Gay marriage: a question that expects the answer Yes

How students at a Minneapolis-St Paul Catholic high school reacted to a presentation against same-sex marriage only a couple of months ago:

“The first three-quarters of the presentation were really good,” said [Matt Bliss, senior student at DeLaSalle High School]. “They talked about what is marriage and how marriage helps us as a society. Then it started going downhill when they started talking about single parents and adopted kids. They didn’t directly say it, but they implied that kids who are adopted or live with single parents are less than kids with two parents of the opposite sex. They implied that a ‘normal’ family is the best family.”

“When they finally got to gay marriage, [students] were really upset,” said Bliss. “You could look around the room and feel the anger. My friend who is a lesbian started crying, and people were crying in the bathroom.”

Bliss was one of several students who stood up to argue with the representatives from the archdiocese. One girl held up a sign that said, “I love my moms.”

A married couple in South Africa, a civil partnership in Scotland

Lydia Hannah, another student who spoke out, noted the students who would be able to vote in autumn 2012 on a constitutional amendment that would ban marriage for same-sex couples, were required, not invited, to attend the presentation, and that the presenters “briefly brought up the amendment but backed off when students got angry”:

A priest and a volunteer couple presented the information. When someone asked a question about two men being able to have a quality, committed relationship, the couple compared their love to bestiality, Bliss said.

“Most people got really upset,” said Bliss. “And comments about adopted kids, I found those to be really offensive. There were at least four kids there who are adopted.”

Hannah, who is adopted, said one of the presenters said that adopted kids were “sociologically unstable.” She called the comments “hurtful” and comparisons between gay love and bestiality upsetting.

“My friend said, ‘You didn’t just compare people to animals, did you?'” said Hannah. “I think everyone has a right to their opinion, and I don’t judge them on it. But we don’t force people to sit down so we can tell them their opinion is wrong.”

DeLaSalle High School is

the only Catholic high school in the city of Minneapolis, has for more than a century sustained and advanced the educational vision defined more than three centuries ago by St. John Baptist de La Salle, founder of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (informally known as the Christian Brothers).

But it doesn’t seem as if the students there have absorbed the Catholic Church’s lesson that they should think of lesbian and gay students, or adopted children, as less than “normal” people in “normal” families.
Via Fred Clark at Slacktivist, who added:

And best of all — my favorite thing about this story — is that these kids had each others’ backs. The adopted kids stuck up for the LGBT kids. The LGBT kids stuck up for the kids from single-parent families. And the few kids whose families fit the archdiocesan emissaries’ definition of normal and normative stuck up for their friends in the “abnormal” majority.

A married couple in South Africa, a civil partnership in Scotland

Last month an Ipsos Mori poll of over 1000 Scottish voters found that 64% of all those polled supported the right of same-sex couples to be married. The results of this poll corresponded to similiar polls carried out previously in the UK and the US, especially with regard to support for same-sex marriage in the younger generations.

But speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme, Peter Kearney, who is the official spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, said the poll was “deeply flawed”.

“The public in general are very wary and unlikely to suggest a person shouldn’t have a right. When you begin your question by saying should someone have the right to same-sex marriage you automatically have distorted the result. To be honest the poll that matters is the three month long consultation that took place at the end of last year and in that one we know that the vast majority said marriage shouldn’t be redefined.”

Ipsos Mori responded formally to the claim that their poll was “flawed”:

We asked respondents to tell us the extent to which they agreed or disagreed that ‘same-sex couples should have the right to get married’. The evidence from the poll shows that 64% agree that same-sex couples should have the right to marry while 26% disagree.

We understand that this is an issue of heated debate in Scotland and across the UK and are aware of the coverage that our poll received on Sunday. The wording of the poll question was designed to ask the public about rights since, for same-sex marriage to be treated equally it would need to be enshrined as a right. The Equality Network is therefore interested in finding out whether same-sex couples should have the right to marry. Alternative wording would not have done that and we therefore do not accept that the survey is distorted in any way. We are confident that respondents will have understood the question and what is meant by a right. The question itself was balanced, allowing respondents to tell us whether they ‘agreed or disagreed.’

The findings from the poll are also largely in line with much other survey evidence. For example, a poll we conducted across Britain in 2007 found that 68% agreed with the statement that ‘gay couples should be allowed to get married’ and the most recent Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, from 2010, found that 61% of adults in Scotland agreed that ‘gay and lesbian couples should have the right to marry one another if they want to.’

A married couple in South Africa, a civil partnership in Scotland

On 30th June, Market Research published the results of a YouGov poll of 1,968 people. This report (entitled ‘Living Together Scotland 2012’) revealed that:

three in five people believe that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Scots face public prejudice in Scotland today with more than four in five of those saying it is right to tackle that prejudice. … The YouGov poll also shows that in the last 5 years 162,000 Scots of working age have witnessed verbal homophobic or transphobic bullying in the workplace and 54,000 Scots of working age have witnessed physical homophobic or transphobic bullying in the workplace. Fifty eight per cent of people aged 18-29 say there was homophobic bullying in their school.

That’s 48% of all those polled who both believe there’s public homophobic prejudice and who say it’s right to tackle that prejudice. And perhaps most damnably of all for the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, the report shows that

two thirds of people support same-sex marriage with half of people of faith supporting the proposal.

From the basic figures, that suggests that within the 40% who said they didn’t believe there was any public prejudice against LGBT people in Scotland, at least five or six percent support LGBT equality.

So the Catholic Church commissioned a rival poll from ComRes. This poll asked if the decision to allow same-sex couples to marry should go to a referendum. This is a very American question: civil and human rights for LGBT people in the US have long been subject to majority vote, just as in segregationist days, civil and human rights for black people in the US were subject to majority vote.

