Policy Exchange report says the balance of argument favours equal marriage

Policy Exchange, which claims to be the UK’s leading think tank, has published a detailed examination of the pros and cons of same sex marriage: What’s In A Name? Is there a case for equal marriage. David Skelton and Robert Flint, the authors of a paper, argue that the balance of argument favours equal marriage.

The report has assessed the major arguments both for and against equal marriage and finds that a compelling case exists for change. Their analysis illustrates that marriage brings real benefits to married individuals, as well as acting to bind together families, communities and society as a whole. The report says the benefits of marriage are clear and proven and there is not a compelling reason to shut out gay and lesbian people from the benefits that marriage provides.

Full equality would bring the final symbolic acceptance to a group only recently invited in from the cold. It would serve to fully welcome gay people in to the mainstream of society. This is the ultimate goal of marriage equality.

The report proposes practical steps to extend marriage to people currently excluded from marriage because of their sexuality, which is natural and fixed. The authors do not believe that somebody’s sexuality is a justifiable reason to prevent them from marrying the person they love.

“The proposed reform is not about changing the institution of marriage. That institution in law would remain a partnership between two people. [Reform is proposed because the authors] fundamentally respect the institution of marriage and believe that it should be extended. They believe that gay and lesbian people should be allowed to participate in marriage, not change it. The proposed reform is a traditional, not a radical one and emphasises the values that advocates of marriage have always advanced and that marriage is uniquely placed to provide.

“Equal marriage would be an important and decisive step to fully integrating gay and lesbian people as members of a society, with the same rights, the same responsibilities and the same day to day concerns as heterosexual people – sending an important signal, especially to young people, that being gay is an accepted condition that in no way prevents people from the same aspirations to have a stable, married partnership in adult life as everyone else.

“It would strengthen marriage rather than weaken it. People from the conservative tradition who, correctly talk about the benefits of social institutions and social incentives (which are incorporated in marriage as an institution), should see the value of extending marriage to gay and lesbian people.

“It is perverse that some of the traditional proponents of marriage are so willing to limit its scope and influence. It is difficult to imagine how one person’s love restricts or inhibits another’s, and quite simple to see how the warm embrace of social acceptance would do a lot of good for individuals and society.

“The statistical evidence from other countries shows no link between marriage equality and damage to the institution: divorce rates do not go up, marriage rates do not go down.

“Sincerely held concerns about religious freedom in connection with these proposals ought to be addressed. Policy-makers should be quite clear that they have no right to interfere in the affairs of individual religious institutions.

“Religious institutions should not be forced by the State to hold a same sex marriage ceremony on their premises. Religious institutions that do wish to marry two men or two women should not be prevented from doing so by the law.

“On balance, we believe the continuance of civil partnerships post equal marriage would be unnecessary. They were introduced because of a unique inequity that will no longer exist once marriage equality has been introduced.

“Their continuation in current form would create an unjustified “two-tier” system for gay people, and if civil partnerships were simultaneously reformed to admit heterosexual couples, then the institution of civil marriage would be threatened by a secondary institution that fell short of full marriage but was open to all.”

The full report can be downloaded from the Policy Exchange website.

A hard copy of the report can be purchased from:

Policy Exchange
Clutha House
10 Storey’s Gate
London SW1P 3AY

ISBN: 978-1-907689-24-6

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