Recently, the Canadian courts amended the law of marriage to allow same sex couples to get married, legally. In other words, under this new legal dispensation, a man can get married to a fellow man and a woman to a fellow woman.
Indeed, some men did not waste time; they immediately walked down the aisle with their â€˜bridesâ€™. We shall have to rethink marital vocabulary henceforth.
Hitherto, under the Common Law regime, that is the legal regime in most of the English-speaking world, marriage was specifically defined to exclude same sex marriages. The definition of marriage in most Common wealth countries is still the voluntary union of a man and woman, for life, to the exclusion of all others.
This doctrine has come under attack from various quarters over the years. Yet none has threatened to tear the whole concept of traditional marriage, as we have known it, as the latest pronouncements by Canadian courts have.
The first major onslaught on the common law doctrine of marriage aimed at the â€˜for lifeâ€™ part of the doctrine.
Divorce on request has ensured that â€˜for lifeâ€™ has become quite a fluid statement in marriage. The law in fact acknowledges that there are times when divorce is inevitable.
Yet, with all the divorce in the West and most other parts of the world, marriage seemed to have endured. After all, adultery, cruelty and desertion in marriage are serious threats to the oneness envisaged in marriage. Yet many couples are able to endure these threats to remain married and vindicate the Common Law doctrine of one man, one wife, for life.
But the storm, which this doctrine is currently facing, is not like any it has faced before. The gender of the people getting married seems to be so fundamental that if this is tampered with, the way the Canadian Court has done, marriage as we have hitherto known it, is unlikely to remain universally the same.
In most African communities, the part of the doctrine that was found most difficult to deal with was the one-wife aspect. At the last Lambeth Conference, bishops from some African countries asked for special dispensation for their polygamous flock. Polygamy abounds in much of rural Africa just as Christianity, the basis of the Common Law doctrine of marriage.
Most arranged marriages are found in Asia. So, the Asian challenge to the Common Law doctrine of marriage has emanated from the angle of whether the union should be completely voluntary. They feel that parents should play a central role in their childrenâ€™s marriages.
But polygamy, divorce and arranged marriages pale in comparison to the new dispensation that would allow marriage to same sex couples.
Given that the Common Law doctrine has its roots in the Christian religion, it is easy to understand why homosexual and lesbian marriages may mark that inevitable time when the Church and State will have to go their separate ways, as far as marriage is concerned.
Polygamy and arranged marriages were practised in the biblical times. Though the Bible does not necessarily recommend these practices for contemporary Christians, they do not face as direct and harsh condemnation as homosexuality does.
To elevate it to the level of accepted marriage is therefore a serious affront to the mainstream churches.
Same sex marriages contravene Common Law and church regimes