Friday, 19 November 2010

BBC News: "Why would a straight couple want a civil partnership?"
Psalm 116:16-17
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord •
in the presence of all his people,

In the courts of the house of the Lord, •
in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.
A key element of marriage has not been addressed in the news article linked above, namely that marriage is not only about two people's private commitment to each other.  It is an expressly public sign and celebration of that commitment: hence the importance of the 'dresses and cakes' that some people here disparage. 
In its traditional - which is to say, Christian - understanding, marriage is a communal, not a private act, a vestige of which is seen in the legal requirement for witnesses.  If people want the societal benefits accorded by marriage, then they must be prepared to make the commitment to society that marriage entails. 
Perhaps gay and lesbian people should also have the same opportunity to make just such a public and lifelong commitment to one another and taking a place in society as a couple.  But to argue that a private civil partnership should have the same societal status as marriage without the responsibilities and commitment that the latter is supposed to entail takes an overly individualistic view of the institution. 
This, I suppose, is a common fault with any 'rights'-based discourse.  When an institution is seen exclusively in terms of the rights of the individuals involved, the social responsibilities entailed are bound to be somewhat obscured. 

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