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“Same-Sex Marriage is not Valid Marriage” – A Potentially Convict-able Statement

October 4th, 2012 by Matt

In MandM on Same-Sex Marriage and on being “sneaky” we referred to section 56 of the Marriage Act 1955 which provides:

56 Offence to deny or impugn validity of lawful marriage

(1) Every person commits an offence against this Act, and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding 100 pounds, who—

(a) alleges, expressly or by implication, that any persons lawfully married are not truly and sufficiently married; or

(b) alleges, expressly or by implication, that the issue of any lawful marriage is illegitimate or born out of true wedlock.

(2) For the purposes of this section the term alleges means making any verbal statement, or publishing or issuing any printed or written statement, or in any manner authorizing the making of any verbal statement, or in any manner authorizing or being party to the publication or issue of any printed or written statement.

(3) A person shall not be deemed to make an allegation contrary to the provisions of this section by reason only of using in the solemnization of a marriage a form of marriage service which at the commencement of this Act was in use by the religious body to which that person belongs, or by reason only of the printing or issue of any book containing a copy of a form of marriage service in use at the commencement of this Act by any religious body.

Criminal OffenceLousia Wall’s Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill, which seeks to amend the Marriage Act to allow for same-sex marriage does not seek an amendment to this section. This suggests that if her Bill passes, then anyone who claims that a same-sex marriage is not a valid marriage or a true marriage commits an offence.

The fairly comprehensive legal opinion by Ian Bassett, argues that the law will have this effect.

This is, of course, concerning because this is precisely what many religious groups teach. The Westminster Confession, for example,which is the doctrinal standard for  Presbyterian and Reformed Churches, states:

I. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband at the same time.

II. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife; for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.

This defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. It entails that if a union is not between a man and a woman then it is not a marriage. Moreover, the purposes of the institution explicitly exclude same-sex unions in that the purposes include the mutual help of a husband and wife and procreation which rules out same-sex unions – particularly if the biblical and theological context and basis for those affirmations is understood.

When the Human Rights Commission was asked about this, prior to the Basset legal opinion being commissioned, it gave the following response:

“Section 56 of the Marriage Act states that it is an offence to allege, expressly or by implication that any persons lawfully married are not truly and sufficiently married or that the issue of a lawful marriage is illegitimate or born out of true wedlock.

Public comments alone do not fall within any of the areas of public life covered by the HRA. You may wish to approach the Department of Internal Affairs directly for more information about this provision and what if any implications would arise if the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill was enacted as it is currently drafted.”

In other words: “we don’t know, ask someone else”. The opinion sought by St Matthew’s In the City in rebuttal to Bassett,  to which Bassett replied does not mention this aspect of his opinion.

Some people with legal training have told me they believe that the phrase “not truly and sufficiently married” in s56 simply means ‘not married under New Zealand law’, and so all s56 does is forbid someone from  claiming a marriage that is legal under New Zealand Law is not legal under New Zealand law.

In preparation for my recent debate at Auckland University on whether the Marriage Act should be amended I did some research on this and what I  stumbled upon suggests Bassett’s reading is in accord with the original legislative intention.

It seems that the clause found its way into the marriage law under the government of William Massey in 1920.

The background was that in 1908 Pope Pius X, issued the document Ne Temere, which promulgated canon law on marriage. Canon law recognised marriages of other churches or religions as valid marriages but it imposed certain conditions on Catholics. For example, any Catholic not married in a catholic church was  deemed to not have a valid marriage. Ne Temere caused outrage as it suggested as that Protestants who had married Catholic women in a protestant church were not validly married to their wives. The implication was that they were “living in sin” and their children were literally bastards.

In New South Wales Ne Temere  came within votes of being banned.

The 1920’s was a time of some sectarian unrest in Ireland between Protestants and Catholics and sectarian feelings ran high.

