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Everybody Knows the Real Reason UK Churches Are Against Marriage Equality, So Why Don't They Just 'Come Out' and Say It?

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We all do it from time to time, don't we? Say one thing and mean another? "Oh the only reason I didn't invite you was because I thought you wouldn't know anyone" really means "I don't want you to come", and "I'll always love you means "I'll love you until I get bored, or you become boring, or one of us has an affair".

So one can't really chide the Church of England or its Catholic counterpart too heavily for their comments on marriage equality (or "Gay Marriage!!" as Twitter would have it) - it's just doing what we all do: covering up a slightly less palatable truth with a sweetener, a justification.

When these religious types talk about "the sanctity of marriage" and whatnot, what they really mean is "Ugh, gays, back off! We don't like you". The 'Big Two' churches are the equivalent of your older brother or sister bawling "Don't touch my stuff!" at you, but there's only one problem: it doesn't belong to them in the first place.

I've been fairly dispassionate about marriage equality in the past. I have never wanted to get married, so have never felt hard done by that the tradition was hitherto unavailable to me. But that doesn't mean I don't want anyone else to have it. I don't like parsnips, but I don't want to see them banned. Civil partnerships came in with relatively little fuss, save for the odd ostentatious celebrity coupling, but it's clear now they were little more than a two-way sop - marriage in all but name to keep both the gays and the pointy-hatted cardinals happy. Just nobody say the 'M' word and we'll all get out alive, okay? Well, no. It's not okay.

When the coalition government ruled late last year that civil partnerships could happen in churches, I was unmoved. I couldn't understand why any gay person would actively seek to be married by an institution that didn't much care for them (and in a draughty old building at that) just to keep up with the straight Joneses. And of course it made no difference at all anyway to the most popular religions in the UK; cathedrals, churches, mosques and synagogues up and down the country won't be clearing confetti from their steps after an 'Adam and Steve' union any time soon. Lesser-known, more tolerant religious movements like the Quakers have embraced the new law, much as they will when marriage is redefined and allows same-sex couples to marry - which I have a feeling will happen. Sorry, Your Grace.

The churches have been doing what they always do when they feel slightly under pressure: attempting to scare the heck out of everyone. To hear them talk, you'd think that burning lava will rain from the sky and the Tower of London crumble into the Thames should marriage equality come to pass. It would endanger heterosexual marriage, they say, and lead to the disintegration of the family unit and be generally bad for society as a whole. But, really, they know that isn't true. They know it. They even know that they wouldn't have to change the way they operate at all. Under current legislation, churches could not be forced to marry same-sex couples. Churches themselves call the shots. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that same-sex marriage isn't a human right, so EU member states don't have to permit same-sex unions at all - it's strictly opt-in.

The church doesn't like to admit this out loud; they prefer instead to condemn gay marriage, suggesting that ministers will have no alternative but to go against their beliefs and marry gays and lesbians at their scared altars; thus these men and women of God would have crises of confidence and faith, which could mean they'd be forced to stop offering services to all their flock to avoid being accused of discrimination. This, of course, would anger and alienate heterosexual members of the congregation - despite many Catholic and C of E churchgoers openly condemning their churches' stance on this issue - and thus directly lead to churches closing their doors; their ornate iron gates padlocked shut for ever, and their opulent, beautiful altars and naves destroyed and converted into quirky flats, probably the kind that over-moneyed gay couples would buy. But none of this would happen. It's all supposition, and ill-informed at that.

Churches don't have to marry anyone they don't want to. Just ask any old divorcee you can lay your hands on. They will marry a straight couple who've never been to church before in their lives, though, of course, but for those ridiculous homosexuals who find comfort in religion - and I salute their strength of character in the face of hostility, believe me - the aisle will remain bricked up, off limits, no entry.

The oft-repeated fable that the purpose of marriage is to provide a 'safe' environment for bringing up children needs to go the way of the dodo, too. Ask any miserable 11-year-old watching the rain pour down from inside a McDonald's on a Sunday while his dad asks leading questions about "Mummy's new friend" whether they think they felt any safer because their parents were married.

And what of childless couples? Are these bishops and deacons going to do house-to-house enquiries checking that everyone who got married in their diocese has procreated, even if they don't want to, or can't? It's all just semantics, really, anyway, isn't it? Gay marriage almost exists, but nobody wants to let it have the all-important word that makes it equal. Why so protective? It won't affect the churches, nobody's going to make you marry them or treat gay people any less reprehensibly than you do already. You still get to practise your celestially endorsed homophobia, fear not. Just let them have it. Let gay people think they're equal. After all, you know different, don't you?

It's funny, but I always thought marriage was about commitment, expressing love and respect for each other. It can be permanent, or temporary. Were gay people to be allowed to marry, as in be actually married and not just 'civil partnered', I'm sure they'd make just as much of a hash of it as straight people. But they should at least get the chance to try. I've read other unfair arguments that divorce rates would rocket, but why does that matter? Who really cares about divorce rates? Not people getting divorced, that's for sure, and there are plenty of them scattered across every echelon of society: being unhappily married sees no class barrier.

So, organised religion, let's cut all this rubbish about sanctity, tradition, children and divorce. Let's stop pretending that bad stuff happens when things change or are modernised to move with the times. Just roll up your shirtsleeves, put your dukes up and say what you really want to say: that gays are icky and you don't want them getting married because it's for straights only. Feel better? What are you so worried about? That you'll catch something? Don't worry, I don't think dignity or reason are contagious.

Try learning from the mistake of every toddler who runs off into the corner of his room clutching the other children's sweets and refusing to share - someone more compassionate and authoritative will come over to you and make you share those sugary treats with everyone.

It isn't yours and it never was, so why not do the decent thing and step back and let the 21st century happen? Whatever happened to religion being a supposed force for good - bringing communities together and showing compassion, rather than the excluding, pontificating scaremongering hotbed of intolerance we see before us now?

Perhaps marriage isn't the only thing in need of redefinition for the modern age.

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