' has been used almost incessantly since the Act was passed, surely just means that the stealth mission was successful, and so there's no more need for stealth about that particular issue. But the fact that the word 'marriage' was conspicuously not used before the Act was passed, or in the Act itself, rather shows that there was a need for stealth then -- otherwise it would have been called something like the 'Marriage Act'.)

DMSO said...

You could call that "stealth"; me' I'd just go with "politics", or "marketing".

Unless, of course, you already buy into the all-powerful Gay Conspiracy narrative.

SK said...

Obviously they're not all-powerful. Otherwise they wouldn't have to operate by stealth. That would just be inconsistent and confused.

('Conspiracy' also makes it sound a bit organised, as if there's a single committee with many subservient organisation, rather than a lot of organisation with similar aims that happen to co-operate -- would you say there was a 'Trade Union conspiracy?' Clearly not. Does that mean that the TUC -- or the Labour party -- doesn't exist?)

DMSO said...

So if there is no centralised, agenda-led conspiracy, what exactly is so sinister?

A bunch of people holding opinions along the lines of "wouldn't it be rad if this minority wasn't discriminated against?" is hardly terrifying. And if the overall opinion of society supports or is indifferent to these ideas, hey, they get to put some of them into practise!

Doesn't this sound kind of like what we expect from a democratic society?

SK said...

Isn't that what I keep saying? See responses to http://www.andrewrilstone.com/2011/01/what-gay-people-like-jewish-people-and.html


Andrew seems to think that this Philips correspondent is getting hot under the collar about a hidden agenda that doesn't exist.

But the agenda clearly exists -- the main bizarre idea the Phillips correspondent seems to hold, based on Andrew's writings, is that it's hidden. The way it's advanced is a bit sneaky -- the language of 'civil partnerships' etc when what is meant is 'same-sex marriage' -- but it's hardly ninja-like levels of invisibility.

And indeed, yes, that is how democracy is supposed to work. The agenda has set out its stall and is lobbying and campaigning; if the Phillips correspondent disagrees, she should be trying to drum up support for candidates who will vote against this agenda, so that if and when a 'same-sex marriage' bill is proposed, it is defeated. That again is how democracy is supposed to work. You vote, and if enough people agree with you (or don't care), you get your way.

You don't cry and throw your toys out of the pram because you're on the losing side.

DMSO said...

No, that doesn't match with Cinically Sane Mel's characterisation of the agenda at all.

The agenda is that we want equal rights. That's as far as it goes. The agenda the Mail wants its readers to believe exists is supposed to be about brainwashing children and gaining preferential treatment at the taxpayer's expense.

That dishonesty is most certainly worth getting hot under the collar about. She doesn't like gay people - fine, nobody's forcing her to attend her local Pride parades. But she can't paint herself and the people she claims to represent as "the real victims of oppression" if she has to state her bigotry that nakedly.

SK said...

I thought the agenda Phillips was claiming was that the 'gay rights lobby' want to 'brainwash children' into thinking that homosexuality is 'normal'.

Now, that's admittedly a very emotive -- possibly over-emotive -- way of putting it, but if you replace the word 'brainwash' with 'educate' then it becomes:

'The gay rights lobby want to educate children to think that homosexuality is normal'.

Which, um, they do, don't they? I mean, is there any dispute about that? That is the value system the loose association of shared interests that we call 'the gay rights lobby' wants to inculcate in the children of the nation.

So they only disagreement, really, is over the line between 'brainwash' and 'educate'. And as far as I can gather the only difference between the two is that it's 'educate' when it's something you agree with (the gay rights lobby when it's homosexuality being normal; a Christian when it's the Christian faith) and 'brainwash' when it's something you disagree with (Richard Dawkins when it's any religious idea whatsoever).