Section 56 of the Marriage Act was the  New Zealand government’s response to Ne Temere. This fact suggests that when the legislature referred to allegations that any persons lawfully married are not truly and sufficiently married or allegations that that the issue of any lawful marriage is illegitimate or born out of true wedlock, they were not referring merely to someone claiming a marriage is not legal under New Zealand law; they were referring to religious doctrines that taught that a marriage which was legal under New Zealand law was not a valid marriage in the eyes of God or according to natural law or canon law.

This is also suggested by the Select Committee report on s56. The Solicitor General reported to the house as follows:

“If the new clause becomes law in its present form [it did] the Roman Catholic Church will still be at liberty to promulgate its doctrine that the marriage of a Catholic celebrated otherwise than before a priest of a Catholic Church is not a sacrament. But that Church will be debarred from promulgating declarations that a sacramental celebration is essential to the validity of a marriage or that marriages entered into without such a sacramental celebration are in any respect invalid as marriages; and will also be debarred from alleging that persons so married are living together in adultery, or that their issue is illegitimate. In my opinion that is the effect of the new clause, and I see no reason to believe why a Court of Law would interpret it otherwise.”

Newspaper articles on s56 from that time suggest a similar reading. So I think this at least sheds some light on what the legislature intended s56 to mean. It made it an offence to state expressly or by implication, that any persons lawfully married are not truly and sufficiently married; or allege, expressly or by implication, that the issue of any lawful marriage is illegitimate or born out of true wedlock. The New Zealand government made it clear that  religious organisations that have doctrines which teach that certain marriages recognised by law are invalid and are really forms of sexual immorality, are committing an offence if they promulgate this teaching.

The Bill of Rights Act 1990, which protects Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Expression, cannot override statute:

4 Other enactments not affected

No court shall, in relation to any enactment (whether passed or made before or after the commencement of this Bill of Rights),—

(a) hold any provision of the enactment to be impliedly repealed or revoked, or to be in any way invalid or ineffective; or

(b) decline to apply any provision of the enactment—

by reason only that the provision is inconsistent with any provision of this Bill of Rights.

As far as I know this law has never been enforced; however, it remains on the books and as Madeleine points out, the Summary Proceedings Act 1957 provides that any citizen can lay an information at the District Court and initiate a private prosecution against any other person. Now, the Criminal Procedure Act will come into force next year, and that will make private prosecutions that much harder to bring, but determined litigants may still try and are we really ok as a country with permitting that possibility to remain on the books?

Whether the reality of a prosecution will or will not eventuate, and if it does whether the outcome will or will not be as parliament originally intended, few Christians want to be in the position of knowingly offending a law. The issue here is not just about the risk of an actual prosecution; we are not upholding Freedom of Religion, Conscience, Expression if we are saying, well, technically it is an offence, you probably won’t be prosecuted so, what’s your problem?

If the Bill is passed, which it should not be, it needs to be amended so as to remove s56 of the Marriage Act.

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41 responses so far ↓

  • Wait, this is pretty terrible even without the SSM and religious freedom issue. You can seriously be fined for calling someone a b*st*rd? And you can be fined for forgetting that your friends who got married last year and inadvertently calling them boyfriend and girlfriend?

  • You might be wiser to keep this under wraps and hope everyone forgets about it rather than giving the gay rights lobby ideas.

  • For the record I have always held that s56 meant that religious organisations whose doctrines teach that certain marriages recognised by law are invalid before God are committing an offence if they promulgate this teaching.
    I am not one of the legally trained people Matt discussed this with who thought otherwise.

  • So I was right- it was the product of sectarian rivalries during the somewhat more sectarian past…

  • So I was right- it was the product of sectarian rivalries during the somewhat more sectarian past

    Are you referring to “Living Word Distributors v Human Rights Action Group“?

  • “So I was right- it was the product of sectarian rivalries ”

    Right Craig – specifically designed to shut down sectarian group who denied the validity of legal marriages.

    Gee… surely that wouldn’t apply today.