This has never been the tradition or practice in the UK, and it’s odd that the Catholic Church – itself a minority in Scotland – should suggest that Scotland should adopt a practice of having minority rights voted on by the majority. (About twice as many Scots identify themselves as having no religion, than identify as Catholic.)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a question so far outside the Scottish experience got a 50/50 split: 50% of people who responded agreed to the idea of a nationwide referendum, 39% said Scottish Parliament, 12% said they didn’t know. (ComRes said that the figures from the survey may not add up to 100% due to rounding.)

A married couple in South Africa, a civil partnership in Scotland

Respondents to the poll were asked whether they agreed with the statement:

“Marriage should continue to be defined as a life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman” (55% agreement)


“Stable relationships between same-sex couples should be legally recognised through civil partnerships” (77% agreement)

The problem with this, is that there’s actually nothing to disagree with there. Of course marriage should continue to be defined as a life-long exclusive commitment between a man and a woman: that won’t change one whit when marriage is also defined as a life-long exclusive commitment between two men or between women. Of course same-sex couples should continue to be able to register civil partnerships if they wish, as should mixed-sex couples.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien doesn’t approve of civil partnerships even – never has, he was preaching sermons against them in January 2006, because as he said recently, he believes:

“These measures were not in the best interests of our society. The empirical evidence is clear, same-sex relationships are demonstrably harmful to the medical, emotional and spiritual well being of those involved, no compassionate society should ever enact legislation to facilitate or promote such relationships, we have failed those who struggle with same-sex attraction,”

The Catholic Church’s campaign against gay marriage says this is an “honest poll” which proves that “most people in Scotland say they want to keep marriage as it is” and they assert: “We are confident that most respondents oppose the plans and we hope the Scottish Government will not ride roughshod over their wishes.”

(The Scottish consultation on gay marriage that ended last December, got more responses than any other consultation in the Scottish Parliament’s history (apart from one on banning smoking indoors) 70,000 or so: 28,000 of the responses were pre-printed postcards supplied at Mass by the Catholic Church. 200,000 postcards were distributed to 180,000 Mass-going Catholics and the vast majority of Catholics just ignored them. Another set of responses came from English anti-gay organisations promoting the consultation on their websites.)

A married couple in South Africa, a civil partnership in Scotland

Yesterday, Harry Reid declared in the Herald that he “saw no need for same-sex marriage” – apparently under the impression that if two men or two women were able to marry, this would somehow magically alter the ability of mixed-sex couples to marry. Also, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has said some very dreadful things about what will happen in Scotland if same-sex couples can marry, and apparently Harry Reid drank it all in and believed every word of it.

The Scottish government will announce by the end of July if they intend to legislate for same-sex marriage in Scotland. Though those who have listened to Cardinal O’Brien will be afraid of dreadful consequences, it’s clear both that lifting the ban on same-sex marriage is the right thing to do (and so it would be right to do it even if it was a minority view) and also that a clear majority of the people in Scotland believe that same-sex couples should be able to get married (even though a tiny minority keep shouting otherwise).

A married couple in South Africa, a civil partnership in Scotland

The two brides in these photos are married; they got wed in South Africa. While they’re in the UK, their marriage is recognised as a civil partnership. (The lovely girl next to them with the red bag is their daughter.) [Update: Caron Lindsay got an interview with one of the couple!]

Peter Watt wrote, in March, saying he was rather a “rubbish Catholic” but a regular Mass-goer:

I certainly do not claim to be a theologian but I do know that God will be more exercised that we allow people to die of hunger than that people use condoms. And this all brings me to the recent row over gay marriage. I simply do not accept that God thinks that two people of the opposite sex who choose to marry is a good thing whilst two people who choose to marry of the same sex is a bad thing.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien claimed in an interview in The Sunday Times on 8th July:

“Marriage is under threat and politicians need to know the Catholic Church will bear any burden and meet any cost in its defence. The bishops of Scotland are so concerned by threats to marriage that 26 August has been set aside as Support Marriage Sunday. We will use this opportunity to remind Catholics of the importance of marriage as a union of a man and a woman and to urge them to be generous in contributing to a special collection which will be used to support initiatives in defence of marriage.”

Apparently the campaign against giving LGBT people the right to marry is proposing to spend at least £100,000 on an advertising campaign. (Odd, given that they claim to believe they have majority support already.) The campaign’s already been doing some heavy spending, but apparently they have no worries about getting more money and no thoughts about what £100,000 would do if spent on some of the poorest people in Scotland.

Scotland for marriage December 2011

From Fred Clark at Slacktivist, helpful Christian blogger:

It must be an awful thing to believe that God will not allow you to be as loving, merciful and generous as you wish you could be. It must be an awful thing to want to be more loving, but then to think that God forbids it and, thus, that your desire to love is somehow wrong.

I think there are more than a few American Christians who just wish that someone would give them permission to heed their conscience rather than heeding the unloving, unkind, unmerciful things they have been taught about LGBT people.
So, OK, then. If you’re waiting for someone to give you permission to love LGBT people and to welcome them without qualification as equal members of the church, you have it right now. I’ve even made up a certificate.

Or just sign the petition. Please.

1 Comment

Filed under Epetitions, LGBT Equality, Religion, Scottish Politics

One response to “Gay marriage: a question that expects the answer Yes

  1. Pingback: The Catholic Cee Is Getting Their Kilts In A Twist: Scotland Is Taking The High Road | Atheist Oasis – A Rational Refuge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.