Letters: Church anguish over gay marriage

Letters: The only harm done by gay marriage will be in the heads of those who oppose it

I find it sad that, of all the ills in the world, the Church of England and Catholic church choose to unite and speak out against gay marriage (As brimstone rains down from the pulpit, 12 March). Not only are their arguments incoherent – marriage should be for the procreation of children, they claim, but happily marry the infertile or those who choose not to have children – they are simply naked prejudice robed in transcendental or scriptural authority. We would not stand for churches refusing mixed-race marriages because of their faith, nor should we accept their stance on gay marriages.

Gay marriage – even if you consider it to be undesirable – pales into insignificance when you compare it to the misery and suffering inflicted by poverty, homelessness, disease, drugs and alcohol or any other number of ills. Yet the churches reserve their most vociferous objections, devote their time, money and power to preventing something that causes only anguish among those who believe it is wrong themselves: the only harm done by gay marriage will be in the heads of those who oppose it.

Dr Andrew Burns

Wellington, New Zealand

• Once again, secular society leads the way and leaves the churches floundering. In my 60 years, I've watched organised religion scream in protest against almost every measure that has made our world more humane, compassionate and civilised. Thankfully, decent people in modern Britain are increasingly less inclined to listen to blinkered bigotry dressed up as debate. They are no longer willing to form their moral codes from ancient texts and wild-eyed zealots, but from their observation of the wonderful diversity of humanity, from their rational intelligence and from their instinctively loving hearts. And if religion is no longer able to provide us with guidelines which resonate with that, what in God's name is the point of it?
Alan Clark
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire

• The reaction of Cardinal Keith O'Brien to proposals to make same-sex marriages legal in order to promote equality (Cardinal attacked for gay marriage stance, 5 March) prompts me to suggest an alterative means of obtaining this end which, hopefully, would result in less long-term enmity. It involves two changes. The first would be to remove all legal significance from the word marriage and the second would be to make civil partnerships the only union recognised by the state. Those in such partnerships (a man and a woman, two men, or two women) would gain the present advantages given to those now married under the present system.

The word marriage could then be defined and used by any of the groups without any conflict with a legal definition. Christian marriage and gay marriage are two possible usages that spring to mind, but the only relationship with legal significance that could be had would be a civil partnership. Each side would feel that they had lost something, but it could not be denied that there would be equality.
Ralph Stevens
Epping, Essex

• Reading Martin Pendergast's thoughtful Face to Faith (10 March) alongside the report on same-sex marriages, it's clear that lesbian and gay couples, just like their straight counterparts, don't all want the same thing, when it comes to knot-tying – or not. Why can't living together (without sin), civil partnerships, and marriage, be gladly affirmed and made available to every citizen, without distinction and regardless of gender or sexual orientation? Indeed, why not, some theologians might argue, for that's rather how God the Holy Trinity may be conceived.
Fr Alec Mitchell

• Your "quacking duck" analogy (Editorial, 9 March), while amusing, is not quite convincing. This is an issue simply of semantics, rather than of justice, morality, social convention or biblical theology: by definition (see various dictionaries) marriage is between a man and a woman. The discussion is confused by the disingenuous opposition of conservative church leaders whose real objections are to homosexual relationships.
Rev Dr Norman Shanks

• As a gay man in his late twenties who grew up as a Catholic, I am absolutely disgusted by the letter read out at all masses in England and Wales on Sunday. The UK's Catholic church has historically been more moderate than on the continent – party due to its minority status – so it is shocking to see the church embark on a hate campaign against homosexuals in their quest for equality. 

The question of gay marriage is one of semantics. Civil partnerships are by de facto marriage, thus in the current context, preserving the "distinctiveness" of marriage can only be understood as discrimination. The church fails to understand that opening the institution of marriage to same sex couples is the best way to honour this historical institution and preserve its essential meaning – commitment between two individuals. The Catholic church that has throughout its history caused so much harm to homosexuals should be ashamed of itself, especially after the lives it has destroyed through its systematic abuse of young children and its questionable schooling system.

I'm sure, like many other Catholic homosexuals, the archbishop's letter feels like an invitation to apostasy. I hope that reformist elements of the Catholic church use this debate as an opportunity to demand reform and halt this unnecessary verbal violence against homosexuals.
Manuel Ramos

• As Catholics who have been married for 40 years, we must insist that we do not feel that the government's proposals for same-sex marriage constitute a threat to the institution. We welcome the opportunity to allow gay couples the same civil rights as ourselves. Cardinal Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna, has recently said that the social changes of recent decades in Europe call for a different kind of church, and that the church we are used to was "a thing of the past", so there was no question of "business as usual". The English bishops' letter says, eloquently: "We know that at the heart of a good marriage is a relationship of astonishing power and richness, for the couple, their children, their wider circle of friends and relations and society." We know of gay relationships which can be so described: our consciences would be troubled if we did not validate and defend them.
John & Cathy Duffy
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

• I suppose it is welcome that our church leaders are now talking up the virtues of civil partnerships in their campaign against gay marriage, but I don't recall them being very supportive when they were introduced. I remember vociferous opposition based on wild and hysterical arguments about threats to married and family life. Then, as now, these were based at root on nothing more than prejudice as more and more people, including many who define themselves as people of faith, are coming to recognise.
Nicholas Billingham

The GuardianTramp

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