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Anyone for ‘gaylock’? Marriage, homosexual equality, and foster-parenting

16 March 2011


From the Revd James Spanner

Sir, — Clive de Salis’s letter (11 March) was the clearest bit of logical writing I have seen on the subject of “gay marriage” yet — that is, until his final paragraph.

You cannot resurrect words such as “matrimony”, which have fallen into occasional use only, and apply them to a practice that is entirely novel in the history of the nation and of Christian faith. This word may be a bit archaic, but most people still know precisely what it means. We need a new word that is also totally clear.

This might also, I hope, set us on the path to freedom from that now-meaningless word “partner”, used indiscriminately for “temporary live-in lover not legally recognised”, “permanent live-in lover legally recognised”, “husband/wife/spouse”, besides time-honoured usage as in “business partner”. How many, searching helplessly for clues when introduced to “my partner”, have put their foot in it here?

So what do I suggest instead of hijacking “matrimony”? Could the old word “wedlock” be a starting point? What about “gaylock”? “Gay” is the preferred term that carries no judgemental overtones, and “lock” neatly suggests the permanent nature of the relationship.

St Mark’s Vicarage, St Mark’s Close
Colney Heath AL4 0NQ

From the Revd Robert Gould

Sir, — Clive de Salis gives an inter­esting but, I believe, untenable argu­ment that the recognition of same-sex unions as marriages would threaten marriage itself. He refers to “the purpose of marriage”, which, while he does not state it, appears to be procreation. This he supports by reference to the Church’s objections to polygamy and incest.

Whatever one may think of the institution of polygamy, no one can deny that it (at least in the form of polygyny) can be very effective as a means of procreation. The Church’s objections to incest were not funda­mentally based on the biology. They were based on the conflict of two types of intimate relationships, as shown by the fact that the table of prohibited relationships includes relationships by affinity. Both incest and polygamy could equally reason­ably be prohibited for same-sex unions.

In fact, one could argue that the institution of marriage stated in this way has been undermined at least since the First Prayer Book (1549), in which the prayer in “The Forme of Solemnizacion of Matrimonie” for the gift of children is preceded by the rubric “This prayer folowing shalbe omitted where the woman is past chylde byrth.” An equivalent rubric has remained in every sub­sequent Prayer Book.

One can conclude only that the Church is clearly prepared to marry some for whom no procreative act is deemed possible. So, why not same-sex couples?

33 Charterhall Road
Edinburgh EH9 3HS

From Mr Don Archer

Sir, — In the controversy about the decision not to approve Owen and Eunice Johns as local-authority foster-parents, one vital distinction seems to have been overlooked (Letters, 11 March). This is the dif­fer­ence between bringing up your own children, and bringing up other people’s.

In your own family life, you can — within the boundaries of the law — teach them what beliefs and values you see fit. But, acting as a foster-parent, you are not free to impose your own practices on the children you care for. You are bound to respect those of the children them­­­selves, and their own parents for whom you are a temporary sub­stitute. Otherwise, the child is caught in a destructive conflict of loyalties.

The Revd Simon Boxall (Letters, 11 March) draws the helpful parallel with vegetarians, and asks if they would be prevented from fostering. The answer is not at all — so long as they undertook to respect the child’s own needs and practices. They are free to avoid meat them­selves, and to explain to the foster­-children why. But they are not free to tell them that meat-eating is wrong for them, or to deny them the food that they are used to and that their own family consume.

Apply this to the Johnses, and the correctness of Derby City Council’s decision is clear.

(Retired social worker)
5 Church Road, Trull
Taunton TA3 7EW

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