Her other point is that anyone who expresses the view that homosexuality isn't normal will be deemed beyond the pale, a dangerous extremist, by the media. That she can claim this in a national newspaper does rather suggest that she is overstating her case somewhat, but it is certainly the case that society has shifted over the past few decades to make such sentiments much less acceptable to express in public than they once were, and that this is largely thanks to the work of that loose association 'the gay rights lobby'.

Now you may think that it's a good thing that this shift has taken place, but I don't think you can deny that it has taken place, and that it was driven by 'the gay rights lobby'. So in that sense she's correct: 'the gay rights lobby' has succeeded in shifting the terms of public discourse so that opinions that could once be expressed openly are now called bigotry and shunned by mainstream society.

(Again it's a mystery why she thinks this is a 'secret agenda'; it seems to be the very thing those pushing for it said very publicly that they wanted, and they tend to loudly proclaim how proud the are that they've done it.)

And if you hold those opinions, therefore, you have been pushed to the sidelines. Again, you may think that these people are bigots and it's right that they are pushed to the sidelines, but I don't think you can deny that 'the gay rights lobby' (a) does want to educate/brainwash children to think that homosexuality is normal, and (b) has changed the terms of the debate such that certain opinions whihc were previously expressible are now not expressible, at least, not if you want to be listened to.

DMSO said...

The issue here is that this change in the debate reflects an overall shift in society's attitudes, a shift which has come about in part due to various groups' advocatism - I would argue that it couldn't have been achieved by that alone, but goes hand-in-hand with a society that has become increasingly and generally less willing to persecute "the other" (though there is still a long, long way to go on that score...).

Ms. Phillips cannot accept that her side has lost the argument - most people do not share her views, so she has to try to drag the battle out as long as possible using emotive language, distortion, hyperbole, and outright lies. One of the more potent tactics in her playbook is to galvanise people who may be wavering on this issue by trying to persuade them that they are the ones under attack. Which is, frankly, bollocks.

She's lost the debate, but the longer she tries to pretend she hasn't, the more people will be needlessly hurt. This is why I consider her to be so detestable.

Andrew Rilstone said...

I don't think I have made myself clear enough.

MEL believe that THE GAY LOBBY is BRAINWASHING children into thinking that homosexuality is normal as part of a wider Marxist agenda to destroy western civilisation and make it ripe for take over by the Communists.

DMSO said...

@Andrew

Indeed, and I've found your explanation of this bizarre conspiracy cult fascinating; I apologise for seeming to fixate on this particular aspect here, but it's one that strikes particularly close to home for me.

SK said...

Yeah, but that conspiracy theory is so bizarre it's hardly worth talking about (I mean, what can you say?), whereas points which have some substance can actually be discussed.

(Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised if there were groups of Marxists who reckon that it is their duty to history to hasten the inevitable collapse of Western capitalism, and come up with mad schemes to this end. I suspect they are as effectual as all other groups of Marxists, and so can be safely ignored.)

Andrew Rilstone said...

Is kewl. I just wanted to be clear that that's what I meant by "ulterior" motive. SK seemed to imply that getting gay marriage onto the statute books was an "ulteror" motive. That wasn't an ulterior motive. That was pretty clearly just a motive.

If a group of people who are concerned about cruelty to animals get together to campaign for the prohibition of fox hunting, then you could call them, "The Anti-Foxhunting Lobby". But "banning foxhunting" isn't there ulterior motive: it's just their motive. If the campaigners didn't really care all that much about foxes, but were simply looking for an excuse to bash the upper classes -- or if they believed that once you remove the Hunt, lots of rich people will move out of the rural communities, making it easier to secure Labour victories in those consituencies -- then you might reasonably say that they had an "ulterior motive".

Gavin Burrows said...

I am willing to offer a crisp five pund note to the first person who can make SK see sense.

SK said...

Here's an interesting and timely happening: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markeaston/2011/02/why_was_dr_raabe_sacked.html

Andrew Rilstone said...

Chis Wood was rather good, though, wasn't he?