Marriage Is Changing – Get Over It!

Posted: March 14, 2012 in gay rights, human rights
Tags: , , , , ,

Another silly article showing just how idiotic the principle counter-argument against marriage equality in the UK is:

English: A woman makes her support of her marr...

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David Cameron told last year’s Conservative Party conference that he supported marriage and that it didn’t matter whether it was “between a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and another man”. If this sounds complicated to say, it’s going to be even more complicated to legislate.

Last month Stonewall published a draft gay marriage bill which removes the words “husband and wife” from the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, replacing them with “parties to a marriage”. When asked to explain, Ben Summerskill, the CEO, said: “In some clauses you have to replace the words husband and wife because you cannot have two husbands or two wives.” I doubt many husbands and wives will be happy to have the legal definition of their marriages re-written in such a way.

The remainder of their simplistic bill grants wide-ranging powers for a minister to amend the rest of the statute book on marriage, presumably to get rid of all the other references to husband and wife. The minister is going to be busy. The word “husband” appears 1,003 times in statute; “wife” appears 888 times; “spouse” occurs 2,740 times. In all, there are 3,000 references to marriage in current law. The oldest is in an Act passed in 1285, in the reign of King Edward I, part of which is still in force.

Given our present economic situation, why does Mr Cameron think that so much parliamentary time and energy should be dedicated to a change in the law which would obliterate vast amounts of our cultural and legal heritage? Surely not to burnish his “modernising” credentials?

Throughout history and across cultures, marriage has been recognised as being between one man and one woman. Over the centuries, when legislatures brought in laws on marriage, they were not inventing it, just recognising its reality.
This idiot can’t disguise his contempt for same-sex relationships, any more than other commentators, who bleat on about the ‘sanctity’ of marriage. Throughout history in WESTERN cultures marriage has indeed been between one man and one woman (oops Mormonism?), but there have been reasons for that. Homosexuality has only recently in human history been decriminalised, anti-discrimination laws have only recently been instituted in most European countries (notably not the United States), and the issue of marriage equality is new in most societies; as recently as twenty years ago the mere discussion of it would have been unthinkable. The nature of the institution throughout history and across societies has been to change. Inter-racial marriage used to be out of the question because of racism, marriage as proscribed in the Bible is practised by comparatively few (apart from fundamentalists like Rick Santorum perhaps), and there’s no such thing as a ‘heterosexual reality’ of marriage – it’s just a habit.
Last week on the Channel 4 programme ’10 o’Clock Live’ it was suggested that the disagreement about marriage equality hangs purely on who believes who should have the right to use the word ‘marriage’, and it’s an argument I agree with. So the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ are becoming less fixed in legal parlance eh? Good – we shouldn’t have patriarchal language enshrined in law, but that by no means changes any real world experience of marriage for heterosexual people. Allowing more people to get married will result in nothing other than more people getting married (when, of course, ever more heterosexuals are getting divorced). But Daniel Brennan has more to say about that too:

In Spain, the change was introduced by the Socialist government in 2005, with some 160,000 people turning out on the streets in protest. It passed in parliament in a divisive 187 to 147 vote and, the following year, it was announced that Spanish birth certificates would read “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B” instead of “father” and “mother”. This kind of language is Orwellian. Can we expect the same kind of thing here if marriage is redefined? In Spain itself the issue is far from settled. The current Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, does not agree with using “marriage” to describe same-sex unions, and his Popular Party has challenged the 2005 law.

Erm what? What’s wrong with the parents on birth certificates being labelled ‘parent A’ and ‘parent B’? After all even California is happy with that and it’s currently got a ban on gay marriage. Of course that’s the larger point here – the question here is one of marriage, not one of parenthood and he fails to explain in any way whatsoever as to how allowing people of the same sexual orientation to use the word ‘marriage’ could have a deleterious effect on other institutions. Changes such as the one he mentions are occurring worldwide entirely separately from the marriage question.

In Canada, since same-sex marriage was brought in, the courts have ruled that a child can legally have three parents, and in the province of British Columbia serious attempts have been made to legalise polygamy. After all, if you can abolish the most important pre-condition of marriage – namely that it requires a person of each sex – why should you be able to retain other pre-conditions, such as limiting it to only two people?

I personally don’t care why it’s his or anyone else’s business if three consenting adults want to get married. What’s that got to do with anyone else? How can it affect anyone else’s relationship? Does everyone else’s relationship have to be conducted the same as yours for yours to have meaning? Bet Brennan’s pretty damned pissed at Britney Spears then.

In the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage was introduced in 2001, “cohabitation agreements” have been used to give three-way relationships a measure of legal recognition. It is even being advocated as the next step over here. One Guardian writer, Martin Robbins, recently responded to these concerns by arguing “What’s wrong with polygamy?” He went on: “It seems to me that a child brought up by three loving parents would have some quite big economic advantages…”

I agree with Robbins, but it’s not the issue here. As ever Brennan introduces straw man arguments in order to make the point. The question of marriage equality has nothing to do with rearing children (it’s already happening, folks), polygamy, bestiality (the normal whine from Catholics) or paedophilia – it’s about legally and socially accepting once and for all that same sex relationships are of identical merit to opposite sex ones. Britain unexpectedly coped extremely easily with the introduction of civil partnerships, but ‘separate but equal’ is surely only acceptable to those most eager with preserving privileges they’d rather others didn’t share. I’m not convinced David Cameron’s a strong enough politician or man to facilitate marriage equality in the UK, but he’d be well served by a grasp of history which commentators like Brennan seem not to have, or are at least keen to ignore.

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