A senior church minister has suggested that LGBT campaigners, like him, who want same-sex marriage recognised in the Church of England might want to pray “for the Lord to bless Prince George with a love, when he grows up, of a fine young gentleman”.
The idea was the last in a list of quite reasonable ideas in a blog post by the Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth but it is this point, that a gay heir to the throne would necessarily update the church’s view, which made headlines last week. Holdsworth has come under fire, not for suggesting that George will marry – that’s a given – but for suggesting that he might be gay. Granted, this would be a huge surprise since his sexuality would depart from that of every other royal who has gone before him. Isn’t the monarchy just like football?
So equal marriage remains something that the Church of England will not accept. I’m not religious. I have never wanted to get married, in a church or anywhere else, but I can imagine that for LGBT Christians this is extremely upsetting and confusing. Not least because the Church’s canon law that means it can reject same-sex couples wanting to tie the knot is the very same that the Archbishop is willing to overlook for Prince Harry to marry divorcee Meghan Markle.
Talk about equal marriage, eh? But then, marriage, like the monarchy, is steeped in inequality. A centuries-old patriarchal construct, the law’s original purpose was to allow for the exchange of a daughter from the ownership of her family to another for their mutual gain. In the 18th century Mary Wollstonecraft called it “little more than a state of legal prostitution” (societal convention meant she was still forced to marry when she became pregnant) and marginal opposition to it continued into the next century when a Society for the Abolition of Marriage was briefly established. Perhaps Wollstonecraft et al would be pleased to hear, at least, that by 1991 rape in marriage was made a criminal offence in England and Wales. Perhaps.
Even now there are state benefits afforded to some married couples and people are encouraged to get wed. Iain Duncan Smith piped up recently that marriage would teach boys from lower incomes “respect for women” (that’ll be down to its long history of gender equality, presumably) and that without it they’re free (imagine that) to leave relationships more easily than if they had a marriage contract. He and Sir Paul Coleridge, chairman of the Marriage Foundation, reckon that co-habitation without the contract is “unstable” and bad for society.
I’ve been co-habiting out of wedlock for about 15 years. We have been accused of a lack of romance for not getting married. But having not, as the Marriage Foundation proposes, put our relationship “on a legal footing in front of family and friends” we have both of us been free to end it easily at any time. We haven’t, because we haven’t wanted to. Isn’t that true romance?
Most of my friends and family have chosen marriage and that’s the lovely thing now: it is, for most men and women in this country, a choice.
But as any LGBT Christian will tell you, equal marriage remains an oxymoron for many.