Nick Clegg’s recently planned comments about those who oppose gay marriage have again brought the issue front and centre. England is, all too slowly, making progress, with David Cameron pledging that the coalition will legalise gay marriage before the next election: a move that could play out very well for both parties politically. The existence of opposition on this issue should not be surprising (there are plenty of bigots – or whatever you want to call them – floating around), but the fact that some of this opposition comes from people in government – people who make decisions about my life and yours – is cause for concern.
As far as any civilised society is concerned, the debate is over. Arguments against same-sex marriage are always illogical, and are fuelled by personal prejudice rather than informed reasoning. If you think you’ve got a good one, then you haven’t. Type it into google and I have no doubt that you’ll be greeted with hundreds or valid refutations. The most popular argument (and the only one I will mention for time's sake) is that marriage is defined as the union between a man and a woman, and you can't just redefine it.
Imagine! Redefining something to improve society! Oh the humanity! This is the kind of status quo bullshit that could’ve been used to oppose our greatest steps forward throughout history (didn’t those pesky women understand that voting is something that only men could do?). In all seriousness, quoting a definition as a reason that we should not be able to create a more just and inclusive society is both archaic and incredibly stupid.
One of the most vocal, and largest, opposition groups is the ‘Coalition for Marriage’, whose website blatantly misrepresents the facts and disregards scientific evidence. They claim that the public are against gay marriage (despite the results of numerous polls), and have the gall to write that the evidence shows that children do best with a married mother and a father (see what the evidence actually says on the Australian Psychological Association’s website).They have over 600,000 signatures on their online petition to ‘defend traditional marriage’ (that’s one way of putting it), including those of 26 Labour and Conservative MPs.
26 MPs. That is 26 people who are making decisions, as I said before, about my life and yours, who don’t believe that people should have the right to marry simply because they commit the crime of being attracted to people of the same sex. Now I’m not saying that people who oppose same sex marriage should be stripped of their parliamentary membership (everyone is entitled to their opinion), but they should at least be named and shamed (click the link in the last paragraph for the full list). Because opposition to gay marriage showcases everything that we, as a society should be fighting against.
While it’s true that MPs cannot be angels, and are bound to hold some pretty worthless opinions somewhere in their repertoire, this one in particular is extremely meaningful. It suggests that for these people, reason – which should always be our societal arbiter – can be replaced with hysterics in order to oppress a minority group. It suggests that these people believe that social equality is not a worthy end if the boat gets rocked in the means - something, I think, that we should all abhor. We pride ourselves on being an accepting nation, a nation full of freedom and equality, and yet we have elected officials who support a movement that spits in the face of liberty. It is incredibly worrying and I hope that these officials are found out in the next election.
When gay marriage is, at last, introduced in England, it will be cause for celebration. We will be able to say that we have – at least in law – shrugged off a lot of the stigma associated with homosexuality, and it will cement the fact that we do not take moral advice from the pages of scripture and we are proud of it. I’d like to borrow my closing remarks (with no intention of giving them back) from a piece written by Ian Stubbs, Vicar of Glossop Parish Church in Derbyshire, which was published on the Independent’s website earlier this week. “I shall similarly rejoice and weep the first time I officiate at the wedding of a gay couple”, Mr Stubbs said, “whether the Church sanctions it or not.”