I’m not one to espouse the virtues of matrimony. I never dreamt of a big wedding or a white dress or a frosted cake. (Although I do love cake) There was a moment when I liked the idea of marriage, but I think that in our world we should be able to love and commit without a piece of paper, and I think that over time the piece of paper has come to mean less and less. And frankly, I want something more than that. Of course not everyone one is as lucky as me. Despite the fact that I have zero desire to marry, and no one with whom I would want to, if I so wished tomorrow I could pick some random off the street, and if he was willing we could be married in a matter of hours. Yet a girl exactly like me, who has been in a loving relationship with another woman for years, is not able to choose not to marry the person that she loves. We tell this girl that her relationship is not as valid, or meaningful, or sacred, because the person that she loves happens to share the same genitalia. We tell her that because she is attracted to women and not men, she is not allowed to access one of the most fundamental and ancient rights known to mankind. And we tell her that she shouldn’t complain about this, because we’ve created a different institution for her to be a part of.
‘Calm down’, we say ‘Don’t you know that you can get a civil union? It’s pretty much exactly the same thing- just for people like you’. Or in the words of our esteemed Prime Minister, rest assured that you don’t need to get married, because she doesn’t believe it’s necessary, you shouldn’t either. Despite sharing a very similar view of the institution as our Prime Minister, I don’t see the automatic causation to denying people the right to participate in something I don’t value.
Following Barack Obama’s rather unsurprising revelation that his position on gay marriage has ‘evolved’ to one of support, the after effects are reverberating around the world. From predictable admiration and support out of tinsel town, to the inevitable conservative fear mongering from those terrified of change; reaction has been far reaching and varied.
As expected, one group who has had plenty to say on the topic, are Christians. While there are without question plenty of practising Christians who support the right of a man to love a man and a woman to love a woman, sadly these individuals do not speak loudly or often enough. On the other hand, the deafening cries of the Church in defence of ‘traditional’ marriage and supposed family values can scarcely be avoided.
Mainstream Christianity and its representatives seem to want to have it both ways. In their panicked rhetoric against gay marriage they simultaneously argue that removing further barriers to equal rights will endanger future generations by normalising same sex relationships, as well as feigning concern over how children growing up with two parents of the same sex will handle school yard bullying. God watch over the child with gay parents who is bound to be picked on for coming from a different family background, but heaven forbid that gay relations be normalised by society and shield that child in the first place. Not to mention that this argument completely ignores and even devalues the diverse array of families that exist in today’s society. In a world where the nuclear family structure has long been outnumbered by single guardians, remarried parents and situations where other family members act as the main caregiver, can we really still entertain the notion that any type of structure differing from mum and dad and the kids is a threat to our community?
As is often the case, surely the best answer is the most simple. Kids are not born with prejudice and judgement; these are things that they learn, from their parents, their teachers, from role models in society. Teach your children not to discriminate and judge. Or why not take a leaf out of your own book and just tell them to love their neighbour? The golden rule writes as simple as that, with no qualifying clause excluding individuals based on who they love. If you teach your children that every family is different and that the most important thing is that we respect each other and those differences, the worst result is that we end up with a more tolerant world, a more accepting future and people less inclined to hate and fear each other.
Of course such an argument won’t appease those who believe that any physical love between two people of the same sex is inherently wrong. On the contrary, the idea that people will not automatically judge minority groups in society will be abhorrent to many who claim to exemplify the virtues of Christianity. But on what basis do religious groups feel they can claim a monopoly over the institution of marriage? Marriage has existed in various shapes and forms since the dawn of time, originally as a union for largely economic purposes. Christianity’s cries to be protecting the historical sacredness of the institution are just not sustained by fact. Once again we are witness to human being’s inability to learn from the past. As every single example in history shows; separate but equal doesn’t work; because separate is never equal. And as most examples of discrimination in history show, just as we look back with shame on a time where black people couldn’t marry white, so too we will look back on the present day and hang our heads with embarrassment that we didn’t recognise the love between a man and a man and a woman and a woman. That we entertained ludicrous comparisons with polygamy or buggery; ignoring the fact that none of these circumstances are simply about two human beings who love each other and wish to celebrate that love.
Because surely this is all that it should come down to; surely in a world with so much hatred and so many problems we should embrace at every opportunity that we can, two individuals who want to celebrate their love. Whether they choose to do it by signing a piece of paper or not. Wouldn’t it be great if the Church was so vocal against real evils? One might question why we rarely see groups of Christians handing out material against child abuse, or paedophilia, or campaigning for women’s rights, or sprouting wisdom on how Christianity can work in a modern context with reproductive health. Instead we have church leaders like the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney claiming that same sex marriage is detrimental to society, lamenting that should it become legal, “it would be impossible to teach in the classroom that marriage is exclusively for male and female”. A travesty indeed.
An extract of this piece can be found on; http://www.dailydissident.com/author/kate/