Thursday, 10 May 2012

Same-sex marriage

I’ve never considered myself to be the marrying kind - although as I grow older I’m increasingly fond of the idea of settling down with someone long-term (of course, the older I get, the less likely I am to find anyone willing to share my life, but that’s a different matter).

I’ve therefore never given much thought to the legalities, or even the concept, of gay marriage, although the introduction of civil partnerships a few years ago was a long-required step to protect the interests of long-term same-sex partners. I remember the days when AIDS was seen as the “gay plague” and I knew many gay men who fell to the disease when it was a definite and fairly quick death sentence. None of those men’s partners were allowed to sit at their hospital bedsides or to inherit their pension or other rights without a lot of cajoling and complicated legalese. The right to equality under the law was hard fought and changed many perceptions about gay lifestyles - noth least within the gay community itself!

Socialogical research shows that young gays increasingly value long-term relationships and monogamy over one-night stands - certainly when I was growing up, being gay really was equivalent to being both sexually and emotionally promiscuous. Of course that's a generalisation and there's a great deal of sleeping around today (just pick up your smartphone and look at any gay "dating" app) and there are loads of famous long-term relationships from generations past, but over the last decade, the gays really have grown up a lot. Legal, social and personal pressures have meant that we have refocussed our energies and expectations. And this can only be a good thing.

So while many were satisfied with the idea of civil partnerships, It’s not until I started talking with people like Jay Kay that I realised that if our society really believes in equality regardless of religion (or lack thereof), gender (or confusion about it) or sexual orientation (regardless of  nature or nurture arguments), using two different terms for a legally equivalent state is BY DEFINITION discriminatory and inequitable. 

On the day President Obama got off the fence and risked political suicide by unequivocally coming out in favour of marriage equality, a whole host of religious leaders have come out decrying his statement in their wish to protect the “sanctity” of marriage.

Dear Cardinals, Archbishops, Imams, Rabbis and other believers in whatever imagined “higher powers”, please explain in what way opening CIVIL matrimony to same-gender couples will undermine the values of your religious marriage ceremonies?

Despite their vows of chastity and celibacy, Catholic priests have fathered innumerable children down the ages and raped (let’s stop pussy-footing about with the word “abused”) children of both genders since forever. All the while, church institutions consider it more important to paint fig leaves over all this bullshit rather than actually care for the people they have damaged. Until very recently, the catholic view of marriage insisted that women had no say whatsoever in the running of the matrimonial couple, and were little less than their husbands’ chattels.

Is this how you sanctify your vows and your views of HOLY matrimony?

Anglican and miscellaneous protestant denominations who can’t agree among themselves about the nature of marriage or divorce, you’re happy to allow philanderers, avowed adulterers and other reprobates to participate in your sacrament without making a hue and cry about how the state of marriage has become completely debased and devalued in the last 100 years and yet now all of a sudden you’ve found the deeper meaning of matrimony and want civil unions to follow your outdated and hypocritical values?

Sort out what YOU believe in, act accordingly, and only THEN will you have the right to impose your views on the rest of society, which shares fewer and fewer of your beliefs and values.

Jewish and Muslim couples fare no better. The civil state has accorded their ceremonies the full power and benefit of law and those following your faiths full and equal protection under the law. Why can’t you show the civil state the same rights and privileges so that those who do not follow your outdated views born of generations of patrician nomads?

Mixed marriages, whether between races or faith systems, are increasingly common. My immediate neighbours are a Muslim-Hindu couple (he's Hindu, she's Muslim) with three adult chuldren (one daughter and two sons). Neither pair of grandparents has visited them for years because of religious hatred, to the extent that none of them turned up to the daughter's civil marriage ceremony (to a Westerner).

If the religions can't agree among themselves what marriage is about, and that love conquers religious differences, how on earth can they all speak in one voice against same-sex unions?

I have two questions to all you people of faith:

1. Why should civic society, built on principles of equality and democracy, give any credence to your ideas of what marriage is about, given they are based at their very soul on inequality and patrician values, generated when people rarely lived beyond 40?

2. In what way will civil marriages between same-sex couples undermine your definitions of marriage? All existing and proposed same-gender marriage legislation protects your right to marry whomever you want in whatever manner you want without forcing you to marry anyone you don’t want to.

In all the millions of words spewed forth, I have yet to see any religious leader approach either of those questions, never mind propose an answer. So please, religious nut jobs, how about it?