  • And on a sadder note, Cam Slater’s mum’s funeral is tomorrow. He needs all our support right now, so if any of you want to visit Facebook and tell him that his friends are thinking of him right now and share his sorrow at his tragic loss, feel free.

    Sorry, getting a bit teary.

  • Craig, Madeleine and I gave our condolences to Cameron the day his mother died. Its very sad. I went through that a few years ago so I understand how he feels.

  • Same sex marriage is clearly wrong. It doesn’t make sense from both a purely factual and moral sense. The term “Marriage” as well as Marriage Law originated in France during the height of Roman Catholic influence. The term is even Latin in it’s root form. For nearly 1,000 years only a man and woman were able to become married. The United States is therefore unable to truly overturn this law because the United States didn’t create it. The marriage law was adopted by the United States. This is the factual case. The moral reason for the marriage law is for the propagation of the human race. We all share responsibility for this. At the very least, It’s incredibly selfish to deny the rest of the world a future with children in it. God wants us to be fruitful. A gay marriage is in direct opposition of God’s will.

  • Patrick, you are entitled to believe what you have just written. However, should it therefore be binding on those of no or alternative religious beliefs that do not share it? I would argue not.

    In a pluralist democratic society, everyone has the right to freedom of belief, conscience, worship, assembly and speech, as well as broad areas of practise if they do not tangibly harm others. Freedom of speech and expression includes the right to express particular religious doctrines about particular social practises, even if the proponents are in a minority position.

    Again, if no-one has tried to coerce conservative Christians when it comes to ordination, gender or sexual orientation, what makes you think that they will behave any differently when it comes to marriage equality?

    And surely it is equally reprehensible if ministers of faith are arrested if they do believe and practise religious same-sex weddings ie the two New York state Unitarian ministers that I’ve previously cited, c2004?

  • Craig, why then are the beliefs of secular liberals about the existence of various non discrimination rights binding on religious people in a pluralistic society even if they don’t believe in those rights or don’t belief in the way they have been written into law? You can’t have it both ways.

  • Are they, fully? As I have said, secular liberals do not compell conservative Christians to ordain lesbians, gay men or women in general if their church doctrines forbid it, nor will there inevitably be similar compulsion when it comes to secular and civil marriage equality.

    And moreover, would the supremacy of religious “liberty” even be imposed on those who do not share particular religious beliefs- even if it meant tolerating animal cruelty in the name of Santeria, or polygamy in the context of the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints (ironically enough!) or snakehandling Pentecostals? Or allowing some Mississippi white Baptist churches not to marry cross-cultural couples, given the unpopularity of cross-cultural marriages in particular states? Or what about Christian-Jewish interfaith marriages, as was the case in the Middle Ages?

    And moreover, just *who* is compelling who in this context? What about Nigel Studdart up in Whangarei, for instance, or those two Unitarian ministers in New Paltz New York, back in 2004? Or the attempt to prevent liberal Presbyterian churches and congregations from following their religious beliefs when it comes to presiding over same-sex marriages at that churches General Assembly recently? Or attacks by Moscow right-wing thugs against an LGBT club two days ago? Or Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill and the murder of David Kato?

    It cuts both ways, Matt. Conservative Catholics, evangelical and fundamentalist Christians are equally protected from workplace, accomodation, and goods and services provision, and heterosexuals are included in the sexual orientation section when it comes to the Human Rights Act 1993. The law is neutral and gives you every bit as much protection as lesbians, gay men and bisexuals receive.

  • Well said, Craig.

  • Craig actually your response ignores my point, you claimed that

    “, you are entitled to believe what you have just written. However, should it therefore be binding on those of no or alternative religious beliefs that do not share it? I would argue not.”

    The same argument can be made about any law based on a secular belief or ideology which is not universally shared by all people in a pluralistic society

    Are they, fully? As I have said, secular liberals do not compell conservative Christians to ordain lesbians, gay men or women in general if their church doctrines forbid it, nor will there inevitably be similar compulsion when it comes to secular and civil marriage equality.

