Last week, former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey hopped on the bandwagon of a new petition launched by the Coalition for Marriage, a group formed to support what they define as traditional marriage (ie: that which involves one man and one woman), opposing any efforts - including those of Prime Minister David Cameron - to allow same sex-couples to wed. This follows on from criticism of Cameron's party conference speech in October last year, where he originally unveiled his plans.
In his opinion piece for the Daily Mail, Carey argues that the planned changes are a "hostile strike" and would represent an act of "cultural and theological vandalism". Carey freely admits that the church does not own the institution of marriage, yet sees no problem invoking his religious authority to pass judgement regardless.
Alongside the Catholic Church, the Church of England also opposes the reforms, seemingly forgetting that their church was originally founded in order to redefine the institution of marriage back in 1534.
Sadly, Carey's views are somewhat representative of the UK as a whole. In August last year, a poll found that only 43% of Britons agreed that same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry, although this number is gradually increasing. However, a different survey discovered a huge difference of opinion between the age groups, with 78% of those aged between 25 and 34 agreeing that same-sex marriage should be legalised, compared to just 37% for over 65s.
Much is written about the potential havoc that allowing same-sex marriage could wreak, but very little evidence is provided for this accusation. As Tom Chivers writes in the Telegraph:
There are lots of countries and states that have introduced gay marriage, and lots of people keen to show that it would be damaging. If there was the slightest indication from anywhere that legalising gay marriage reduced the rates of straight marriage, or of straight people staying together, or of kids growing up with fathers, then it would have shown up. [..] Gay marriage won't destroy the nation, it won't leave children without parents, it won't sabotage straight marriage, it'll just mean that gays get married.
Indeed, taking a real-life example: Cheers and Frasier star Kelsey Grammer has now been married four times over four decades. His co-star David Hyde Pierce has been with his partner in a same-sex relationship for thirty years. Whilst this single comparison is not necessarily representative of society at large, it is not difficult to guess which household would have been more likely to provide the stable family environment which critics of same-sex marriage argue is so important to the well-being of children.
If Britain's 45% divorce rate shows us anything, it is that straight people have proven themselves to be pretty crap at marriage. There's no doubt that this, combined with the high-profile celebrity divorce, has done far more to discredit and destroy the institution of marriage than any change to the existing rules could ever do. Therefore, it is sometimes difficult to conclude that opposition to same-sex marriage is motivated by anything other than homophobia.
Carey argues that marriage between one man and one woman has stood the test of time, implying that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. (In the same way that defenders of slavery justified their efforts to fight its abolition.) However, as society has moved to accept same-sex relationships following the horrific treatment of LGBT people throughout recent history, supporting the right of same-sex couples to wed would be nothing more than a natural progression of this.
Each marriage affects only those two individuals stood at the front of the venue, reciting their vows. If you remain opposed to same-sex marriage there appears to be a very simple solution: don't have one. Nobody is going to force you, but that doesn't give you the right to stand in the way of other people's happiness.