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Marriage Colloquium goes ahead despite attempts to ban it

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Christian Concern and the World Congress of Families hosted an inspiring marriage conference on Wednesday 23 May, despite extraordinary opposition to the event taking place.

The colloquium was cancelled by the Law Society for allegedly breaching its ‘diversity policy’. The event was then moved to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. Yet this Government owned venue also decided to ban the event for ‘diversity’ reasons, at 4.05pm, the afternoon before the conference was due to begin.

Concerns have been raised by many that supporting marriage between one man and one woman, which is still the current legal definition of marriage, is now considered ‘homophobic’ by those pursing the ‘equality and diversity’ agenda. This suggests that potential restrictions on religious liberty and freedom of speech are likely to be extremely severe if same-sex marriage is actually introduced as the law of the land.

Christian Concern sought injunctive relief overnight in order to try and keep the conference at the Queen Elizabeth II venue but failed. At 8.30am on Wednesday morning, Christian Concern’s CEO, Andrea Williams, managed to find an alternative venue at a Westminster Hotel, and the conference went ahead.

Significant Marker

The event was a hugely significant marker in building an intellectual and moral consensus against the redefinition of marriage, and may prove to be a turning point in the debate.

During the colloquium, entitled “One Man, One Woman - Making the case for marriage, for the good of society”, a range of highly regarded speakers with different views considered the case for traditional marriage in light of the Government’s proposal to extend marriage to same-sex couples. Further details from their speeches can be read below.

After the conference came to a close, many of the delegates attended an event hosted by the Bow Group at Portcullis House at 6.30pm where there was a formal debate on whether same-sex marriage should be introduced.

Speakers at the debate included David Burrowes MP, Stephen Gilbert MP, political commentator and columnist Andrew Lilico, Fiona Bruce MP and Phillip Blond, Director of Res Publica.

Full Colloquium Report

Edmund Adamus, Director for Marriage and Family Life, Diocese of Westminster, noted that:

  • The decline of marriage is a national problem and successive Governments in the UK have not given marriage the support it needs. Yet the decline of marriage as a social institution is not inevitable - recovery is possible.
  • Marriage as it has been understood and appreciated since time immemorial is a universal human institution, the way in which every advanced society conspires to obtain for each child the love, attention, and resources of a mother and a father, because we know this to be the optimum environment in which children thrive and flourish.
  • One of the reasons why there is such a loud clamour for same sex “marriage” today is because we have failed even in the Church and faith communities to adequately and visibly cherish true marriage itself. We have failed to talk marriage ‘up’ over many decades leaving space for an attack on marriage due to our ingratitude of it organisationally, institutionally and individually.
  • Each and every faithful marriage is like an amplifier of all that we know as humans to be instinctively noble, enriching and true for human flourishing. And we have to find ways of capturing the popular imagination of the reality of this astonishing power of spousal unity and love.

Phillip Blond, Director of Res Publica, noted that:

  • Same-sex marriage is a threat to homosexual difference and in fact properly conceived is anti-gay and aggressively hostile to homosexuality; just as it is equally antithetical to heterosexuality and a properly figured heterosexual practice.
  • The "extension" of marriage to gay people in fact removes the right to marry from heterosexual people. Heterosexuals would be unable to recognise or celebrate the specificity of the male/female relationship and the importance of the conjugal act between the sexes which creates children in respect of whom biological parents have a specific and reciprocal responsibility.
  • Modern equality is illiberal and totalitarian as it attempts to force uniformity on different types of relationships, thus undermining both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. Instead of respect for the different and an attempt to legislate for the protection of that difference – now modern progressivism demands the elimination of that very distinction as the means to achieve an equality where all are indeed the same. For what same-sex marriage in effect argues is that there is nothing that belongs to heterosexuals by virtue of their heterosexuality that cannot be shared with those who are not heterosexual.
  • The dominance of rights based language in a culture is already a sign of moral failure. Rights are now almost the only tool of political language – as more and more rights are argued for less and less progress is made. For rights have nothing to do with justice, indeed they are often its enemy – as rights say nothing at all about what is right.
  • True diversity meant that diversity and difference is recognised and respected.