    Here you rejoin secular beliefs are not “fully” imposed on those who disagree with them, that’s true, its also true religious beliefs are not “fully” imposed on those who disagree, no one is compelling you to get baptised for example or recite the westminister confession.

    Of course a law prohibiting same sex marriage will impose on people a moral rule based on religious beliefs some will reject. And similarly a law compelling a bed and breakfast owner to make a room avalible for Gay lovers to use, or a law compelling a sex therapist people to provide sex counselling for unmarried couples, or a law compelling churches to rent there halls out to same sex couples, imposes on people moral rules based on secular beliefs some will and do reject.

    And moreover, would the supremacy of religious “liberty” even be imposed on those who do not share particular religious beliefs- even if it meant tolerating animal cruelty in the name of Santeria, or polygamy in the context of the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints (ironically enough!) or snakehandling Pentecostals? Or allowing some Mississippi white Baptist churches not to marry cross-cultural couples, given the unpopularity of cross-cultural marriages in particular states? Or what about Christian-Jewish interfaith marriages, as was the case in the Middle Ages?

    I already addressed this in a previous discussion with you, I agree the right to freedom of religion is not an absolute right and it can be overridden in various situations. The same of course is true of the right of homosexual people to express their opinions on Gaynz for example, you don’t have a right to defame people for example or write about suppressed court orders. This fact however does not mean I can pass any law I like that censors your opinions and similarly the fact freedom of religion is not absolute does not mean the state can override freedom of religion whenever they like.

    And moreover, just *who* is compelling who in this context? What about Nigel Studdart up in Whangarei,

    Good example, that’s actually a case of secularists trying to impose their beliefs upon a catholic school and parents which has the right to teach students in accord with there religious belief. Also Louisa’s recent threats that intergrated religious schools might be compelled to teach in favour of same sex marriage is another.

    If the shoe had been on the other foot, a teacher at a secular public school had contradicted the state circula taught homosexual conduct is a sin against the law of God, or the teacher would have been disciplined without question.

    for instance, or those two Unitarian ministers in New Paltz New York, back in 2004? Or the attempt to prevent liberal Presbyterian churches and congregations from following their religious beliefs when it comes to presiding over same-sex marriages at that churches General Assembly recently? Or attacks by Moscow right-wing thugs against an LGBT club two days ago? Or Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill and the murder of David Kato?

    Or chiki filler, or the shooting of opponents of same sex marriage in the US, http://articles.cnn.com/2012-08-22/justice/justice_dc-shooting_1_federal-firearms-charge-gay-marriage-assault-charge or the vandalism of family firsts website ( and attacks on MandM), or groups like Lesbian avengers advocating the vandalism of churches. Or living word vs Human rights action league ( which friends of yours were involved with) . Or the Owens case in the UK banning Christians who oppose homosexual conduct from foster care http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8353496/Foster-parent-ban-no-place-in-the-law-for-Christianity-High-Court-rules.html, or the closing of Catholic charities in Massachutes, or the several cases mentioned in the new York times http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/06/29/are-religion-and-marriage-indivisible/same-sex-marriage-protecting-religious-liberty. Or the recent dismissal of a member of university staff for signing a petition. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/gallaudet-diversity-officer-on-paid-leave-after-signing-petition-on-same-sex-marriage-law/2012/10/10/bdb1e720-1332-11e2-a16b-2c110031514a_story.html

    (but homosexual activists *never* do things like this do they Craig)

    We can play the “you did this I did that” game all night. The fact one group unjustly attacks you does not justify you unjustly attacking them. Most of us were taught that in the playground around age 5.

  • Matt, you and other conservative Christians will not be compelled to preside over, or attend, religious same-sex wedding ceremonies at your chosen place of worship, any more than that church will be forced to ordain lesbians, gay men or women if it does not do so.

    Moreover, I’ve already conceded that ‘hate speech bans’ don’t work and that I am opposed to them on anti-censorship grounds. Furthermore, I have always maintained that the best way to oppose contentious discourse is with civil, evidence-based discourse.

    In liberal democratic pluralist societies, not everyone gets what they want all the time. LGBT communities don’t have ‘hate speech’ protections, nor *should* ‘we.’ You don’t get to impose your particular religiously based public policy when it comes to LGBT rights, although reciprocally, you have the rights to freedom of conscience, belief, worship and doctrine, as well as speech in this context. See, we do get to yield in the context of opposing rights demands in other contexts.

    You are also entitled to freedom from employment, accomodation, goods and services provision discrimination as a conservative Reformed Christian, as much as I am as a gay man. Equality under neutral civil law is surely a positive development. I am sure neither of us wants to live in a situation akin to the nightmares of Darfur and its anti-Christian persecution, or the ordeal of Bosnia during the Balkan Wars of the nineties and their orgy of ethnic cleansing and religious persecution.

    And you’re right, I probably could counterpose radical fundamentalist rhetoric in this context. But in any case, you do realise that when NZ passes the Marriage Equality Bill, conservative Christian pro-lifers like you will benefit too- there’ll probably be more focus on abortion and euthanasia within conservative Christian activist circles…as I’ve already noticed on RTLNZ’s site when it comes to euthanasia. Good. I approve of civic engagement and democratic participation.

    And hey, thanks, Clint. BTW, keep an eye on Cam and make sure he takes some time for himself, yeah?

  • “You don’t get to impose your particular religiously based public policy when it comes to LGBT rights”

    1) Why?
    2) Why do you get to impose your particular whateveritsbasedon based public policy when it comes to LGBT rights?

  • WilliamM, the answer is, because if it was decided to impose religiously based public policy, we would have to bring in every religious idea and make it policy. That’s impossible though, because (obviously) some religions are in direct contradiction with others on certain issues, besides being completely impractical and costly (with the number of new laws that would have to be included, like stoning your kids to death etc etc).

    To me, it’s very easy to logically determine why gay marriage should be legal.

    1. Banning gay marriage directly impinges on the rights of a sector of the community;
    2. Making gay marriage legal doesn’t directly impinge on the rights of any sectors of the community; it just goes against the religious teachings of certain sectors of the community (and can it not just be added to the list of things in this category?).

    Clearly, 1 is more detrimental overall to society than 2.

    Job done.

    BTW Craig Young, I think you’re confusing me with someone else…

  • “if it was decided to impose religiously based public policy, we would have to bring in every religious idea and make it policy. ”

    Nobody is arguing that the policies he or she suggests should be enforced precisely because they are religiously motivated …

  • WilliamM, the answer is, because if it was decided to impose religiously based public policy, we would have to bring in every religious idea and make it policy. That’s impossible though, because (obviously) some religions are in direct contradiction with others on certain issues, besides being completely impractical and costly (with the number of new laws that would have to be included, like stoning your kids to death etc etc).

    This argument clearly does not work, because a precisely analogous line of reasoning would mean no one could appeal to policies based on secular values or ideas.
    if it was decided to impose secular based public policy, we would have to bring in every secular idea and make it policy. That’s impossible though, because (obviously) some secular perspectives are in direct contradiction with others on certain issues, ( Marxism for example contradicts Randianism, scientistic naturalism contradicts postmodernism). Besides, being completely impractical and costly (with the number of new laws that would have to be included, like dictatorship or the proleitariat, Singerian infanticide etc etc).

    Either you get rid of all policies based on secular beliefs and values or you reject this argument.

    Also you don’t argue for a policy by assuming from the outset in premise 1 you have a right to it, thats called begging the question

  • [...] JesusDeeper Waters on The Great ReversalLuke Nix on Questions That Are Off LimitsMatt Flannagan on “Same-Sex Marriage Is Not Valid Marriage”–A Potentially Convict-able Statement (in New Zealand)Cory Tucholski’s recently completed series on The Six Ways of AtheismJonathan [...]

  • Good point, Matt.

