How to make trouble over marriage

Christina Annesley writes powerfully on the topic of marriage, gay marriage in particular, and I think she has hit on something important. First she skewers the idea that this is a simple matter and dismisses the usual libertarian line that religious groups e.g. the Church of England should be free to discriminate against homosexuals by pointing out that the Church of England is the church of England. We kinda own it, or at least the state does, so this is not a case of normal people being told what to do, it is an argument between departments of Government. Also, were the CofE not the CofE but the C of… something else… it would still be using a state run system:

Much to my chagrin, marriage is currently a state licence, and it monopolises the right to grant that licence. Whilst I sincerely hope that this changes (and preferably before I can afford my own wedding), these are the facts as they stand. So the question as to whether libertarians should support the right of religion to opt-out of same-sex marriage can be rephrased as; do voluntary institutions have the right to use a state licence? It’s an interesting and complicated question, and brings up the question of – who does the state belong to?

Although the state is funded unequally by the people, it coerces against them equally; based on this argument, we could rightfully deduct that it does indeed belong to ‘us’. Equally. With no special allowances made for any system of beliefs – religion, for example. And as I have already pointed out, marriage is currently a state institution. What right, then, does a discriminating institution have to use a state licence to discriminate against other people that have an equal entitlement to that licence? Surely none at all, and the state is therefore completely entitled to revoke that licence on the basis of discrimination – on the same grounds as it could, for example, if an LGBT organisation that happened to be a provider of state marriages denied a marriage to someone based on their religion.

Of course, this is hardly an ideal situation for anyone.

Well, no. And we saw that coming didn’t we. We were talking for years about why the privitisation of marriage is the only good option. We were, unfortunately, crowded out by statist “liberals” who wanted to permit the state system to be used by gay people and they got their way, they got a compromse. The result is, predictably, (and Paul Marks for example did predict it) a conflict between those who see themselves as having a right to marry religiously, and those of a religious institution that dissapproves. Binding people together, as in so many bad movies, inevitably leads to friction.

It is worth remembering though, that while the sensible quiet and lightly enumerated voice of libertarians was ignored and easily defeated, we have been vindicated. We have another shot at articulating this argument now as the Drewitt-Barlows fight to have a ceremony in a church against the will of it’s owners. Let’s see if we can make a more audible contribution this time.


  1. Yes I did predict it – but I could easily have been wrong. All it would have taken for me to be wrong is for people to have a “live and let live” attitude. They could have said “I am having a private Gay Marriage – but what is it to do you with you? I am not asking you to bake the cake or take the wedding photographs!”. But it turns out that this is being “asked” – indeed people are being TOLD (with the threat of punishment from the state) do such things as bake the cake and take the wedding photographs (and on and on). This is SLAVERY (being told to work for someone one does not want to work for or be PUNISHED) and those who support slavery (such as “libertarian” Reason magazine – which dismisses even appeals for religious toleration as “a homophobic stunt” and “Gay bashing”) should be treated with the utter and complete contempt they deserve.

    I am not a homosexual. but I hope that many (hopefully most) homosexuals would agree with what I have just typed.



  2. As for the Church of England point. Well I am not supporter of antidisestablishmentarinism – I think it is absurd for the Prime Minister to have a say in who the Bishop is – he does not with the Church in Wales, or the Church of Ireland, so why the Church of England?

    However, (as many years ago I had to explain to American academics who thought the “Civil Constitution of the Clergy” in France in 1790 did NOT mean that French priests were now “civil servants” “AS IN ENGLAND” – Church of England people are not civil servants they do not work for the state), an “established church” and a “state church” are terms that are used interchangeably by many Americans – but they are quite different (and I speak as someone who has come to oppose BOTH – see above). By the way – the main problem with disestablishmentarianism is that it is used as an excuse for the STEALING of Church property (as it was in Wales) – that is not acceptable.



  3. I’m sure I also predicting the almost inevitable legal challenge, which is now being made. It’s time for the Church to disestablish itself, but I doubt it will. In this case Christina’s argument (that the CofE is a state institution) would lapse. However, what I think is the case, and what she is ignoring, is that the courts are most likely not going to be approaching this as libertarians, and will thus make no distinction between the CofE as state institution and any other church. Therefore, Christina, with her declared contempt for all religions, is calling for the power of the state to be turned on churches like it has been in places like communist China and was in the Soviet Union. As such, her argument is more bolshevik than libertarian.



  4. Agreed Richard.

    As for the courts – I despair when I hear the words “gone to court” as the courts (both here and in America) are so desperately wrong headed.

    Yesterday a Federal (and therefore unelected) judge said it was O.K. to tell students not to wear American flag shirts on Mexican independence day. “Well Paul one should not go to other countries and insult them” – no this was IN THE UNITED STATES.

    Not only do the (government) schools celebrate Mexican Independence Day (at the expense of American taxpayers) they also forbid anyone to wear anything with an American flag on it – but a Mexican flag is fine (indeed they are paid for by the American taxpayers).

    Forget high libertarian philosophy – the government courts are controlled by gibbering lunatics, no common sense is to be found in a modern court-of-law.



  5. What Christina also overlooks …”I’m going to hold my hands up here – I don’t really care about freedom of religion. I’m an atheist” … is that freedom of religion includes her freedom to be an atheist. To say she doesn’t care is the same as saying she’s happy to be coerced to follow or profess whatever religious faith the state proclaims, which I doubt is the case.



    1. Agreed.

      For example some American universities have an unofficial policy of denying freedom of speech to those people who are opposed to abortion. They believe such a policy only effects religious people – and religious people are too ignorant to matter (indeed need to be liberated from the beliefs – something Tom Wolfe attacked in his latest novel). They forget about (for example) “Atheists for Life”. The ideology of the universities is just one form of atheism (it is an established church) there are other forms of atheism – other philosophies not just one. Other belief systems need to be tolerated.



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