Most self-respecting LGBT people do not aspire to religious doctrines to sanctify their relationships.
Those who want to have a legal union are catered for by civil partnerships which ease some immigration restrictions for LGBT couples, make passing on and sharing property a bit easier, and in a society as a whole provide the social status of a “committed” relationship — in the communities that matter to us, of course.
But Stonewall’s campaign for gay marriage rights is not just about the practical application of recognition of LGBT relationships under the Church, it does something incredibly important in the fight against homophobia: it forces the church to challenge its relationship with the state and to give voice to its religiously-motivated homophobic bile out in the open. By hanging out its dirty laundry, the Church has weakened its credibility among the British population.
The new laws extending marriage to LGBT couples will not force any religious institution to perform same-sex marriages. That’s not what the Church of England and Catholic Church have been protesting about. The Church is terrified about damaging the straight sanctity of marriage in society as a whole; it’s fighting to maintain its moral authority over the concepts of family and relationships, and beneath that, its authority to prescribe sexual norms and practises onto prescribed gender roles and identities.
This can be seen in the way the religious right have wrung their hands at the idea of LGBT “consummation”, and the inadequacy of gay sex in fulfilling the demand for ‘reproducing God’s gifts’ — of course, all straight couples immediately give up contraception after marriage in order to have children, it’s God’s permission they’ve all been waiting for! Such debates have illuminated right-wing religious ideas in the national media and forced the public to get to grips with their absurdity.
Stonewall is a liberal think tank, alienated from its radical roots and sycophantic to New Labour-ism. It has been criticised for transphobia and sexism, as well as being silent on the issues that really concern the LGBT working class; our safety, welfare and sexual freedom under austerity.
However, the gay marriage policy promise forced out of Cameron before the Tory-Lib Dem election victory, while it appeared to be by-passing the real issues, has opened a can of worms for Cameron and drawn out battle lines in society over LGBT equality. The debates long hidden behind the doors of elite institutions are out in the open.
Cameron cannot have expected to be having arguments about the relationship of Church and State when passing a policy intended to force Tory “family” norms on the gender-bending LGBT community.
Progressive C of E member Giles Fraser, famous for his opposition to the eviction of the Occupy camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral, wrote in the Guardian on Tuesday 12 June: “The church is no more a cartel of moral wisdom. It is…in hoc to bourgeois notions of respectability and prejudice.”
The transparency these debates have raised is welcome.