It could be said that most arguments put forward against gay marriage (and homosexuality in general) are based on religion. Many Christian groups have argued that such a concept is against God's work and his law, which allegedly states that only a man and a woman should be together as a couple. They often refer to the Bible, Leviticus 18:22 being the most popular reference, and to the statements of religious leaders to support their views. With that in mind, will we ever see weddings between two men or two women in our local church in the future? Or, rather, should we even see such a thing?
According to William Crawley, a BBC journalist and former Presbyterian minister, such weddings will inevitably happen across the Western world, regardless of the various churches' opinions at the moment. "Catholics are the largest supportive group in the U.S. at the moment, for example," he states, "even though the bishops are largely against [gay marriage]. There's a divide now between the church authorities and the regular Catholic community in America, even with a well-known politician such as Joe Biden [who is Roman Catholic]; he's in favor of gay marriage and admits that publicly without a problem. It's clear that there's a change happening from the ground up on the issue."
Crawley's home city of Belfast in Northern Ireland played host to an interesting set of events recently, as Northern Ireland's government turned down a motion to support same-sex marriage in the UK region. That didn't banish hopes for the local LGBT community, however; at 47.4 percent, the number of politicians supporting it has never been so high. "You don't have to be black to be against racism," said Basil McCrea of the Ulster Unionist Party during his speech in favor of the motion. "You don't have to be female to speak out against domestic violence, and I don't have to be gay to be against prejudice, misinformation and bullying." John O'Doherty, director of Equal Marriage Northern Ireland, said that he was "really hopeful" about the vote, as it showed support from politicians they hadn't expected. "It was a definite step forward," said O'Doherty while speaking on RTÉ Radio recently. "Even though we didn't get the result we were hoping for, there was hope to be found at the debate that we couldn't have imagined five or 10 years ago."
William Crawley can understand that hope and explains that there's good reason behind it. "Over in Britain, there's a movement in the Evangelical Church of people who have changed their mind on the subject of gay marriage. There's a Presbyterian congregation here in Belfast now [the All Souls Church] who march in Belfast Pride, as well as many politicians who take part in the festival, apart from the DUP." Although the DUP (the Democratic Unionist Party) is strongly opposed to same-sex marriage, it was a step forward when the new mayor of Belfast, Gavin Robinson, attended a talk as part of Belfast Pride earlier this year. Robinson was the first politician from the DUP to attend such an event.
Earlier this year Denmark managed to introduce gay marriage into the country's churches. The Danes are predominantly Lutheran, so you could be forgiven for assuming that the same story would not happen for Catholics as well as other Protestant denominations in either the U.S. or Europe. There's a strong chance that the Lutherans won't be the exception, though. "I think it will happen sooner or later," says Crawley, comparing the debate to that of divorce, which was controversial in Ireland 20 years ago. "I remember when people would say to me that they couldn't accept the idea of divorced people remarrying in a church, but that's no longer a problem. Twenty years can change a lot. In 20 years' time, I'm certain that we'll have same-sex marriage, and a long history of it."
Commenting on the topic in a legal context (in contrast to the attitudes of any church), Crawley wrapped up our interview with a claim that was at first confusing but soon made sense: "There are some people of the opinion that homosexuality is a sin, but who can support gay marriage. There was a time when people thought that if something was illegal in the Bible, it should be illegal in state law. Most people don't think like that anymore. Let's say I think that drinking and smoking isn't right, but I want to live in a democracy that gives us a choice. So you can support a person's freedom while at the same time maintaining your own beliefs."