I wanted to take this opportunity to jump on the bandwagon and make my contribution to the gay marriage debate.
As a child, marriage was something that never particularly interested me. Sure, it was nice getting dressed up (though I will never forgive the time I had to dress up as a leopard for one particular family ceremony). It was even entertaining watching the inevitable drink-fuelled disputes where all those old family skeletons were yet again given a public airing. As far as the real significance of the event itself, however, it just passed me by and still does.
Even with all the recent public debate about the rather clinically named Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, I still don’t get it. The history of marriage in the UK, seems to be rooted in the middle ages and was formalised in the Marriage Act of 1753. For me, this is where it should stay. I associate it with property rights, treatment of people (i.e. women) as possessions and seems to have no real place in these “enlightened” times. I’ve watched my parents joke about how you are supposed to obey the other because that’s what had been said “in church and in front of all those people!” and just laughed along, all the time thinking “how stupid is that”.
There is no denying that many of the ceremonial traditions associated with Marriage (Opposite Sex Couples) are outdated and to believe otherwise is foolish.
I was therefore pleasantly surprised when I came across this article by Tim Boden, which set out some of the same opinions and beliefs as myself – though questioning the benefits received by married couples seems foolhardy to me. They get benefits in the expectation that they will produce offspring. And that’s a whole different kettle of fish, but not exclusive to heterosexual couples either. I can understand how, for some people, the idea of going through the process and tying yourself to someone for ever and ever till death do us part can be hideously romantic. For me, however, romance means something different, but I’ll save that for a different article.
There’s no denying that marriage is a religious concept no matter how you look at it. The idea of a union between a man and a woman is something which the bible sets out, but the current debate seems not to care about that. It’s an argument framed in terms of equality. I don’t believe that marriage is the only way to share in what marriage has to offer. In my opinion, there are other ways to sort out differences in property rights, inheritance rules and so on without needing to gatecrash somebody else’s wedding.
What we seem to be forgetting is that the institution of religion is one that categorically rejects us as a people at its very foundation. I therefore venture to ask the question; why are we forcing ourselves into that sort of institution? I understand why the majority of the LGBT community may support gay marriage based on rights, but is it right that we ask an institution that rejects us at its very core to allow us to participate in its traditions just so we can have that bit of equality?
What I am proposing – for all those who want that bit of paper and to be unified – is this: the abolition of civil partnerships which rejects heterosexuals as well as civil marriages, which just seems a bit of a cop out if you ask me, and create a new “Commitment Ceremony”, which has the same rights and legal standing as a traditional marriage, but outside the confines of the church.
I understand, respect and appreciate the Gay Rights movement, but can we not suggest something altogether different? For everyone, gay, straight, bisexual and transgender. After all, wouldn’t that send a better message?