    But then, I guess that means both our points are true – policy isn’t decided either way. It’s decided by vote (in theory, anyway). So policy changes in the popular direction.

    I guess a better response to WilliamM would be to ask why a a minority view that maintains more restrictive human rights than the proposed law change, be expected not to become outdated and be updated in a democratic political system?

    BTW Matt I didn’t think that I was begging the question by saying gay marriage was a right – I didn’t think I implied that gay marriage was a right. What I was trying to say was that by not legalising gay marriage, current rights are being trampled on, and hence we should expect that this error would be rectified.

  • Oh, and I think there is a difference between the secular and religious versions of our arguments – Religion is generally very absolutist (w.r.t. teachings) and I wouldn’t expect to see nearly as much compromise as that between various secular policies, displayed by people from different religions arguing over policies that are intended to maintain religious morals.

    This isn’t an insult – just an acknowledgment, and logically so, that religious people would want to ensure that policy strictly followed their religious teachings.

  • Clint,
    Actually, a better response to my question would be an actual RESPONSE and not just a cycle of rhetorical questions.

    With respect to Mat’s accusation of question begging, you don’t seem to understand that you still do exactly what Matt accused you of doing …

    Also, have you ever tried to google “democracy” in China?

  • WilliamM, please explain why a religious minority *should* get to impose its preference of public policy on the rest of society.

    My most explicit answer to why you don’t get to impose your particular religiously based public policy when it comes to LGBT rights, is because the rest of society won’t let you.

    Equal rights being a fundamental basis of human rights in NZ, not allowing gay marriage is dischordant with that. That’s why it needs to (and will) be rectified. I think you need to supply a reason as to why gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed.

  • “WilliamM, please explain why a religious minority *should* get to impose its preference of public policy on the rest of society.”

    Here’s a hint, it has something to do with why Nazi germany should have listened to the jewish minority when it came to gassing them. It involves concepts such as “sound ethical principles” and “reasoning”. Because people have ethical obligations that may conflict with the majority vote.

    “My most explicit answer to why you don’t get to impose your particular religiously based public policy when it comes to LGBT rights, is because the rest of society won’t let you.”

    And the Nazis didn’t let the jews out of the gas chambers alive. Black people didn’t get to vote because they were chained up and picking cotton. Clearly it’s all fine and dandy because they were in the majority.

    “Equal rights being a fundamental basis of human rights in NZ, not allowing gay marriage is dischordant with that. That’s why it needs to (and will) be rectified.
    [...]
    I think you need to supply a reason as to why gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed.”

    It’s too bad that neither Matt nor anyone else has ever talked about these reasons (why the arguments in favor fail, why the opposite is the case, etc.), especially not on this blog.

  • Godwin’s Law. Job done.

    But seeing that you went there…

    I only explained the actual functional reason why religious minorities don’t get to impose their view. I didn’t say I thought that it was a good reason – and I agree, argument ad populum is of course a fallacy. But in this case, I think it is, because the religious minority are the group wishing to restrict rights and hurt people – as far as I can tell, your view is a lot more Nazi-like than the opposing view.

    And by the way, sarcasm is often regarded as the lowest form of wit.

    W.R.T. Matt’s past arguments, I admit that I am an infrequent reader of this site, and I take each article’s comments on face value. But it’s the aggressive and sarcastic attitude of many of the contributors to this site that make me such an infrequent reader.

  • Additionally, I think you’ll find that your statement “And the Nazis didn’t let the jews out of the gas chambers alive. Black people didn’t get to vote because they were chained up and picking cotton. Clearly it’s all fine and dandy because they were in the majority.” isn’t exactly an accurate representation of what occurred in either Nazi Germany or early US history. I’m fairly sure that if a vote had been held with all the people involved, neither scenario would have occurred, as indicated by the grief felt by the oppressing groups in the aftermath of both situations.

    Both are actually remarkably good analogies to the current gay marriage scenario.

