Dean of Worcester: I agree with allowing equal marriage because ‘marriage is not an institution’

PinkNews logo on pink background with rainbow corners.

The Dean of Worcester has written an opinion piece laying out his reasons for supporting marriage equality, and the government’s plans to legalise equal marriage.

The head of the Chapter of Worcester, Peter Atkinson, writes for Halesowen News, saying why he thinks equal marriage should become law in the UK, and that those opposed to marriage equality should not refer to the current state of marriage as “traditional”, as the state of marriages has changed considerably in recent history.

He writes: “Some politicians and some church leaders have busied themselves over Christmas condemning the idea of gay marriage, and using some odd arguments to do so.

“For instance, it is said that gay marriage would damage the ‘institution of marriage’… When I married my wife, I thought I was forming a lifelong union with her, not entering an institution.”

“My loyalty is to her, not to a thing (let alone an institution) called marriage… The idea of marriage has evolved, and it continues to do so.”

He writes that no formal celebration of marriage was required until 1753, and discusses the changes therein with respect to wives being the property of their husband. He continues:

“Until relatively recent times, it was agreed that a wife was subject to her husband, but we have seen a social revolution here.

“Few would argue for a return to the days when a husband could sell off his wife at a fair (as happened late into the 19th century).”

The Dean also writes that it is unlikely that much of the population would want to revert back to a time when marriage was for life, and that people would not want to become “locked into unhappy marriage for life”.

“Until relatively recent times, the procreation of children was taken to be the main point of marriage, but today most people recognize the need to balance that with responsible family planning.

“A modern marriage, in which a man and a woman regard themselves as equals, in which one or both may have been married before, and in which contraception is used to space and limit the number of children, would frankly have been unrecognisable as a marriage at all a couple of centuries ago.

“Those who wish to argue against gay marriage should not rely on arguments about the unchanging character of the ‘institution of marriage’.”

He ends by writing: “If marriage is an ‘institution’ at all, it is one with a built-in faculty for re-inventing itself.”

Same-sex couples in England and Wales are set to be allowed to marry, under plans announced by Culture Secretary Maria Miller in the House of Commons last month.

Mrs Miller took to the despatch box to say she was putting in place a “quadruple lock” of measures to guarantee religious organisations would not have to marry gay couples against their wishes.

The lock included a ban on the Church of England, and Church in Wales performing same-sex weddings, and the governing bodies of other religious groups would be allowed to “opt-in”, in order to perform the ceremonies.