The subject of gay marriage came up on the radio this morning and Mark burst out, ‘Oh, that is such a mistake!’
‘Really?’ I said, surprised.
‘Yes! They want to get married!’
‘So? What’s wrong with that?’
‘I don’t believe in marriage!’ he retorted.
‘That’s sweet, darling,’ I said, ‘but save something for our anniversary….’
It’s our 20th this year, which is quite a landmark – although I think we’ll be saving the celebrations for our 25th.
So: gay marriage. Should it happen? On the whole I think that if gay couples want to get married then they should be able to; but it does pose a lot of questions about what marriage is – and what it isn’t. I don’t at all buy the argument that gay marriage weakens straight marriage: marriage is not a fixed quantity where everyone has less the more you share it out: nor is it a concentrated liquid which can be diluted by diversity. So what is it?
Well, the obvious bench-mark definition is that it’s a union between two people who love each other and want to dedicate their lives to each other. It’s intended to be for life, whatever may intervene; it’s taken seriously – and it represents a public and continuing commitment as a couple in relation to society. As far as that goes, it seems to me that gays fulfill these criteria as much as straights – and often more so.
But many people object to homosexuality on the grounds that it isn’t ‘natural’. Leaving aside the vexed question of what ‘natural’ means (else we’d be here all week) one possible answer to this is that it is natural to them. Clearly being gay isn’t a choice (much less a ‘lifestyle choice’) – nor is it something that can be suppressed or ‘reformed’. Therefore it is natural (in the sense of ‘coming naturally’) – and to stigmatise people for what they are, is like stigmatising people who have red hair. Yes, you can bleach it but it will always grow back.
So, I think gays should be allowed to marry. That being so, should they then be able to fulfill one of the basic tenets of marriage and adopt children? Here are some thoughts:
1. As things stand, gays * who want to get married are on the whole more likely to be in a committed relationship than straight couples because of the obstacles they will have had to overcome.
2. There are children waiting on the adoption register and what matters is for them to have a loving family.
3. It may be objected that the children of gay parents won’t grow up having one role-model of either sex. Whilst this is a consideration, loving parents will always allow their children to grow and provide them with opportunities to do so. I suggest that gay couples, again, are more likely to do this than their straight counterparts because of the obstacles they will have had to overcome.
4. It may also be objected that because the parents are gay, the children will also grow up gay. But if parents could influence their children’s sexuality through their own, there wouldn’t be any gay people to start with.
I’m going to conclude with a story. This is a true story but the names have been changed. There was a couple – let’s call them Mark and Liz. Mark was gay but wanted to be straight: he converted to Christianity as a student and after having sex with a woman, decided he definitely was straight. After leaving university he married Liz and they had three children. At first the marriage was fine but problems soon began to arise; difficulties that no-one could really fathom. Liz was hurt and bewildered by his behaviour and didn’t know what to do. Eventually after a lot of heartbreak they divorced and Mark is now living as a gay man.
This is what happens when you try to force people to be what they are not. And I have some experience in this area (though not to do with sexuality).
If you want any more examples just look at the story of Oscar Wilde.
A long post this morning but I’m making up for the last few days. I’m happy to report that I slept well and I’m starting to feel better.
*I’m saying ‘gays’ but obviously this includes lesbians. Oh, and the title, as if you didn’t know, is from a ‘Not the Nine o’clock News Sketch’: