Letters: Same-sex union fears are baseless

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The Coalition for Marriage says it "reaches out to people of all faiths and none", indicating that faith communities are behind the petition and that their script derives from the tenets of their largely evangelical fundamentalism ("Gay marriage: the fight is on", 7 April). Faith groups may contribute to the debate, but no greater value should be placed on their views than on those of any other section of society.

C4M claims "The Coalition's petition demonstrates that there is broad public opposition to redefining marriage." This is simply not true. The latest statistics suggest percentages of between 43 and 62 in favour of equal marriage where the corresponding figures against it are 32 and 27.

C4M's fear that redefining marriage "for the rest of us [heterosexuals]" will cause [us] to be "sidelined" is blatant scaremongering: "People's careers could be harmed, couples seeking to adopt or foster could be excluded..." How? Same-sex marriages will always be a minority of marriages simply because there are fewer gay men and lesbians. How can this LGBT minority sideline the majority? The two forms of marriage will exist side by side with neither threatening the other. Does Anglicanism threaten or sideline the Roman Catholic Church, or Islam sideline Christianity? And how can a career be harmed? How will a heterosexual married couple be prevented from adopting children?

More scaremongering is contained in this sentence, too. "If marriage is redefined once, what is to stop it being redefined to allow polygamy?" Simple: no one is suggesting that we redefine marriage to include more than two people.

Dr Michael Johnson

Brighton

When I read stories like "Gay marriage: the fight is on" I am reminded how grateful I am to live in Spain. I am English and married my partner, who is Welsh, five years ago in a state registry office in Sitges, near Barcelona.

When the Spanish government, then Socialist, was introducing same-sex marriage legislation, the Catholic Church in Madrid was outraged and protested strongly. Fortunately the then president told the bishops that the government ruled Spain and not the Church, and they had no right to try to force their views on everybody else.

I wonder if those amateurs in the UK Government will have the courage to do the same?

Derrick Smith

Barcelona, Spain

In "Gay marriages would be civil, not religious" (7 April) you state, correctly, that the Government's proposal is to remove the ban on same-sex couples having a civil marriage in a register office or other approved premises but that "it does not cover religious marriage which will continue to be legally possible only between a man and a woman."

Marriage cannot be split in this way. Whether the ceremony is civil or religious, the legal status of the parties is the same. That this is the legal position was affirmed by the courts in the case R v Dibdin [1910], in which it was held that a vicar could not lawfully withhold Holy Communion from a couple where a man had married his deceased's wife's sister, such a marriage having been declared valid by an Act of Parliament in 1907.

Lord Justice Fletcher Moulton stated: "The contract of marriage is a contract whereby a man and a woman accept the relationship of man and wife, the one to the other, and the status and obligations which flow therefrom. The procedure by which the contract can legally be made may vary widely, but the result is in all cases the same. To the law there is only one contract of marriage." In the House of Lords Lord Ashbourne put it succinctly: "They are lawful spouses, whether married in church or registrar's office, and must in law be so regarded."

David Lamming

Boxford, Suffolk

Denunciation of Grass is absurd and paranoiac

The denunciation of Günter Grass by the Israeli embassy in Berlin, as quoted by Christina Patterson ("If even a Nobel laureate isn't allowed to speak out, then who is?", 11 April), that it is "a European tradition to accuse the Jews before the Passover festival of ritual murder" is an example of a current fashion among the wilder shores of right-wing Jewish opinion, which unhappily includes the Netanyahu government. Critics are accused not merely of anti-Semitism, but specifically of trying to awaken in people's minds the medieval blood libel that Jews drink the blood of Christian children.

It has previously been used against Jenny Tonge, for saying there should be an investigation into allegations of organ trading among the relief workers in the Haiti earthquake (where there was an Israeli team).

Whatever you think of Günter Grass and Jenny Tonge, the allegation that they are trying to get people to think that Jews drink the blood of Christian children is clearly one of those statements that tells you more about the people making it than the people it is made against.

Paranoia, aggression, and exultation in a sense of victimhood – all seem familiar signs of lunatic-fringe extremism.

Roger Schafir

London N21

Christina Patterson charges those criticising Günter Grass's recent anti-Israel poem with hypocrisy.

But the hypocrisy lies with Europeans who shed crocodile tears for the Jewish victims of genocide in the Second World War while denying Israel's six million Jews the right of self-defence against Iran's genocidal threats today. This hypocrisy is compounded by the fact that Britain and Germany, among others, have recently killed thousands of Afghan civilians in response to a less serious danger.

