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The Most Sensible Response of the Churches to Same-Sex Civil Marriage

It is to pitch officiating civil marriages altogether, as the Sikhs in the UK are being advised:

Sikh temples have been advised to halt all civil marriage ceremonies on their premises to protect them from possible legal challenges for refusing to conduct same-sex weddings.

It is the first example of a religious group altering its marriage practices to avoid potential litigation based on equalities or human rights law.

Although there are many protections in the new UK law for churches which do not perform same-sex unions, Sikh advisor Harmander Singh observed:

We are concerned that the quadruple lock (the protections of the act) isn’t going to be worth the paper it is written on.

In the longer term, as soon as there is an issue and it goes to the European Court of Human Rights, no one can be sure, because the quadruple lock means nothing under subsidiarity.

He’s doubtless right, and the Christian churches are simply doing the ostrich thing.  In this country the legal situation is different, but given that this is an outcomes-based judicial campaign, the results will be the same.  Here the issue will be this: since ministers become agents of the state when they solemnise civil marriages, and agents of the state shouldn’t discriminate, thus they must perform same-sex civil marriages.

The alternative is this:

If Sikh places of worship deregister, it would lead to a situation similar to that in France, where couples have a civil wedding at the town hall with a church service as an optional extra.

“Doing marriage twice” is a pain, but as long as the state insists on discriminating against cohabiters with marriage, there’s no evidence that our brothers and sisters in countries where it’s required have more difficulty than we do in stable Christian marriages.  And, of course, there’s the next step, i.e., dispensing with the state business…

Mr. Singh is a man after my own heart with his comment on civil marriage: “Civil marriage is, with respect, a paper exercise.”  And when you get a divorce lawyer involved, there’s a lot of paper…

As David “Spengler” Goldman pointed out: “Christians should learn from the Jews how to be a minority.”  Maybe the Sikhs can help us too.


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