Cameron is not only redefining marriage, he is constricting conservatism
His Grace has received more criticism, insults, threats and general unpleasantness on this matter than any other. On 'gay marriage', he has been informed that he is 'obsessed' by the issue (they have discovered 10 or 15 posts by His Grace on the matter - out of more than 2000...) and so, they conclude, he is probably a closet homosexual himself. It appears that only homosexuals may discuss homosexuality and associated matters, and if anyone else should dare do so (namely, a heterosexual), they are actually revealing their true latent sexual desire.
Thankfully, not all gays and lesbians are of the homosexualist-gaystapo-extremist variety: the vast majority simply want to live and let live, preferring to get on with their careers, love friends and family, decorate the home, plan a holiday and worship their god. This is the normal everyday stuff of a mundane life. Like the rest of civil society, they don't seek to impose anything upon anyone or to disturb the natural social order. They are not driven to express a personal identity primarily in terms of genital function: they are more rounded, tolerant and benevolent than those who seek to bully, harass and censor all reasonable and rational debate on the issue.
As the Government today announces its response to the public 'consultation' on same-sex marriage (as if the results weren't foregone), it is interesting to observe how it is not only 'marriage' which is being redefined, but conservatism itself. So much so that those who oppose the move (which includes about 40 per cent of the Parliamentary Party) must be asking themselves if they are actually any longer conservative at all.
The problem is the increasingly widespread use of the paternalistic 'should' and 'ought'.
The Prime Minister announced two years ago that he is introducing the reform 'because I'm a Conservative'. Tim Montgomerie is of the view that 'Conservatives should embrace gay marriage', and Nick Herbert MP is of the view that 'Conservatives who believe in marriage should feel this most strongly'. There are many other prominent Tories who frame the debate in the imperative terms of duty and obligation to the core philosophy.
Stewart Jackson MP isn't the only one to find such an approach 'arrogant' and 'disingenuous'. Mark Pritchard MP observes: “The Bill is likely to alienate the Tory grassroots, natural Conservative voters, and multiple faith communities. Number 10 is out of touch with mainstream public opinion and needs to shelve it.”
The Church of England has responded with uncharacteristic precision, and the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference remains firmly opposed to the Government’s plans. And yesterday in Parliament, Rehman Chishti MP, the son of an imam, asked the Equalities Minister what Muslims had said to the Government during its consultation. Mrs Miller said they had voiced ‘some concern’.
Are all these opposing voices fundamentally unconservative, or are they simply anti-Conservative? Is it the top-down Tory instinct to talk in terms of 'should', while the bottom-up Whiggish approach is one of natural questioning and dissent?
The reality is that under David Cameron, Conservatism has ceased to be a broad church after the fashion of its conciliar Anglican heritage: it has become more centralised, elitist and authoritarian, demanding uncompromising adherence to the modernist orthodoxy of equality and rights. Those who view gay marriage as an unconservative revolution rather than a natural evolution are, as Tim Montgomerie says, 'angry voices' which are 'out of touch with the country'. Which is a little odd, because His Grace isn't remotely angry. But such simple emotional judgmentalism is contiguous with the patronising 'should' and 'ought'. They tell us what we must believe, and then direct us in our feelings.
Might it simply be that the dissenting voices care more about the future electoral prospects of the Conservative Party than this absurdly over-prioritised reform, which is causing more dissent and division than anything in the party's history bar Europe? Is it not a psephological fact that natural conservatives are leaving the Conservative Party in droves over this issue, and are less likely to vote for them in 2015 because of it? However morally right or ethically justifiable this reform may be, it is undoubtedly and undeniably terrible politics.
His Grace remains a conservative... he thinks. And he will be mocked, jeered, insulted, reviled and ultimately excommunicated, simply because this 'should' and 'ought' cannot, in conscience, be obeyed.