B-but, it’s spiritual!

Another Op-Ed, and even less argument than last time. I have no idea where the justification is supposed to lie in what must be 1,000 words. But it looks like the key paragraph is supposed to be this:

Yet traditional marriage is not simply a popular social institution; it is also a spiritual ideal. The state can tinker with the former. Indeed, it has already done so, by introducing civil marriages and, later, civil partnerships. But spiritual ideals fall outside the Government’s remit.

Assertion. Mere assertion. And not even plausible assertion at that.

It’s not that she mistakenly thinks Churches will be compelled to conduct gay marriages either:

The Government claims that its plans to legalise gay marriage will not affect religious institutions, only civil ones. But given that the gay marriage lobby seeks equality in this area, how long would it accept the ban on gays marrying in church or synagogue? It is bound to argue that exclusion from a religious ceremony amounts to discrimination, and will almost certainly campaign to force priests and vicars to celebrate gay marriages even if that goes against their heartfelt beliefs. Freedom of conscience will be sacrificed at the altar of a “right” that the Civil Partnership Act was supposed to have conferred years ago.

That looks like an argument from religious liberty, which she seems to admit is not affected by this reform in itself, but she’s against the reform nonetheless because it’s likely to lead to the infringement of religious liberty in the future. In other words, avoid a dangerous precedent.

That’s more interesting, if only because it does not object to gay marriage in principle, so long as religious exemptions remain robust. But how that is supposed to fit with the spiritual talk is beyond me.

I wonder if she is right though. That is, would this be followed by calls to force religious institutions to be subject to the Equalities Act? I would support that. I do not believe you should be able to invoke religious beliefs to get yourself exempted from what society otherwise decides is good and right. Just like Churches shouldn’t be able to refuse to marry a black man and white woman on the grounds that they have some twisted reading of the Bible. But I got the impression I was in the minority here. Given the general level of reverence surrounding religious belief, I can’t see there being a sufficient level of support for coercing them out of their practising of homophobia any time soon.

[UPDATE: The interracial comment was intended as a mere thought experiment, but it turns out we’re not just talking about a possible world here. It happens. HT Alex Lau.]

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