Sharon James, Spokeswoman for the Coalition for Marriage, noted that:

  • The Government had changed the meaning of the word “consultation” since Lynne Featherstone gave a “cast iron” guarantee that same-sex marriages will be introduced regardless of the public’s response to the UK Government’s consultation on same-sex marriages.
  • The Government has also broken its promise that heterosexual marriage would continue to retain its privileged status and would not be extended to same-sex couples during the introduction of civil partnership legislation in 2004.
  • The use of the term “civil marriage” is misleading since there is only one form of marriage, namely “legal marriage”.  Constant references to “civil” and “religious” marriage suggest that, should same-sex marriages be legalised, religious freedom would not be compromised, but this is false.
  • Should same-sex marriages be legalised, religious freedom will be diminished since Catholic adoption agencies have already been forced to close down for refusing to place children in the care of same-sex couples.
  • Future generations will suffer since any such move would encourage the view that children do not necessarily need both parents for a healthy upbringing. In addition, the view that adults should be permitted to trump the needs and rights of children must be challenged.

Don Feder, Communications Director for the World Congress of Families, noted that:

  • Same-sex marriage is a move that has always been driven by elites, and legislation providing for same-sex marriages around the world has never been introduced by a majority vote.
  • 31 US States have banned same-sex marriages (by a popular vote in every instance), the most recent being North Carolina which voted overwhelmingly (64%) in favour of a constitutional amendment defining the life-long union of one man and one woman as the only form of “marriage” legally recognised by the state.
  • The Geneva Declaration emphasises that the complementary natures of men and women are physically and psychologically self-evident, and these differences are created and natural, not primarily socially constructed. Sexuality is ordered for the procreation of children and the expression of love between husband and wife in the covenant of marriage.

Ben Harris-Quinney, Chairman of the Bow Group, noted that:

  • The right to marry and found a family guaranteed by Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights refers only to couples of the opposite sex since same-sex couples cannot, by nature, create a family.
  • Same-sex marriage is not geared towards child rearing, but rather, is focused primarily on the wishes of the adults involved in such relationships.
  • Same-sex marriage is not an incremental step but rather a profound change that will re-define the family in its entirety.

Cristina Odone, journalist and media commentator, noted that:

  • The media has played a crucial part in the growing acceptance of homosexual relationships and there is increased intolerance towards anyone who sides with the traditional view that marriage should continue to be between one man and one woman only.
  • A report published by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen in 1987 entitled “After the Ball - How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90's” is a step by step guide on the way in which minority groups can sway public opinion on the issue of homosexuality. These tactics should be understood.
  • The authors of “After the Ball” suggested that the first step towards influencing public opinion is to normalise same-sex relationships through open, frank and constant discussion which would create the general impression that at least a sizable population accepts, or even practices homosexuality. The next step would be to present the homosexual minority as “victims” so that society will automatically assume the role of “protector” and identify with the homosexual population as victims of unjust discrimination.  And then same-sex relationships, the report suggests, should be “celebrated” and presented as a happy and healthy lifestyle.

Family Law Barrister Peter Duckworth noted that:

  • Inherent difficulties would arise in defining terms such as ‘consummation’ and ‘adultery’ should same-sex marriages be introduced. UK legislation does not recognise either adultery or a lack of consummation as a valid ground for dissolving a civil partnership.
  • It is very rare for same-sex couples to stay together in a life-long committed relationship, which adds further weight to the argument that same-sex unions are inherently different from heterosexual unions. Thus, in Canada, longevity does not appear in the legal definition of same-sex marriage, which is defined only as “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others.”

Brian Brown, President of the National Organisation for Marriage, noted that:

  • The battle for traditional marriage is winnable. In America, nobody thought that voters in California, Maine or North Carolina etc would vote against same-sex marriage, but they did. To win we need message, money and muscle.
  • Same-sex marriages are likely to eliminate the role of fathers in the lives of children in particular, and result in children being taught that those who do not accept the practice of homosexuality as normal are “bigots”.
  • The terms “same-sex relationships” and “marriage” are mutually exclusive since marriage creates the best environment for child rearing, connecting the unique differences in mother and fathers to their children - a scenario which cannot be offered by same-sex couples who simply want to affirm a particular adult lifestyle.

Chris Ford, Chief Executive of Explore:

  • Explained his work at Explore, an organisation which works in schools to foster dialogue between young people and married couples about the values that cement marriage.