Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Coalition for Marriage petition

Having signed a paper copy of this petition on Sunday I would draw your attention to the ability to sign it online via this Coalition for Marriage petition website.

I read the article in yesterday's edition of The Times by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, in which she sets out the case for the change in the legal definition of marriage. Her article is worth looking at (though The Times, being mercenary in these matters, charges you to look at their files online). The reason it is worth looking at is that it sets out the case for change clearly, reasonably and plausibly. How, indeed, could anyone be so unreasonable as to object to such a fair-minded reform? Well if you are, at least her article indicates the grounds on which we shall have to fight.

In other words getting hot under the collar won't impress, and if opponents of change are not careful they will be quickly presented as old fashioned, anti- this or that etc. No, read the article and similar offerings, and think through what marriage is really about - in its historic, cross-cultural, context it is not just the right of two people to cohabit with a licence whilst they feel so inclined to do so - and then take issue with those who advocate what appears to be a mild and reasonable reform. That was what was said in the 1960s about the liberal social agenda that led to various acts of Parliament - and look where that has landed us.

Her article argues, in a very mild, humane way, of course, for the state to assume powers of definition it has never presumed to exercise before or over things it has never presumed to alter, or believed it could alter. Big Sister rather than Big Brother, but let's face it, in these matters gender no longer matters does it...? Saying that other countries have passed similar legislation invites the response that several wrongs do not make a right.

So sign the petition and prepare to oppose, but outflank the proponents by challenging not the details of change, but rather the basis and pre-suppositions from which they are starting. In this matter opponants have to be reasonable and responsible fundamentalists, or, as a friend pointed out yesterday, radical in the proper sense of the word.

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