The ISSUE: Should the law be changed to allow homosexuals to wed?

First published in Columns

"NO" says Mary Clarkson, Catholic Voices: "The reason for opposing same-sex marriage is not about gay rights. It is about what marriage is for and why it is valued by society.

Since 2004, gay couples have had the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. It is entirely right for them to enjoy equal rights and protection and I, for one, was delighted when the Labour government introduced the Civil Partnerships Act.

However, it is not clear what wrongs will be righted by introducing gay marriage.

The danger is that its introduction will lead to a change in the meaning of marriage, which will not benefit society in the long term.

Marriage belongs neither to state nor to religion. It has been valued for centuries as the basis of stable family life, where children can be brought up by a mother and father.

While lots of single parents and indeed same-sex couples do a wonderful and often heroic job of bringing up children, all research points to the fact that marriage between a man and a woman is still the best place to rear children.

Love and lifelong commitment are an essential part of marriage, but this is not the reason why it has been promoted by the state.

After all, many different relationships – between friends and siblings – for example are based on the same qualities.

No: what is important to society is less the love between adults, excellent though that may be, but the protection which marriage gives to future generations. We undermine it at our peril.

"YES" says Rafe Jeune, vice-chairman of Oxford Pride What I do not understand from the Conservative right is the mantra that marriage is the right way to live and bring up children, and is good for a stable society – but it is reserved for relationships composing of one man and one woman.

By definition this condemns all single parents, single-sex partners with children and the entire gay community.

How is this the right message to send to the younger generations? Is there really only one way to behave and live properly?

It seems to me that by rejecting homosexuals from a ‘normal’ way of life you are facilitating the tired stereotype of homosexuals having multiple partners and taking drugs instead of promoting secure and safe environments for them and their children.

As a gay person I believe we have the right to get married and by making this a viable option enshrined in law the government will be supporting healthy relationships between homosexual couples and give them the freedom to enjoy their lives without the stigma that their relationship is somehow second class or worthless in the eyes of the law.

While I respect that religious institutions need to express their opinions on marriage, in a modern secular country there is no room for the church card to be played and instead they should be welcoming the desire of homosexual couples to conform with their norms.

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