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Gay Marriage and the CofE in the Manger

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Desperate not to appear that "we're exclusive and we're different to the other churches", the Church of England is now shocked that it's expressly forbidden from marrying those of equal sex - having until now denounced gay unions as against their definition of marriage, i.e. "between a man and a woman".

It's been a bad year for the CofE, and all this - just before Christmas, too, when they're wanting everyone to shut up, show up and sing. Having recently ended up appearing thoroughly reactionary and regressive on the subject of women bishops, they've now found themselves looking daft over the issue of gay rights. And their own wrongs.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me why gay people want the right to marry, when civil partnerships are now available. My immediate answer was "they want to because everyone else can, and they can't". I thought a little more about this, and then some more. It was the right answer, and it's the right reason.

Most heterosexual couples who marry in a church rarely step inside one again, other than at weddings and funerals. They raise their children as atheists - or at best agnostics - with a 13% decline in people identifying themselves as Christians since 2001. Yet the right to marry, and to call it marriage, is perceived to be a universal one. If gay people are to achieve true equality, then this universal right needs to be truly universal.

As Chris Kluhe put it so elegantly in his letter to Emmett Burns, gay marriage won't change anything for anyone who isn't gay. So why are so many heterosexuals so upset? Will gay/lesbian weddings render marriage less meaningless because more people can do it? Will there be a little less marriage to go around if we let "the gays" have some? Doubtful.

So why, having said they want nothing to do with gay marriage, is the CofE suddenly "shocked" at the possibility of being left out? Why would they want to marry gays, having previously said that they definitely won't?

Is it perhaps because they're wondering if one day soon, everybody else will be able to?