  • Sorry for posting 3 times consecutively, WilliamM, but after re-reading your post yet again, I realise that you did post your primary reason for opposing same-sex marriage:

    “Because people have ethical obligations that may conflict with the majority vote.”

    Well, this elegantly sums up why I think you don’t get to impose your particular religiously based public policy when it comes to LGBT rights – because: a majority of people have ethical obligations that conflict with the religious minority. That is, denying SSM causes a direct infringement of rights to a sector of society.

    I have yet to read a rebuttal of this reason other than 1. It goes against the moral teachings of the Bible (which everyone admits, holds no sway with people who do not believe in it), and 2. That if we make the step of legalising SSM, then there is no sound argument for the discrimination of not legalising polygamy and incestual marriage. But incestual marriage is prohibited for sound scientific reasons, and many people have admitted that they have no logical basis for denying polygamous marriage; the only reason that there isn’t a push for legalising this is because there simply isn’t the demand for it.

    Was there another main basis for opposing SSM?

  • “Both are actually remarkably good analogies to the current gay marriage scenario.”

    Wow, I just realised you are right. Not legalising same sex marriage is just like genocide and slavery in absolutely every way. Thanks for opening my eyes.

  • Is this the bit where I get to repost one of your comments: ” a better response to my question would be an actual RESPONSE and not just…” another sarcastic comment?

    Like I said – analogy.

  • Sadly, detailing the various flaws in your posts would be such a trivial yet tedious exercise that I don’t feel particularly compelled spelling them out, especially since my actual gripes should be beyond obvious from my previous comments.

  • Yes, detailing the flaws in my posts would be trivial. Thank you.

  • Oh, and I think there is a difference between the secular and religious versions of our arguments – Religion is generally very absolutist (w.r.t. teachings) and I wouldn’t expect to see nearly as much compromise as that between various secular policies, displayed by people from different religions arguing over policies that are intended to maintain religious morals.

    This seems to me an unwarranted claim, first, both religious people and secular people are absolutist about some claims and not others, take for example a secular liberal feminist who (correctly) believes wife beating is unjust is she likely to be tentantive or compromising about this, what about her views on rape? In fact your reference to slavery and genocide suggests that there are plenty of moral views secularists find so beyond the pail that they are unlikely to compromise on them, I am not saying this is incorrect just pointing it out. Secularists often are very absolutist on various moral claims. And these can include claims such as Gay rights or abortion, I could point you to many gay rights activists or feminists who are extremely absolutist on both these issues.
    Second, as to compromise, that again seems to me dubious, I suspect a group of conservative Catholics, evangelicals, Mormons, and muslims, could probably come to significantly more agreement and make compromises over various moral questions, than you would get it you tried the same thing with followers of Ayn Rand and Karl Marx.

    So I just think your claims are false, both secular and religious people can be absolutist and both can be compromising, depending on the context.

  • Equal rights being a fundamental basis of human rights in NZ, not allowing gay marriage is dischordant with that.
    That actually is a very superficial analysis, I could offer a parallel argument against any law in society no matter how just or unjust. Consider a law L, if L is passed people who refuse conform to it will be subject to some censure, they will be fined, or imprisoned, and hence deprived of a right. Those who conform to L will however not be deprived of such rights, therefore L will violate equal rights.
    Moreover, if all people have an equal right to marry, then brothers and sisters should be allowed to marry, brothers and sisters are after all people, children are also people, single people are people, polyamorists are people, in reality no one believes this, in reality any marriage law we create will exclude some “people” from marriage and hence deprive them of the “right” to marry. Now of course there may and often are good reasons for this, that however only shows that the issue is not whether it treats people unequally but whether good reasons exist for the policy in question.

