I think of myself as a progressive-thinking, accepting and mostly tolerant man with strong beliefs; one of which is that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions. If you are racist or homophobic then fine! I don’t agree with you AT ALL, but you’re entitled to your opinion. Be careful, because as time goes those views might leave you looking like an idiot.
This little post has come about because of differences in opinion between myself and many others – in my physical existence and in my digital one – about what marriage is. I believe strongly that there is no reason whatsoever why a man and another man, or a woman and another woman, should not be able to get Married. I’m talking actual, fair, equal marriage the likes of which are granted to millions of straight couples every day. I’m not getting wrapped up in the legal ins and outs of the recent announcement that – in my current understanding – in the Churches of England and Wales it will still be illegal to marry same sex couples, despite a for-show decision allowing other institutions to do so. I haven’t read enough about the outcome, or the reaction to it, to make any kind of informed comment on the situation. So that’ll have to come another day.
What I do want to talk about, briefly, is something I’ve noticed in the arguments of even the most rational, sensible and well-meaning people regarding their loose definition of what Marriage means. I was going to ask people’s permission to include word-for-word quotes but I think I can do just as well in consolidating their reasoning into one hypothetical participant in the little conversation I’m about to relate.
I have no interest in relaying the views of people who think homosexuality is morally or ethically wrong – they have their opinions, I disagree with them, we’ll never reach a compromise. But several people have said something along the lines of the following to me recently:
“I have no problem whatsoever with gays and lesbians. I don’t even have issues with them adopting and bringing up children. If they want to bind themselves to their partner legally through Civil Partnerships then let them! However, I believe that Marriage is something that should only happen between a man and a woman.”
Apart from the wording of this statement (which, yes, I’ve been pretty creative with in order to relay some of the language that people use, often without them even realising their doing so, that seems as though they’re giving their permission for these “gays and lesbians” to do the things they want to do) it seems, on the surface, that the first three sentences at least are completely fair and actually rather admirable as opinions go.
Though that last sentence begs one big question, if you ask me. It’s a very simple one: WHY? Why do you think Marriage is something that should only be shared by a man and a woman and not by two members of the same gender? WHY do you think this? These people are ready for this, of course, since they feel this very strongly. They say “because that’s how I was brought up” or “that’s what is taught in my religion” and they, again, are fair answers, but they’re not good ones; they don’t answer the question I asked, but another – related – one. They answer WHERE these people got this view, but it does not WHY they think it. Or rather it doesn’t answer why THEY think it.
If you have a view on this – very complex – topic then you’re already thinking for yourself. You’ve stood apart from the crowd enough to go on record to say that you don’t think Marriage should apply to homosexual relationships. The more ignorant (in the true sense of the word, not the insulting label sense) of you may say that homosexual couples should be happy with their Civil Partnerships – they take care of all the legal stuff and it sort of makes it all official so what’s to complain about? Again, that’s a whole other issue that I won’t address here.
So, we’ve got to the bottom of WHERE someone may get a view that “homosexuality is fine but Marriage should not be an option available to them being an institution that should be shared only by male/female couples”. I’ll ask the question again: WHY do you think this?
“Well, because God/nature created men and women in order to reproduce! Gay couples can’t do that, ergo why get married?”
My parents married when I was six years old. I know people whose parents have died of old age unmarried. They’re great people. And what about straight couples who aren’t able to have kids – whether through some accident of nature or some cruel punishment from God? Should they be allowed to Marry? They can’t reproduce, can they? So they should be denied this right too, right? I’ll ask again… WHY do YOU think Marriage should apply only to straight couples?
“Um, well, I don’t force my beliefs on anyone else, so why do they feel the need to force theirs down my throat?” Now you’re just getting angry and letting the mask of reasonable, tolerant so-and-so slip. Try again. Why shouldn’t gay couples be allowed to Marry?
“Well, because Marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman only!” Yes, that’s your opinion, you’ve already said that. That’s what I’m asking you to explain to me. Give me your reasons WHY it should apply only to straight couples.
“Traditionally, Marriage is between men and women”. Again, you’re repeating your opinion and putting ‘traditionally’ at the start is only raising more questions, I’m afraid. Define ‘tradition’ – traditionally, black people were brought to rich plantations in chains to work as slaves. Or is that not what you mean it to mean?
“Morally… Ethically…” Stop there, because the moral or ethical stance can surely only be appointed from a viewpoint that already views something as amoral or unethical. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a moral or ethical issue at all!
“Well, why SHOULD Marriage be something that can happen between men and men, or women and women?!”
I’m glad you asked.
Marriage, to me personally (and as you know opinions are allowed to be disagreed with, so feel free if you do!), has nothing to do with gender. It’s about making official the legal and emotional bonds that are nurtured over a time (whether a short or long time) between two people who love each other enough to commit the rest of their lives together*. A deep gesture of dedication and trust. (*Things can go wrong and divorce is an unfortunate necessity). Why should this apply solely to straight couples? Why should only men and women who love each other be allowed to make this pact? Shouldn’t an equal society allow EVERYONE who love each other this much to make this commitment? WHY?
I’m still waiting for an answer…