The solution is clear. It’s time for the Government to get out of the marriage business. In fact, for most of human history, marriage was something practiced by communities (both religious and non-religious) and the State kept its nose out of it. That is why Henry VIII, who was an autocratic despot, got himself in such trouble over his divorce. Even a tyrant realised that the regulation of marriages was not his responsibility!…
The most sensible arrangement would be for the Government to stop trying to regulate marriage at all (since it obviously doesn’t understand marriage anyway) and to return marriage back to the community. Civil Partnerships would continue as a legal status to be available to all couples, irrespective of sexual orientation. Then religious groups, and non-religious groups also, could practice marriage in whatever way we see fit. No-one would be discriminated against, since churches and LGBT groups would be equally free to practice marriage according to their respective beliefs. And all such arrangements would have exactly the same standing under the law – which is none whatsoever.
Personally, I’d skip the civil partnerships/unions business. I think that his idea would have more traction in the current Irish debate on the subject if his Roman Catholic counterparts would consider their own history in this regard more carefully than they do.
Ireland, like the UK and US, allows ministers to solemnise civil marriages, and Nick takes aim at that too:
The problems occur when we assume that ‘marriage’ means something similar in law and in a secular society. That is why religious organisations in Ireland act as solemnisers for the State – conducting weddings in our churches that are legally recognised and binding. However, this cosy arrangement has blinded us to the fact that there is a massive redefinition of marriage taking place – or, more accurately, a ‘hollowing out’ of marriage.
My true hope is that his idea will be embraced by his counterparts on this side of the Atlantic.