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Gay marriage: the debate

Daniel Bentley, 31 May 2013

With the row over gay marriage set to reach the House of Lords on Monday, Civitas today publishes a wide-ranging collection of essays from the leading figures on both sides of this most polarised of debates.

The Meaning of Matrimony: Debating Same-Sex Marriage is edited by our deputy director Anastasia de Waal who, while herself strongly in favour of the reform, has sought to bring under one roof all of the arguments – for and against – to provide a definitive guide to the debate.

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Most striking is the vehemence of opinion among so many intelligent, rational people with such different – often diametrically opposing – views. A contribution to the book by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, is reported by the Daily Mail today.

His opposition to the legalisation of gay marriage is echoed in further essays by Austen Ivereigh, director of Catholic Voices, Brenda Almond, Emeritus Professor of Moral and Social Philosophy at Hull University, and Brendan O’Neill, editor of spiked.

But there are powerful voices too in support of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, and not only from the Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who writes an introduction.

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell, Stonewall chief Ben Summerskill and Conor Marron, of the Coalition for Equal Marriage, are all there, as are two academics who seek to challenge what they see as some of the myth-making in the debate.

Nicola Barker, a senior lecturer in law at Kent University, says there is no reason for churches to fear having to marry same-sex couples. There is no convincing case that the so-called “quadruple-lock” could be overturned by a legal challenge before the European Court of Human Rights, she argues.

Roger Lancaster, professor of anthropology at George Mason University, writes that same-sex unions are nothing new and have existed in many different civilisations across the millennia.

More than anything, the book is an attempt to bring opposing voices together and generate a wider discussion about what will be an historic change.

As Anastasia de Waal writes in an afterword, society as a whole has largely failed to engage in what has been a stymied debate dominated principally by those most in favour and those most opposed.

The Meaning of Matrimony: Debating Same-Sex Marriage can be accessed and downloaded here.

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