Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A parody of priorities

The end of civilisation as we know it?
“Marriage is a great institution,” said Mae West. “But I’m just not ready for an institution.”

That’s pretty much been my feeling for a very long time and, as such, when the question of gay marriage came up, I felt utterly disinterested in it.

Until, that is, it turned into the brouhaha that it has now become.

The quality of the discussion – if one can dare to allude to ‘quality’ – could be taken as a prime example of the state of public discourse in the UK.

What has been most astonishing is the claims of some religious people – note that “some” – that such a move would … well, pretty much mark the end of civilisation as we know it.

There have been claims that allowing those nasty gays (and let’s not even mention the lezzers) to marry would, for instance, devalue the heterosexual marriage of the person commenting.


They never seem to have an answer.

The only person who can devalue your relationship in your own eyes is you yourself.

Then there are the comments that the purpose of marriage is for procreation, which is also errant nonsense, since plenty of people who do marry do not, for whatever reason, go on to have children.

Should they be barred from marrying or forced to divorce once it’s clear that they have neither the ability nor the will to produce offspring?

Then there’s the claim that marriage provides a stable environment for children.

Given the number of dysfunctional families, and the divorce rate – this is hardly a convincing argument either, and it’s rendered even less so when you consider that plenty of children grow into perfectly rounded and decent adults in households where the parents are not married or even (whisper it) where there is only one parent.

It’s hardly rocket science to point out that the best thing for any child is to grow up in a stable, safe and loving home – but that is not a synonym, however much some might want it to be, for a married, heterosexual one.

As to the argument of 'tradition', many once-traditional things have been changed as society has developed – including in relation to marriage. We no longer regard women as 'chattels', for instance, or think that rape within marriage is acceptable. Both these reflect changes from attitudes/beliefs that were once the norm, and were maintained by law or a lack thereof.

It is an historic fact that marriage is not the invention of any religion, so no religion can make claims to ownership of the concept.

Yet now it seems that some Conservatives are suggesting that, if the government pushes ahead with its plans, there will be civil disobedience.

Let's be clear that people have a right to believe what they want – and they should have a right to be able to say what they believe. That's not the issue.

It’s equally worth stressing that a belief that lesbians or gays shouldn’t marry is not, of itself, proof of homophobia, any more than a belief that heterosexuals should not have access to civil partnerships would be taken as an indication of heterophobia or homophobia.

That said, when opponents of marriage equality such as Bob Blackman MP start suggesting that the government would be better employed reintroducing Section 28, then we are talking homophobia.

That piece of 1988 legislation banned the 'promotion' of "the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship" in schools, and has been blamed for a rise in homophobic bullying of young people. It was eventually repealed in 2003 – in the face of opposition. 

But the terror of marriage equality is an indication of a continued obsession with sex, with what consenting adults do with their genitals – and with controlling that: and it promotes the question of sexual orientation, which the Bible makes absolutely no mention of Jesus bothering to comment on, into a position of far more import than issues that the same book does have Jesus commenting on.

And it is a parody of priorities that allowing two people who love each other to marry is considered worthy of civil disobedience by people who would probably not think that the demonisation of people with disabilities merited the same.

Rarely has one more keenly felt the desire to ask ‘what would Jesus do?’ of these hysterics. The opinion that they hold is not even held by all religious people or groups. Quakers and liberal Jewish groups, for instance, are happy with the plans. A mosque set up recently for LGBT Muslims in Paris has said it would carry out marriages.

So from being unconcerned about the issue, I now find myself thinking that there is no coherent argument against it.

Indeed, while I have no more desire to get hitched myself than ever before – and while I don't consider it to be remotely the most important issue facing the country – if other people want to get married, and if other people want to have a religious service, then they should be able to do so.

And if we pretend to real equality, then the option of having a civil partnership should be extended to heterosexual couples too.

Goodness: are we really almost into the teenage years of the 21st century?

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