Saturday, May 12, 2012

Gay Marriage, the ASA and Archbishop brûlée

His Grace, well on the conservative side of the debate, has got in to trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority. Which is really quite difficult for somebody who has been charcoal for quite so many years. Being the blogosphere, quite a few people have weighed in on it. So, here's my ha'penny's worth.

Firstly, the ASA should fuck right off. If there has been a complaint or ten, then they should direct their wrath, queries, whatever to the advertisers - in this case the Coalition for Marriage - not Cranmer. As per this recent case. ASDA were hauled in front of not-the-beak, not the TV company or the ad agency.

Secondly, this is a clear matter of current political controversy. There are clear ECHR / HRA Article 9 and 10 points to be made in terms of running the ads. On both sides.

Thirdly, my personal point of view? Ideally, I'd like the government just to back completely off from the whole marriage business. Allow nearly anybody to have a registered partnership - and it really doesn't need to be sexual. The whole "next of kin" thing is the clearest example, to my mind, of allowing a life-long partner, a relation or friend - subsequent to official acknowledgement by both parties - similar rights to a spouse. The right to make the appropriate decisions in nasty situations should defer to the person most likely to make the decision you would want, not some Victorian hang-over of who is your "closest relation". The "I don't want to be thrown out of our house if one of us dies" scenario scores highly too - even if you think heavy death duties are appropriate, this is only delaying, not cancelling them.

Marriage can then be left to the churches. The Quakers, Episcopal Church and Reform Jews can marry gayers. Islam, the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox (Christian or Jew) can refuse. Of course, this won't happen. In which case, my personal view is that allowing gay marriage is a good thing. YMMV.

And, I can't see the legal point being made following the ECHR Schalk judgement. If the government makes marriage available to homosexuals - as it already has to trans-sexuals, there is nothing in that judgement which says that churches will be able to be forced to conduct gay weddings. Divorcees, trans-sexuals, non-confirmed members of the relevant church are already permitted marriage, yet the various faiths are specifically and explicitly permitted, unlike civil registrars, to allow or deny wedding services based on their beliefs. I cannot see any difference in ECHR between these cases and homosexuals.

Although, as a corollary, I could see that a law permitting civil marriages to homosexuals while banning churches from conducting gay weddings could be subject to Article 14 challenge. I expect that the current legal status is only maintained because a similar ban on conducting heterosexual registrations with religious overtones or on church premises applies.

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