“Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!”

Photo credit: lewishamdreamer

Photo credit: lewishamdreamer

Rarely has a policy debate been so undeserving of that title. There is no valid argument against gay marriage, none at all. Those who oppose it deploy spurious reasoning which masks emotional insecurities about two people of the same sex loving each other and wanting to enshrine this marriage in an ancient institution.

David Cameron’s announcement in last year’s conference speech that he supported gay marriage because he was a conservative indicated how far he’d come in modernising the Conservative party. All three parties support gay marriage and, despite impassioned rhetoric from some religious leaders and Tory backbenchers, it will in all likelihood be signed into law this Parliament. Perhaps Cameron did not expect such a vocal, if minority, opposition.

The religious leaders have not found refuge in understatement. Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s leading Catholic, claimed legalising gay marriage would be ‘a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right’ and the government’s ‘intolerance will shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world’. Perhaps the Cardinal’s level of logic is incomprehensible to us mere mortals, but to be honest I’m not quite sure what he is on about here. Our very own Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who refuses to condemn a bill still being considered in his native Uganda which would make homosexuality punishable by death, has pronounced that David Cameron would be a ‘dictator’ if he imposed gay marriage on society. So the Cardinal needs to read up on basic logic and the Archbishop needs to read a dictionary.

Those who oppose gay marriage deliberately misinterpret marriage’s essential meaning. They might say marriage can’t be between two of the same sex, since marriage is ordained by God for the pro-creation of children. Well this doesn’t make much sense. Not all couples decide to have children. Does this make their marriage less meaningful? Some want children, but are unable to have them, so choose to adopt. Should the adopted child be banned from calling their parents mother and father? Marriages are allowed to take place between those too old to have children. The main reason for marriage is to celebrate a life-long commitment, a public affirmation of the love you share. Indeed, some marriages break down despite the couple having children, indicating that procreation is secondary to the stability of the relationship.

Marriage is an institution which has been in place for thousands of years. It is undeniably a social good. Would opening it up to homosexuals undermine this ancient institution? The scaremongering opposition might have you think so. Opening it up to homosexuals would, in the words of Cardinal Keith O’Brien ‘redefine our society’. Marriage has always been between a man and a woman. Well that’s similar to saying to a woman in 1917 that she can’t vote because voting has always been for men only, or to a black child in 1950s America that she can’t attend this better school because it’s always been for whites only. Gays will be reinforcing, rather than undermining the institution of marriage. It confirms the belief that marriage is a social good. The Cardinal needs to get over the biological reality that two people of the same sex love each other and want to celebrate this publicly. You could say that they should be content with civil partnerships which were legislated for in 2004. But it is because of the sanctity and historical gravitas of the institution of marriage that gays want to get married, and should be allowed to do so.

Perhaps society isn’t ready for gay marriage. Would social cohesion be at risk if a historically understood concept is fundamentally changed? We’ve come an awfully long way when it comes to the acceptance of homosexuals in society. 45 years ago homosexuality was a criminal offence. And despite some concerns over the 2004 civil partnership legislation, it is widely accepted as being a good thing. But the battle isn’t over yet; neither here at home nor in the wider world. In 93 countries, homosexual acts are still illegal. In the UK, homosexuality is still something of a social stigma, especially amongst the young. ‘Gay’ is frequently used as a pejorative term. In 2010, 15-year old Dominic Crouch committed suicide by jumping off the roof of a six-storey block of flats. Gossip had been floating around his school that he was gay after he had reportedly kissed a boy on a school trip. A 2007 report by Stonewall, the gay and lesbian lobbying organisation, reported that 65 per cent of young lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have been the victims of bullying. This number rises to 75 per cent in faith schools.

The legalising of gay marriage would be a symbolic demonstration of society’s acceptance of homosexuals. It would tell those people still clinging on to unethical intolerance, that attempts to deride gay people as second class citizens will not be recognised. Far from causing ‘shame’ for the UK in the eyes of the world, as Cardinal Keith O’Brien would have us believe, it would show the UK’s humanity towards a group of people that have been demonised throughout history and continue to be throughout the world today.

8 comments

  1. Haven’t both sides of this debate got carried away with how high the stakes really are? Although on a wider scale homosexual discrimination is a colossal issue, institutionalising gay marriage in the UK isn’t really about righting a great social injustice of our time; as likening it to women’s suffrage and racist segregation would indicate. Nor is it a subversion of human rights (obviously!).

    What is really being argued about, as Adam finally gets to, is the ‘sanctity and historical gravitas of the institution of marriage’ and the ‘symbolic demonstration’ legalising would entail. This is an argument primarily about cultural and symbolic factors, not fundamental rights and freedoms, because they are already equal (in the UK).

    Use the word ‘marriage’ for all relationships and you’re lovely and tolerant. Prefer using the phrase ‘civil partnership’ to ‘marriage’ to distinguish the two and you’re a homophobe. Isn’t this a bit extreme?

    Provocative rhetoric and hyperbole from both sides clouds the issue.

