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‘Discussion: The Right to Gay Marriage’

by Phil O'Kane on July 29th, 2012


Reverend Chris Hudson

Eamon Gilmore TD, Leader of the Labour Party in Ireland, Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade, said at the beginning of the month that “the right of gay couples to marry is, quite simply, the civil rights issue of this generation,” and it may be difficult to see it as anything other than that, or at least up there in the top 5, for the sake of argument.

Today, as part of Belfast Pride, All Souls Church hosted a discussion on why “gay marriage”, or quite simply “marriage equality” should be legislated in the UK and Ireland, led by Rev. Chris Hudson.

Rev. Hudson began with a small bit on his own background, stating that he has 20 years’ experience as a trade union official, working for workers rights, and specifically the rights of women in the workplace. He also worked as the head of the South African anti-apartheid movement in Ireland. Chris also works closely with Changing Attitude Ireland, an organisation seeking “full acceptance and welcome for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons in the Churches in Ireland.” He is clearly an advocate for the rights of people and works hard to do just that, and, as stated this afternoon, this paper marks the beginning of his personal campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

“It is an incorrect position that all Christians are against marriage equality.”

It is essential to contextualise this debate with other sociological problems. Until 1967 not every state in the USA was it legal for interracial marriage to take place. However, this still takes place within some Baptist churches in the United States, as recently as last week.

While changes were made so that “coloured” people were allowed to sit in the middle of the bus, so the comparison can be drawn to the introduction of civil partnerships: it’s the middle of the bus. Not fully equal. Marriage equality, Hudson stated, is about extending the current legislation on marriage, “not about creating another institution for gay people, as in the case of civil partnerships.”

Another example raised by Rev. Hudson is St Paul’s writings on women, how they are to be subordinate to men, the are allowed to read, but not to teach and other statements which today are taken as completely sexist and not acceptable anywhere. We do not live today by the standards and cultural norms of two millennia.

1 Corinthians 14*
33: …As in all the churches of the saints, 34: the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. 35: If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

Or in 1 Tim. 2: 11-15
I give no permission for a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. A woman ought to be quiet, because Adam was formed first and Eve afterwards, and it was not Adam who was led astray but the woman who was led astray and fell into sin. Nevertheless, she will be saved by child-bearing, provided she lives a sensible life and is constant in faith and love and holiness.

Rev. Hudson’s campaign is “deliberately religious”, as he states that LGBT people of faith will be denied the same rights as those without faith if the “secular” campaign continues its campaign to separate the religious blessing and civil/legal marriage. This denies those same-sex couples of faith who wish to be married in a church. Part of Chris’ campaign is to allow for legislation of marriages within churches, for those who wish to authorise this ceremony. Currently, within Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland it is illegal for churches to perform same-sex civil partnerships, leaving some to conduct a prayer at the reception, or a blessing at another time from the civil ceremony, as Chris Hudson has done himself in the past (I was present for one myself).

“The Catholic Church is obsessed with the male genitals… Is Christianity not about God’s love? Style over substance. Some churches still have issue of women in the church simply because they don’t have the right genital make-up to be a priest.”

Hudson made the point that governments “should legislate to suit all denominations: one law for all.”

“If debating with people who take a literalist view on the bible, it may be an hour you won’t get back”.

I have only stated a small selection of Chris Hudson’s words as he said them today, and are written up here . He is just one voice fighting for Equal Marriage in Northern Ireland, and one among many within the religious community. As he, and others, have stated often: there is not one homogeneous religious view in society, and it is false to claim that there is “one religious view, or indeed one Christian Church which holds the truth.”

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