While some people oppose Equal Marriage on religious or traditionalist grounds, and others support it on being equal rights and the removing of a state enforced ban, UKIP walks the tricky tightrope of trying to do both, unfortunately the policy they have plumped for doesn’t really work. Fundamentally UKIP is wrong on Equal Marriage.
The official policy is to oppose the current legislation, but support Equal marriage. UKIP believes that the ECHR will force Churches to perform marriages they do not want to, and so sees itself as defending religious freedoms by its opposition. However this throws up a few points.
Firstly, UKIP promises to remove the UK from the ECHR if they come to power. Where is the UKIP promise explaining that they would legalise Same sex marriages? Indeed UKIP have made their point so obscure and confusing that many social conservatives have happily joined UKIP believing them a party that just opposes equal marriage and would never legislate for it.
Secondly and more damningly is the UKIP opposition to current legislation. The arguments for this all revolve around the ECHR. For them to force Churches to do so they would need to ignore the European Convention on Human Rights article 9 about protecting religious freedoms. Judging from historical cases the ECHR has never forced Churches in countries which allow Equal Marriage to perform the ceremonies and the only time it has ever arguably gone against religious freedoms is when it is supporting national Governments laws not when it expands or over turns them. As the Coalition has explicitly said that Churches will not be forced to perform ceremonies all historical evidence goes to the ECHR backing up not attacking religious freedom in the UK on this issue.
To counter this the argument goes that people like Peter Tatchell are already pursuing court cases in the ECHR, I asked noted Equal marriage blogger Jae Kay for his take on this
‘This could refer to two cases:
i) the Equal Love campaign (spearheaded by Tatchell) set out in 2010 to challenge Government ban on marriage for same-sex couples and civil partnerships for mixed-sex couples. It is still ongoing. It has nothing to do with forcing the churches to marry anyone, and Tatchell is a loud supporter of religious freedom to decide for themselves which leads me to….
ii) Tatchell, has voiced his opinion that the 4th part of the Government’s proposed “Quadruple Lock” banning the Church of England from conducting same-sex marriage might be against the Church of England’s human rights. Some, including some of the usual suspects have spun this as Tatchell wanting to force the church to conduct same-sex marriages through the ECHR. What Tatchell is actually saying is that he believes the Church of England deserves to be treated like any other religion and given the right to choose, he isn’t talking about forcing anyone. He believes he is standing up for “religious liberty”. Sadly I think he just misunderstands the constitutional relationship between the Church of England and the UK Govt., the ban is something the Church of England itself can overturn when it wants to. But he means well. ‘
Jae Kay has comprehensively set out why Churches will not be forced to perform ceremonies they do not want to, which all in all removes the UKIP claim that the ECHR will start trampling on Churches freedoms.
The final argument used by those in UKIP opposed to equal marriage is that no one wants it apart from a ‘vocal gay minority’ and that Civil Partnerships already give all the rights that Equal Marriage would provide. These two points can easily be dealt with, polls show that the majority of people support Equal Marriage while Civil Partnerships are notably different from equal marriages.
UKIP’s position is based on half truths, and is at best a misunderstanding, at worst a deliberate misrepresentation and at very worst a loud pitch to those who oppose Equal Marriage full stop. Despite their Constitution saying so there is nothing libertarian about UKIP and nothing libertarian or even remotely legitimate about their claimed reasons for opposing Equal marriage.
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