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  1. Marriage Equality.

    ‘Marriage’ is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘the formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife’.

    The associated term ‘matrimony’ is defined as ‘the state or ceremony of being married; marriage’. The word ‘matrimony’ is derived from the Latin word ‘matrimonium’ based on the word ‘mater’ meaning ‘mother’. So clearly the state of being married has something to do with motherhood and procreation.

    However, marriages are entered into for a wide variety of reasons:- love; sex; procreation; mutual emotional, physical, economic support; protection of wealth and property; mitigation of tax liability; dynastic succession; familial and national unity etc.

    Marriage is basically a civil social contract between two people and between those two people and the society in which they live. It exists in all cultures and existed long before the introduction of formal religions. Religions have subsequently hi-jacked the institution of marriage and given it a sugar coating of holiness. Some religions do not recognize the validity of civil weddings. Some societies do not recognize the validity of religious weddings. In some societies couples have two weddings, a civil one and a religious one. In some societies clergy are licensed by the state to conduct civil weddings in conjunction with religious ones.

    While it is generally recognized that matrimony provides a stable environment for the creation and nurturing of children, states and religions conduct marriage ceremonies where there is no intention or possibility of procreation, and religions bless such unions. And, states and religions recognize the validity of ‘common law marriages’ where there has been no formal public contract.

    Before we can even consider the possibility of ‘same-sex marriage’, and if the Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘marriage’ is out of touch with present day social and religious reality, we need a clear, unambiguous, universally (or at least nationally) understood definition of ‘marriage’. If that definition precludes ‘same-sex marriage’ we then need a clear definition of what a formal same-sex union might entail.

    We perhaps already have a definition for same-sex union in the recent institution of Same Sex Civil Partnership (SSCP).

    SSCP was introduced as a way of giving equality of recognition to gay couples relative to straight married couples, but it created inequality relative to people in general. Many people choose to live together for a wide variety of reasons whether they be straight or gay, same sex or different sex, related or unrelated, and possibly more than two. They do so for mutual emotional, physical, economic support; familial obligation etc. Examples are:- siblings of any age and number; lone parent and offspring of any age and number; two parents, married or unmarried, and offspring of any age and number; friends of any sex and number; disabled or handicapped person and carer or carers etc.

    Such people are denied the facility afforded to gay couples to register their commitment to each other and are denied the associated benefits of formal commitment, including preferential tax avoidance status. Such people may be in far greater need of those benefits than the average gay couple.

    Before rushing through legislation allowing same-sex marriage, the anomalous inequality created by the introduction of SSCP needs to be addressed and corrected. A formal definition of ‘marriage’ needs to be constructed, and only then, if necessary, a formal definition of ‘same-sex marriage’ be constructed. A referendum based on those definitions could then be held.

    A referendum and subsequent legislation based on the present vague, ambiguous and varied understanding and practice of ‘marriage’ is farcical. and un-thought-through.

    Dennis Golden

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