Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Marriage - some other definitions

An institution...

.... used by Charles II so his mistresses' husbands could bring up his children.

.... which people in rural Bedfordshire used in the early 20th century, once they'd proven they were fertile (though sometimes they'd have three or four kids first, just to be sure).

.... ordained by Edward the Confessor and his wife to avoid having sex with anyone.

.... which the rich could have annulled while the poor could put up with it.

.... which would have little meaning to bees. Don't know why I mention this, it just struck me.

.... which the South Africans had to redefine to allow black people to marry white ones.

.... although some American states weren't too far ahead.

.... which Henry VIII didn't redefine at all - he merely had a row over the terms of an annulment.

..... which is crying out for a decent definition, dependent neither on Natural Law arguments nor on the emotions generated by Richard Curtis films. A definition that is reached slowly, carefully and sensibly.


  1. What is your definition?

  2. Marriage = a Union between two or more people, which involves housework, washing, cooking, arguments, noisy children, troublesome pets, mortgage arrears, booze, crisps, nintendo and PS3, dragging up kids and horrible holidays in strange places, doing boring/inspiring/exciting/boozing things.

  3. As head of the CofE, let Her Majesty decide what it means for the CofE.

    1. Abdication of opinion?

  4. My opinion, Anon is actually that I'm not sure.

    Civil partnerships were clearly right and cover all the legal protections required. But I'd want to think very hard about changing the definitions of words. Words are much more powerful than laws.

    BUT if the Government decides to press ahead it seems right to me that religious groups should be able to opt in to conducting these ceremonies (which the Government is not currently considering) or opt out (which is the thing that some churches are worrying may not be possible once Europe's got involved.

    Sorry to be less definitive. But then this is an oasis of fuzzy thinging.

    1. We have a similar difficulty here in redefining words that have meant one thing for oh, let's see, ummm forever. But I do see the point that calling it something different means it is inherently different and therefore can be treated differently. Washington state has gone through several votes, challenges, laws, votes, etc. to redefine marriage and it's just a political and social quagmire. We've been fed this image that Europe including London are all "progressive" and we on this side of the pond need to catch up socially, but I've always wondered how true of a characterization that really is.

    2. The legal rights thing isn't as clear cut. Same sex marriage is accepted in all the countries that have same sex marriage, but civil partnerships do not count in those countries. My legal status is therefore not "portable", as someone said. That might not matter to most Britains but it does matter to some of us to travel.

      The other thing I'd like to say to people who are happy with same sex unions but ask us to find another word than marriage: we already have another word, it's called Civil Partnership. It's not working because people feel married and already use the term married, as do our friends, family and increasingly the rest of society.
      You can find another word but you will only get the same result.
      No-one will ask "how's your lovely Covenant Partner, or Civil Partner" or whatever word you might come up with.
      They will still ask "how's your lovely wife?"

      And that's because there's a depth of meaning in the words husband and wife that no other words have.
      That's why gay couples will continue to use them and why this whole "why call it marriage" conversation completely misses the reality on the ground.


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