Does same-sex marriage show Church and state cannot sing from the same hymn sheet?
Caddick Bourne, Emily
One important conflict between Church and state in which there is much contemporary interest centres on same-sex marriage. More and more states are reforming marriage law to allow for same-sex marriage in the secular context. The extension of equal marriage from the secular to the religious context, however, remains fraught. We respond to three arguments against same-sex marriage within religious contexts. The first says that same-sex relationships fail to realise the value of marriage because they do not lead to procreation. The second says that the attitudes expressed in a religious text justify not accommodating same-sex marriage. The third says that making marriage available to same-sex couples induces a change in the meaning of ‘marriage’. We argue that none of these arguments succeeds. Religious representatives should, if they are open to reasons (see §3), endorse same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, we argue that the state should allow individuals who perform religious marriages the option of declining to marry same-sex couples. This is because of the special role of sincerity in performing a marriage. The requirement of sincerity distinguishes the case of marriage from cases where a couple’s right to equality of opportunity is violated, e.g. where an hotelier refuses a room to a couple because they are of the same sex. Representatives of a religion who believe that marriage is unsuitable for same-sex couples, however poor their arguments, are incapable of performing same-sex marriages. In that case, they should not be subject to state sanctions for refusing to marry a same-sex couple.