I have said elsewhere in my blogs that I am an atheist – religious faith is essentially meaningless to me. I only mention it again now because religion is impacting on something I feel strongly about – same sex-marriage. Actually, marriage is also something I refuse to buy into (too much commitment, shudder, shudder) but like faith, there are many people to whom it matters a great deal. It is the greatest declaration of love between two people, two fully consenting adults* who want to show their unity to the world. In the forms of marriage service I’m familiar with, the couple promise to love, honour and cherish each other. And to forsake all others, etc. It’s an honourable contract between two equals (at least in theory). How can homosexuality be seen to pervert that? If two people want to publicly cement their relationship , what difference does gender make? ‘It devalues marriage!’ some may cry but, really? Surely the point is that same-sex couples want to get wed because of the status that marriage confers on a relationship. Shouldn’t that be something to celebrate? Once upon a time, strict rules applied to every aspect of human existence. Shame, ostracism and, sometimes, extreme forms of punishment could be meted out to transgressors. It didn’t stop the rule breaking though, did it? Fear of a vengeful god or eternal hellfire wasn’t enough of a deterrent. Babies were still born out-of-wedlock, spouses were still unfaithful and so on and so on. The difference is, then it was all kept a shame-filled secret, now we’re all on view. We may not have Orwell’s version of Big Brother but we are all on record all the time. CCTV, tracking cookies, credit-ratings. It’s all out there. Even our mobile phone signals are used to track us down. Whatever the rights and wrongs of present-day society, at least we have open-ness. It’s not so easy to hide an unmarried, pregnant girl in a nunnery. It’s not so easy to pass off another man’s child as your husband’s. There are fewer and fewer places to hide our shame so, now, we don’t hide it. We’ve become defiant. So what if someone has kids by different fathers? So what if your parents aren’t married? So what if openly gay people want to openly get married? Secrecy can breed cruelty and pain. Frankness can disarm a critic.
I hope that the UK government does vote for gay marriage. I warm to the Unitarians, the Quakers and the more liberal Judaic sects for their support of this move and I don’t think that the more conservative churches/sects/ideologies can opt out. Having said that, I can fully understand why they would want to. In fact, by the terms of their beliefs, they have to reject gay marriage because it’s a sin in the eyes of God. I believe that they’re wrong but if that’s what people believe, then that’s what people believe and I feel for them because they’ll be caught between a rock and a hard place if the law changes. But, this is a nation, that’s governed by the State and not the Church and it will be interesting to see how this works out.
In the meantime, I look forward to a day when race, creed, colour and sexuality are unremarkable and unremarked on. Here’s to when we care only whether the people around us are decent-hearted folk who are doing their best.
* I realise that this isn’t always true but that’s a whole different subject.