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Gay marriage
Gay marriage is likely to be legalised under UK law (Reuters)

They say it's impossible to travel back in time, but sit amongst the Tory backbenchers and you'll soon find yourself in the 19th century.

Heritage and culture have their place in a vibrant modern society, but traditionalism in politics weighs down progress like a stubborn anchor.

Present-day puritans in parliament are starting to lose every battle in their war for social tyranny. Attitudes towards drugs are relaxing, women are making strides in their march towards total equality, and now paliament's prehistoric creatures are losing hearts and minds over gay marriage.

The arguments for legalising gay marriage are compelling and it will pass through parliament with relative ease, heralded by the hopeless swansong roars of a few political dinosaurs.

Within the legislation is the protection for the religious sects who turn their backs on the future and stare wistfully at the past, trying desperately to cling with their fingertips to the fraying manuscripts of old puritanical laws.

This appears to be the perfect liberal balance. The law will not intervene to prevent gay marriages being carried out by those who see it as compatible with their interpretation of a faith, nor will it force those who are viscerally opposed because of their own differing belief system to conduct such services, which should be enough to quench the traditionalists' hellfire.

Now that the debate over gay marriage is all but won, left to a parliamentary formality, it is here in this balance that we find a new and tough question to be asked, this time of believers in social liberalism.

If you are on the correct side of history, and you support the rights of everyone to be married, then you will undoubtedly see homosexuality as it is - natural.

Sexuality is as much an unalterable part of a person as their race.

Those on the wrong side of this civil rights struggle inevitably view homosexuality as an unnatural perversion. A lifestyle choice, like deciding what clothes to wear on any given day. They ignore that even if homosexuality is more informed by nurture rather than biology - and there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that that is true - it would still be an inherently natural formation of personality and one which does not boil down to choice.

Once we accept that homosexuality is as natural as race, we must then - liberals in particular - ask ourselves how accepting of intolerance we are willing to be.

Potency of liberal instincts

This is because there is then no moral difference between refusing to carry out marriages on the basis of sexuality or of race. Both are unchangeable and innate parts of being a person. If you allow religious discretion to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality, then you allow it on all other grounds too.

And this is where the potency of an individual's liberal instincts is measured.

Do you think people and organisations should be allowed to discriminate on grounds of race or sexuality, as long as the state's laws do not?

Why should religious discrimination against sexuality be tolerated, when the law would not extend the same tolerance on racial grounds?

I don't have the answer. I'm not even sure what I think.

My instinct would be to allow religious and political groups to discriminate as they see fit in terms of membership, ceremonies and so on, because I have faith in the power of rationality, reason and debate as a way of defeating this type of idiocy.

I take a Millean view on free expression and think that denying this political and religious freedom deprives not only these people their inalienable rights, but also steals the opportunity for those opposed to challenge such ignorance and for others to hear this.

When it comes to business, public services, and the economy, there should be no discrimination on any grounds whatsoever because citizens have no choice but to work and consume within it.

I realise that this is fallible and I am still considering my position. My mind is by no means made up. But the debate so far has, perhaps inevitably, focused on the religious, moral and political arguments for and against legalising gay marriage.

Now we must focus on the liberal dilemma sounded by the discordance within the law of affording sexuality-based discrimination rights to certain religious groups.

Shane Croucher is a business reporter for IBTimes UK.
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This article was updated November 30, -0001 00:00 AM
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