In the midst of all the controversy and debate concerning the coalition government's intention (with the support of the Labour Party leader) to introduce a new law on marriage, we seem to have become lost in a mess of discussion on 'equality' and 'diversity' as if diversity somehow means we all must have the same (which suggests the opposite of diversity to me).
When Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister, charged that the Church doesn't "own" marriage she was quite correct, the rituals of the Church came in response to the facts that exist and which had/have always been. The government now claims it has the right to change those facts which suggests that the legislators believe that they do own marriage. This is historically incorrect as the legislation on marriage (which, it is worth mentioning, was based on Canon Law) was introduced to reflect what marriage is; it didn't invent it.
Now, whether you believe that marriage can be changed or not, we can agree that the way in which much of the debate is taking place is rather worrying. Whilst there is clumsy language and scare-mongering on both sides of this debate, it is from the 'liberal' side of politics that some of the more alarming responses appear to be coming. The deputy leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman, describes opposition to gay marriage as if it is a piece with homophobia - a quite scandalous and unacceptable claim which could be described as a sort of 'newspeak', forcing change by the subtlety of a threat that, somehow, all those who disagree with the prevailing wisdom of the day are thuggish and unreasonable.
Actually, it seems to be the opposite as far as this particular author is concerned, because threats of protests and disruption (alongside the real threat of legal sanction in the future) are coming from some of those who are arguing in favour of same-sex marriage.
Take the case at the weekend where an activist decided to disrupt a Mass where the Letter on Marriage from the Archbishops of Westminster and Southwark was about to be read. The protester filming the priest made it clear that he would be posting the reading of the Pastoral Letter on Youtube. To avoid disruption, the Priest decided not to read the letter and, after a few more moments of the protester trying to encourage people to walk out of the Church with him (none did, I believe), the protester left. You can watch it yourself here: http://www.youtube.co/watch?v=6em7Yy-MjEc
Now, think this through - a priest is about to read a letter expressing the traditional view on marriage of the Catholic Church and encouraging the faithful to uphold it in the present discussion and he is, by the direct action of the protester, prevented from doing so. Is this religious freedom?
It is made clear that the encounter will be put on Youtube - this stinks of the activities of the secret police who film the Catholic and Anglican priests in Zimbabwe in case they preach against the official line. Is this freedom of speech?
The priest, who has not given his permission to be filmed, is now on Youtube so he could be open to verbal and physical threat. You only have to look at some of the comments to see the abuse against this blameless priest. Is this freedom from threat to personal safety?
Bear in mind that nobody has been given a chance to express an opinion through the ballot box on an issue fundamental to our society, yet it is being pushed in the hope of enactment before the next General Election, not least by the liberal-minded Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron.
This is all food for thought and really unpleasant.