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burkeian Your comment was a reply to Ricardo's Ghost, but please forgive me for commenting on it. The attempt you make to exclude LGBT couples from getting married on the basis that only heterosexual marriages are "natural," makes the Humean mistake of trying to derive an "ought" from an "is". People dying from cancer is also "natural": that doesn't mean it is good, and it doesn't mean that we should not do all we can to find a way of countering nature and curing cancer. In fact, the case could be made that everything that exists and happens in the empirical world is natural, including our interventions to change the course of events. After all, our brains are perfectly natural, our reasoning is natural, the scientific insights that arise from our reasonings are natural, and our interventions to improve the experience of humans are hence natural. Whether our actions in any circumstance are good or bad actions, cannot however be determined on the basis of whether or not they are "natural". It may be a longstanding historical fact that marriage has traditionally been between a man and a women - or a man and several women, in the case of some cultures - or a man and a prepubescent or very young child in some cases if we consider the Middle Ages. But just because something has happened as a rule historically and empirically doesn't entail that that event is right because it is "natural". There was a time, as I say, when marrying prepubescent girls was considered to be "natural" and acceptable. There was a time when it was considered "natural" to keep and trade in slaves. There was a time when it was considered "natural" for democracy only to permit the votes of men. If one considers such examples, the suspicion should arise that much prejudice, oppression and discrimination has been defended by apologists who regard the situations in question as being "in the natural order of things," for no other reason that the injustices have existed for a long time. For a very long time, particularly as a result of the oppression of homosexuality and LGBT people by the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, society made it as difficult as possible for LGBT couples to form unions and live together, let alone in unions that enjoyed state and social affirmation and acknowledgment. It is "natural" for same-sex couples to want to form committed unions of the kind that heterosexual couples form, despite the successful efforts of religious institutions to prevent such unions until recently. There is no intrinsic qualitative difference between a same-sex and a heterosexual relationship: there are good relationships and bad relationships in both categories. It is also irrelevant that LGBT couples cannot have biological children containing the DNA from both partners. Plenty of heterosexual married couples adopt children, or cannot have children, or choose not to have children, while an increasing number of LGBT couples adopt children or have surrogate children. Having such biological children, or having the potential to have such biological children is not considered to be a defining characteristic of a marriage. Neither the Christian Church, nor any other religious institution, has intellectual property rights to the word "marriage". It is a word in the domain of public language, and there is a public understanding of what it means. If civil society - as is the case at the moment in the UK where the recent Daily Mail poll revealed 60% support for the measure - decides it wants to allow LGBT people to enter into a civil marriage, then civil society has made the judgment that LGBT couples meet the essential criteria for being able to do so, despite the claims of religionists. Thankfully, we live in a civil, secular society, and not a theocracy. Religionists do not own the institution of marriage, and they do not own the definition of marriage, and they do not own the word "marriage". I am sure that you are right, and that Edmund Burke would have been shocked at the idea of two people of the same sex being allowed to marry. He almost certainly would have been equally shocked at the decriminalisation of gay sex, as well as plenty of other developments that are generally regarded as positive civil rights developments. However, he lived over 200 years ago. Surely we should have learned a thing or two in the course of two centuries.
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Philip Equal marriage is no more a redefinition of marriage, than modern democracy, which includes votes for women, was a redefinition of pre-women's suffrage democracy. Just as democracy that allows women to vote is a perfection of the definition of democracy, rather than a redefinition, marriage that includes same-sex couples is a perfection of the definition of marriage, rather than a redefinition.
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"But it does mean that reform must always be carried out, to cite Edmund Burke, ‘as if in the presence of canonized forefathers’." So, how many generations of imagined canonized forefathers shall we include in the jury when considering our reforms? Those who ruthlessly and callously exploited the poor in their Victorian factories while they themselves lived selfish lives of opulence and luxury? Those who supported slavery and made their wealth doing so? Or even further back, those who ensured religious "heretics" were tortured and burnt alive at the stake, or were hanged, drawn and quartered for infidelity to a despotic Crown? The further back in history we go to include such "canonized forefathers," the more unsavoury the views of the individuals included. Enlightened Conservatism preserves what is best from the past, and respects only those forefathers who deserve respect, and not without proper discrimination. The question of what is "best" for society is a contentious one. Modern western society is fast realising that dogmatic Christianity has led it into a blind alley. It has been a massive fraud perpetrated on humanity. To identify "Real Conservatism" with the brand that has historically been fused with sexually repressive and judgmental Christianity has no electoral or human future. The unmodernised, unreconstructed Conservative Party repeatedly failed to win elections against Tony Blair. We now have a Conservative Prime Minister, and one whose personal popularity is polled to be significantly higher than that of the other leaders, notwithstanding the fact that David Cameron is inextricably associated with the Conservatives' commitment to introduce same-sex marriage. The kind of Conservatism Mark Dooley advocates has little appeal in modern Britain, and it is to the credit of modern Britain that this is the case.
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Jan 5, 2013