Wednesday 18 November 2009

Civil Unions

I was following a train of thought this morning on public transport, and decided to note down my feelings on the back of a shop receipt for bagels and plant food, when I suddenly realised I'd inadvertently composed a Haiku. Here it is:

Civil Unions,
For Heterosexuals;
Why would you bother?


  1. Don't care what the law says - if it's not held in a church/conducted by a minister, then it's not a marriage (in the eyes of the Lord)! Heeterosexual civil partnerships aren't really new.

  2. Well that's what I was thinking about on the train: if you're a man and a woman, why not just get married and have done with it. At least then you'll know you're married. Very confusing. This conflation of marriage with civil unions, by a whole variety of couples, really confuses me.

  3. They couldn't really make civil unions just for same-gender couples. Could they? That would have been discriminatory in the opposit sense.
    So some go for this -cheeper, less-fussed- option. I'm not saying it is good but, that's how I think it works.
    Stefan; although traditional wedding services are conducted by ministers in churches (and should contain a nuptual Eucharist!!), sacramentally the true ministers of the rite are the bride and the groom. The minister's function is to validate/seal/confirm/hear their vows on behalf of the Church.

  4. I agree with Stefan, and it has long been my position. Because of our history, we use the word "marriage" to refer to what have actually grown to become two very different things. One is a secular institution, through which two people enter into legal contract, are socially recognised as a unit, receive benefits of tax, and certain privileges and responsibilities in law with regard to next of kin, inheritance, and so forth. The other is a religious union which varies from religion to religon but which, in Christianity, is the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, with all that this entails.

    As far as I'm concerned, things have now reached the point where I think it is time for us to stop pretending that the majority of people who get married in this country consider themselves to be receiving the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, when the reality is that this is no longer how most of them perceive marriage.

    Let the holy sacrament remain what it is, and let there be some provision in law for couple to enter into a form of civil union. The Church of England, being part of the establishment, has the problem that it recognises civil marriages as the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Doctrinally, I just don't understand this but, as far as I'm concerned, it is a problem for the CofE to work out for itself. The rest of us already draw a distinction between the holy sacrament and the five-minute secular ceremony that takes place in the register office. Even the Latin church, with its teaching about the man and woman being the ministers of the sacrament, still requires the witness of their church before recognising the marriage.

    So yes, I say separate them. Let civil unions be a status in law which is open to couples regardless of their composition, and let Holy Matrimony be what it is - a union betwene man and woman for the salvation of their souls, and for their participation in the life-creating energies of the Trinity.