Sadly, it seems that, like their forebears within Christendom, the only people many in post-Christian European expect to turn the other cheek are the Jews.

Dr JG Campbell

Llandogo, Gwent

The hysterical ad hominem references of Günter Grass's detractors to his having been drafted as an adolescent into the SS, as if he could have avoided it, are a clear indication that his poem "What Must Be Said" is spot-on.

After many Israeli "pre-emptive" strikes, some of which have ended in disaster for Israel as well as her opponents, the target now for the Netanyahu government appears to be Iran; which by contrast has not overtly attacked another country for a very long time. Donald Macintyre (29 March) reported that the Israelis were negotiating with President Ilham Aliyev of the Republic of Azerbaijan for use of his airfields.

This is extremely dangerous. Aliyev nurses wild irredentist claims not only against Iran, but also against Dagestan, which is part of the Russian Federation, and of course against the Karabakh Armenians. Furthermore, he is a smooth talker. Grass is right. We could be sleepwalking into a world war.

Amid the sabre-rattling, Iran's legitimate opposition, the Green Path for Hope movement, has been forgotten. Their leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, remain under house arrest. Instead of fretting that Ayatollah Khamenei might possibly acquire some useless piece of nuclear hardware, Obama should be pressuring him for their release as his first priority.

David Hamilton

Edinburgh

Howard Jacobson strongly disapproves of George Galloway's use of the term "Israeli imperialism" (7 April). If annexing ever more of your neighbour's territory is not imperialism, perhaps Mr Jacobson could think of a better word for it.

David Simmonds

Epping, Essex

The fine art of identifying art

David Lister (7 April) says he has "had enough of the critics who insist on telling the world what is and isn't art", and then goes on to do just that.

The problem with the "art is in the eye of the beholder" fallacy is that if art can be anything then this is the same as saying art is nothing. This may well be fertile ground for philosophers of aesthetics but in the day-to-day world art, like morality, needs an identity and a definition. This still leaves a vast amount of room for innovation and experiment, as the changing fashions of thousands of years of art history reveal. However if art is purely in the eye of the beholder the same argument could apply to morality and we all know where that leads. About such important issues civilisation needs a core of consensus.

Lister notes that no one reviewing a play ever says, "this is not theatre", but I am sure many would if they were presented with say, a production based on the concept of the emptiness of modern life which comprised no script, no actors, and a totally bare stage. Unfortunately, I am equally sure that there would be others who would loudly hail such an enterprise as a groundbreaking work of art.

Steve Edwards

Haywards Heath, West Sussex

There is little intrinsic worth in something that can be appreciated only after we have been told who made it, or that it is art. Good art stands alone, because of the imagination and craftsmanship of its creator. A striking inner vision has been made visible to others, by skilful use of a medium.

Peter J W Smith

Halifax, West Yorkshire

'British' weather hits Europe

I see that once again we suffered from "British" holiday weather over the weekend. But near the back of the paper (10 April) you printed the weather in other countries not a million miles from here: Amsterdam 10 degrees, drizzle; Berlin 11, cloudy; Brussels 10, rain; Copenhagen 5, cloudy; Geneva 12, cloudy; Paris 12, rain; Rome sunny, but only 13 degrees.

Does this mean that most of Europe had British weather as well?

John Williams

Chichester

Too many people

I share with Viv Groskop her admiration for the way that Dave Jones supports his 12 children (Opinion, 11 April).

But I object to the flip way she dismisses any concern about population growth, as if it was only of concern to the chattering classes: 210 million women are denied any means of regulating their family size (UN). Is this right?

Roger Plenty

Stroud

Call that charity?

Whatever you think the effect of capped tax relief on the charitable giving will have on the monetary receipts of charities, surely donated money thus relieved cannot possibly be construed as having come from such donors' own pockets when it is actually covered by the communal tax take?

Why can't the super-rich donate out of their own pockets, like the rest of us?

John Haran

Leigh-on-Sea, Essex

Plastic bag purge

Last October, the Welsh Assembly introduced a statutory 5p charge for carrier bags. Latest reports say that major stores have reduced usage of plastic bags by up to 90 per cent.

This is great news; there should be less litter and the environment generally will benefit by the reduction in the use of plastics.

M R Stroud

Swansea

Places named

Andrew Belsey (Letters, 10 April) is right to say that the "Soke of Peterborough" became part of Cambridgeshire in 1974. It had not, however, been officially part of Northamptonshire until then. Several years prior to that, the "Soke" had been joined to Huntingdonshire in the "County of Huntingdon & Peterborough".

David Chambers

Reading, Berkshire

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