  • Your argument that there is an equal right to marry does not hold sway with people who don’t believe in the existence of such rights. So if this is a good argument against religion it’s a good argument against yours.
    and 2. That if we make the step of legalising SSM, then there is no sound argument for the discrimination of not legalising polygamy and incestual marriage. But incestual marriage is prohibited for sound scientific reasons,
    Scientific reasons can’t provide moral reasons for anything without the addition of a moral premise. So unfortunately simply saying “science provides reasons” is not really a rebuttal.
    But second even if your correct this destroys your argument, even if we discriminate against incestous couples and don’t allow them to marry on the basis of scientific reasons. We are still depriving them of a right to marry and still discriminating, therefore the claim that all people have an equal right to marry is false.
    and many people have admitted that they have no logical basis for denying polygamous marriage; the only reason that there isn’t a push for legalising this is because there simply isn’t the demand for it.
    This suggests you can deny people equality if the majority don’t demand to give it, that’s hardly compelling. But moreover suppose that one grants polygamous unions, still not every person or relationship in existence will be called a marriage by law. Which will mean you are discriminating against people and denying them a right.

  • Thanks for keeping it polite, Matt.

    You’ve written a lot there, I probably won’t touch on everything.

    The example of slavery and genocide is one where I would hope secularists and non-secularists would all agree, in this day and age. The point I was trying to convey is that on issues where different religions have different religious teachings, compared to secular groups dealing with the same issues, I would think there would be a difference in how able they would be to make compromise. Anyway, this is a bit off topic.

    I was about to address all the different points you made there, Matt, but I’m wondering if I need to. Yes, denying incestual marriage is denying equal rights; I’m guessing trying to analyse this issue will end up with arguing about whether one believes that people can have morals without God or not. I don’t really want to go to that depth here. Let’s just say that there are significant medical reasons why society doesn’t want to encourage incestual relationships, and these reasons can stand independently of other reasons for or against these relationships, and these are good enough reasons on their own. The difference with gay marriage (and arguably, polygamous marriage) is that these relationships don’t cause harm to anyone else in the way that incestual relationships can, and therefore the reasons for opposing them seem to be based on religious reasons and not for any other reasons, as far as I can tell.
    I didn’t say that polygamous marriage should be banned on the basis that there isn’t a majority demand for it, I said that it is not being pursued at the moment because there is a lack of demand for it, and governments generally only respond to these issues when there is sufficient demand.

    You said “Now of course there may and often are good reasons for [denying some people the right to marry], that however only shows that the issue is not whether it treats people unequally but whether good reasons exist for the policy in question.” Yes, exactly. What I am trying to figure out is what these good reasons are, in the case of gay marriage, especially when we apply it to secular people? I think what’s happening is that many secular people (and many people who describe themselves as Christians in this day and age but do not hold literally to Christian teachings) are struggling to see what these reasons are, but on the flip side they are seeing many of their friends who are being denied a significant “right” (entitlement, privilege, call it what you like, I’m not trying to beg the question) for no reason that they can see.

  • Hi Clint,
    over the course of history, there have been many reasons for why people oppose same-sex “marriage” and going into a debate without being aware of at least some of them strikes me as “daring” to say the least – in the sense that I can imagine many people would (justifiably so) dismiss your input for not being familiar with what the contentious issues actually are. If you really want to understand, you might want to start reading some papers in the journals in the fields, such as “What is Marriage?” by Girgis, George and Anderson (you can actually find several critiques to this paper, as well as responses to those from the authors online) or “Law, Morality and “Sexual Orientation”” by Finnis.

  • Clint,

    Perhaps you could explain how an adult brother and sister having contracepted sex is any less a case of “consenting adults who do no harm to others” than two gay men having sex are?

    The reality is the scientific reasons you cite provide as much reason to ban marriage between people with congential defects as it does incest, and yet people don’t do this, because unlike incest they don’t think sex between people with cogential defects is wrong. The real issue is morality not science, people accept traditional moral views on the morality of incest so they oppose incestous marriage.

  • I didn’t say that polygamous marriage should be banned on the basis that there isn’t a majority demand for it, I said that it is not being pursued at the moment because there is a lack of demand for it, and governments generally only respond to these issues when there is sufficient demand.

    Just out of curiosity, then. Do you believe that polygamous marriage should be legal?

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