Last year on the 17th June the Queen granted Royal Assent to the Marriage Act 2013 (same sex couples) thereby formalising the ability of homosexuals to get married under the law. On the 29th of March, this month gay couples will be allowed to get married. For some this is an immense step towards greater equality for all minority members of our society and a long awaited change to the law, and being gay myself I strongly agree with that.
The Home Secretary Theresa May has this to say on gay marriage: “Put simply, it’s not right that a couple who love each other and want to formalise a commitment to each other should be denied the right to marry.” And I agree with this. The most important and widely recognised merit of the same sex marriage bill is that it has allowed gay couples to express their love in the most sacred way possible, through consummation of marriage. Many pro-gay marriage campaigners talk avidly about the legal and economic benefits to gay marriage; the allowance of joint filing of taxes and the means to protect each other in medical decision-making, but any couple choosing to marry simply because of these important but shallow benefits are foolish and mistaken. Marriage occurs because two people love each other, often beyond words; these two people are saying to one another, “I love you so much that I want to live the rest of my life with you. I want to share the ups and downs, forsake all others, and be together until death do us part.” This mutual agreement of ardour is what’s so amazing about love and it would seem outdated and prejudicial to say that gay couples cannot experience this love and experience this commitment merely because of their sexual orientation.
There are many arguments against the introduction of gay marriage and this is not a debate on the arguments for and against but I would like to refute some of the least credible arguments against gay marriage that I have been exposed to. The most influential anti-gay marriage argument is that The Bible says it’s wrong. Leviticus 18.22 ‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.’ Religious people protest that to allow gay marriage is to swipe away religious freedom for those who find gay marriage sinful, it weakens the very definition of marriage (to be spoken in an aged and trembling voice), and breaks down family values that have held together through two world wars, terrorist attacks, the great depression yada yada yada. Actually gay marriage encourages gay people to have strong family values because it helps and emboldens them to give up a high-risk sexual lifestyle. What I mean by this is that as we all know sex between men is more dangerous medically and there is a higher chance that AIDS will be transferred. By settling down with a partner there is much less risk of sex with other men so less chance of an exposure to STDs. In the Book of Common Prayer given to my grandmother in 1939, in the section called ‘Solemnization of Matrimony it says this, ‘it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continence might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body’. Here is I think evidence that there is something more important in the process of marriage, that of love for one another that sees past the superfluous barriers of same-sex relationships.
However to direct the issue of The Bible more directly, it is hypocritical to say that The Bible is against gay relationships and so it is forbidden to marry. Yes it says in Leviticus 18 homosexuality is forbidden, but in the very next chapter, chapter 19, the verse with the fabled 10 commandments, verse 27 says ‘do not cut the hair at the side of your head or clip off the edges of your beard’ so it is forbidden to cut facial hair. ‘But these laws are outdated and not in practice’ I hear the more astute of you cry, then surely you are admitting that there are laws in The Bible that haven’t worked when moving with the times. If this argument is followed then it makes logical sense to suggest that the law about homosexuals is also outdated and should not be practiced. Many of the laws in Leviticus are extremely outdated and yet Christians pick and choose which laws are rightful and which are ‘outdated’ and I would argue that there are worse ‘biblical crimes’ to commit than being in love with someone of the same sex.
The second most common and in my mind idiotic argument is that of the so-called slippery slope fallacy. N.B this theory has gone back to the time when gay rights themselves were a contested issue and It goes thus; if gay marriage is legalised then it will slowly lead to the collapse of our society as gay adoption, then IVF, lowering of the age of consent and polygamy will all become legal. After that siblings will be able to marry, then bestiality and marriage of inanimate objects and so our society will crumble in a rambling sham of people walking around with their sheep sharing chocolates and the bed squeaks of a cuckoo clock breaking. Sounds completely waterproof doesn’t it? Of course not. Not only are there no provable evidences to link the actions together as is the crux of the slippery slope fallacy, surprisingly heterosexuals are in fact heterosexuals, who would have thought it, and not just biding their time until it is possible to marry their dog or favourite kitchen cabinet. To quote Bill Mayer, ‘
“When women got the right to vote, it didn’t lead to hamsters voting and No court has extended the equal protection clause to salmon.”
I think it is important at this juncture to point out that just because some is opposed to gay marriage that does not make them a branded homophobe. A person may be against gay marriage for religious reasons mainly that it contradicts some parts of The Bible where the abomination of homosexuality is made clear ‘thou shall not lie with mankind as with woman kind: it is an abomination.’ Others believe that it dilutes the true meaning of marriage; that is to start a family and create an environment with both male and female values. To call the naysayers homophobic is almost as bad as the abuse that is given to gay people in the first place.
When talking about gay marriage the anti-gay side of the argument bring up civil partnerships and say that gay couples already have a way of showing their love for one another. Civil partnerships allow gay couples to be recognised in this country as in a committed relationship and share many of the same rights as those in a civil marriage, but not all, one being international recognition of the partnership. The Civil Partnership Act was passed on 18th November 2004 and many people believed that this was a good thing for the gay community as they would not encroach upon the traditional views of marriage. However as much as I respect civil partnerships and would not wish to take anything away from them, I do not believe that civil partnerships and marriage bear the same weight.
I have been to a civil ceremony and I have also been to a few marriages and there were the same amount of laughs, tears, wacky relatives, badly told jokes and extravagant hats and so in the moment they both felt very similar. Having recognised my own sexuality a few years beforehand I went to the civil ceremony excited to see how similar it would be but sitting in the room that the ceremony took place in I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable. It was easy to see how much the two men loved each other and the emotion around the room, including my own made me wonder as to why these two wonderful people could be not married in the same way as my parents did. I was told they were ‘civil partners’ but saying ‘we had a civil ceremony’ does not feel the same and now I feel glad and happy that one day I might be able to say, ‘I married the man I loved.’