  2. Grace, am I correct in understanding that civil partnership has the same legal effect as marriage? If so, I don’t see what the problem is. In my opinion, both civil partnership and marriage equally are about long-term commitment, love, respect etc. It’s just different terms denoting the gender makeup of a union. If a person is civil-partnered, I’ll treat them absolutely the same way as a married person. I’ll probably call them married, too, because this word is shorter.
    I don’t see a problem here, if they want to call it marriage, why not let them? It’s not like the nature of my parents’ marriage will change just because my gay friends decide to get married.

  3. Interesting Article Adam. The issue with the wording of ‘civil partnership’ as opposed to ‘marriage’ is actually fundamentally important. Regardless of the identical legal rights extended to people in either of those two classifications, in order for the public to begin to accept the two as equal they need to be under the same wording as well. Legal precedent through the constant re-interpretation of words and terms is essential to our modern and ever-advancing rule of law. Surely this re-evaluation of diction should extend to the classification of civil-partnership as what it really is which is marriage.

    As a Christian myself i dont believe that pandering to a political group (whether that be to the gay community or the conservative right) should really come into law making. The fact is that over time, if gays are extended the right to marriage as well, it will become accepted and prejudice will gradually fade. Despite the incompatibility with my beliefs that gay marriage presents, surely the happiness of gay people is more important than a slight feeling of discomfort on my side. Surely individuals such as Cardinal O’Brien should realise that Jesus wouldn’t have outcast gays…

  4. @Zena. I agree. The issue with calling it ‘marriage’ for some religious people is that a hetersexual understanding of marriage is something that they affirm as a big part of the way their beliefs impact their lives. To call homosexual life long relationships ‘marriage’ is to extend a lot of those positive affirmations to homosexual marriages which they wouldn’t want to do. Lots of Christians would view God as loving all people (whatever sexuality) equally, but that heterosexual marriage and homosexual marriage are not equally good ‘in the eyes of God’.

    @Charlie R. I sympathise with your point, but it could be argued that defining language is not the remit of the state, as Bish. Sentamu did. You say that the public need to ‘begin to accept [both types of marriage] as equal’ and therefore ‘they need to be under the same wording’. But surely ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’ are two different words distinguishing between two different yet equal things? I want to have a Government that makes all people equal before the law, but not one that legislates the meaning of words and language so as to manipulate and control my views on issues. Where do you draw the line in state intervention into a cultural issue like this?

  5. @Zena. There are some differences between marriage and civil partnerships (such as you don’t get to inherit some statuses of knighthoods), although some people find them offensive I personally don’t feel that’s a huge problem.

    I think the most offensive part is lack of recognition of love. A civil partnership can be taken on my any two members of the same sex and it’s commonly thought to be purely for same sex couples but many heterosexual friends get them for legal reasons.

    John Sentamu was pro civil partnership, and actively campaigned for them and even marched side by side with gay activists. However- as we know- he is against gay marriage. He has now stated that he only supported civil partnerships because ‘it’s good for people to have friends’. I can only imagine that loving committed couples who fought hard for the right to join in civil partnership feel a kick in the balls when someone tells them how nice it is they can have ‘friendship’.

    Whats more is Sentamu seemed to adapt his stance of gay marriage and civil partnerships riiighhhhtttt before the position of arch bishop of Canterbury came a’knocking.

  6. @Zena: Civil partnerships and marriages are ‘equal but different’. Even though they largely confer the same rights, the fact that they are considered separate categories still represents the ‘othering’ of gay couples. Unless we allow full gay marriage, homosexual relationships will never truly be accepted.

    @Grace: In a legal context, the state recognises marriage as a contract between two individuals. It already permits men and women of any religion to enter into this contract, so it clearly isn’t a Christian institution any more. To deny LGBT people the right to enter into the contract is no different from, say, denying people of colour the right to vote. Christians have no right to impose restrictions on the secular contract of marriage, no matter how uncomfortable it makes them feel.

    I certainly wouldn’t claim that a church should be forced to carry out a marriage between two people of the same gender (although as an aside, it’s worth mentioning that the Quakers have been campaigning for the right to conduct gay marriage services as the law still forbids churches from performing the services). However, what goes on in the registry office is the business of the state.

  7. I agree with most of what you say, especially your claim that gay marriage will more likely reinforce the real purpose of marriage, rather than damage or eradicate it-particularly in modern day society.
    However, I feel that your claims about bullying, and the suicide of Dominic Crouch weaken your position somewhat. I myself am gay and was occasionally picked on at school, but would never consider myself a victim of bullying. Often, surveys say different: they have a weak definition of bullying, which in turn makes the situation look worse, thereby furthering the cause of groups such as Stonewall. Moreover, on the suicide point, ‘floating rumors’ about Dominic’s sexuality do not entail that they caused his suicide.
    Aside from that, good article.

  8. It is not right! So we cant get over it!!!! This is the main reason why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and if it is allowed in our time….God is not a partial God we might see the wrath of God!!
    If you are gay please try and bind that demon or spirit because you are not born that way. God loves you and expects us to be live in holy matrimony as man and wife.

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