Monday, December 05, 2005

gay marriage

I hope you’ll excuse me today for recycling old material, but since today marks the first day of ‘gay marriage’, thanks to the Government’s Civil Partnership Bill, I thought it only right to celebrate it in some way - even if I don’t think the current legislation goes far enough. So, for your delight and edification, an article I wrote in more youthful, idealistic days. I apologise for the bit about the pigeons.


First of all, I'd like to sidestep the whole John Kerry "I support civil unions but not gay marriage" gambit. Most marriages are essentially civil unions anyway, whether or not Christian vows are included to please parents or to satisfy the bride's desire for a big entrance and a white dress. The way I see it, there are three main objections to gay marriage: biblical, traditional and social.

Since the two countries in which gay marriage is touted, Britain and America, are Christian, I hope you'll forgive me using Christian arguments. The Old Testament, it is true, talks about a man leaving his mother and father and joining with his wife, and Sodom and Gomorrah is condemned pretty strongly. Interesting, and in one of my favourite passages from the Old Testament, Lot is so disgusted by the baying crowd's desire to sodomize his male guests that he offers them his virgin daughters instead. Good honest family morals there.

The trouble with using Biblical evidence is that it relies on some pretty acute picking and choosing of texts: for some reason, the strictures against homosexuality are championed, whereas no one mentions much of the Old Testament's other useful advice for life. Do you know what to do if you have a mouldy skin disease? What about purifying yourself after a period? (I think the first answer is see a priest; the second involves burning some doves.) Not only this, but as The Economist's pro-gay marriage editorial points out, religious objections should not (and under the American constitution cannot) affect the legislation of a secular state.

Secondly, traditional. Marriage, we are to believe, is a sacred and long-established tradition where two people who love each other form a lifetime bond, which has consistently preserved society as we know it. Wrong. Until this century, marriage was a means of property transferral via the medium of a woman (at least for those with property), and a woman's only way of securing her and her children's future. Love had nothing to do with it - it was only in the late 18th century that the idea of 'companionate marriage' suggested that it would be nice for the participants to be fond of each other. Of course, divorce rates were low - women risked losing their children and being condemned to a life of poverty, as well as to a lively social stigma. If we are to re-imagine marriage as a loving bond between two people, why should they necessarily be a man and a woman? Even a cursory examination of historical or literary writings from previous eras will show you that homosexuality isn't a modern phenomenon - it just wasn't allowed to interfere with the cultural function of marriage. If we acknowledge that homosexual relationships exist, why not encourage them to be monogamous and long-term, rather than taking place furtively outside a loveless marriage?

The social argument is that marriage is a stabilising force - many Daily Mail pieces lament the decline of marriage as evidence that the youth of today aren't willing or able to take responsibility, and cannot function in adult society. Research shows that marriage reduces the incidence of domestic violence, for example, and forces both parents to undertake commitments to children. I'm sure this will sound glib, although it's not meant to: if marriage is great, why not have more of it?

One of the most common complaints about gay men and women is the culture of promiscuity which is supposed to be inevitably linked to homosexuality. Although there are promiscuous queer people, as there are straight, the sheer numbers of gay couples who rushed to be married in San Francisco recently shows that many wish to formalise and celebrate their relationship. Why would we stop them?

The institution of marriage has never looked more shaky, with an ever-growing percentage ending in divorce. Perhaps the only way to revitalise marriage is to shrug off the phenomenon's historical baggage and revisualise it as a solid, stable and loving bond between two people - regardless of gender.

But if you'll excuse me, I've got several years of pigeon-sacrificing to catch up on.


told you the pigeons were upsetting. anyhoo, to look forward to later in the week: Buying Porn for MRSA Sufferers; Use-By Dates Are Made Up By Supermarkets; Quite Literally, I Am Always The Bridemaid; and Why I Hate Narnia.


Anonymous zeno said...

When I saw the headline on the BBC's website, "Gay Marriage Made Law in Britain" I got all twitchy because my wife is female and I wondered if I would have to ditch her and hook up with a chap.

12/05/2005 1:29 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

well, gayness might not be mandatory, but it is cooler.

perhaps one of you could take to cross-dressing, just to keep in the spirit of things? it is nearly christmas, after all...

12/05/2005 2:02 pm  
Anonymous Kevin O'Malley said...

Top bloggin' pet.

Just found your site today. I really like your writing- I have laughed and learned in equal measure. Be proud galatea you have helped a bored man pass an uneventful day in the office.

12/05/2005 4:08 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/05/2005 4:47 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

thank you very much, kevin. like the discovery channel, i have always aspired to 'edu-tainment'.

although this site doesn't offer animals having sex, come to think of it. maybe i should do something about that.

12/05/2005 4:48 pm  
Blogger Paul B said...

On the sticky subject of interpreting the Bible for modern political ends regarding homosexuality, I refer the Honourable Member to the post I made here last February. Apologies for the small font and the rather didactic style - I was new to the whole writing for public consumption thing at the time. Also note that despite the fact that it was the end of February the automated blogwhore bot thing was trying to sell Christmas gifts. Honestly, it just starts earlier and earlier every year...

12/05/2005 5:11 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

i think that false chirpiness is what I love most about those comment-spammers.

"Hi! What a great post about we're all going to die! It was great! Click here to buy penis enlargement cream."

great email - there was something similar on, but it's all good... the old testament is a very weird text (want to read filth? try the song of songs!) and I can't understand seeing it as anything other than a historical document.

i mean, the new testament's a bit glastonbury sandal-wearing hippy, but at least the majority is love your neighbour, hands around the rainbow, stuff.

while we're on this subject - did mel gibson see absolutely no contradiction in making an absurdly violent film about Jesus? And as for those schoolteachers that took kids to see it, don't get me started...

12/05/2005 5:45 pm  
Blogger Paul B said...

One of my heroes, Armando Iannucci, once said on a radio show: "I've just got the Special Edition DVD of The Passion of the Christ. It comes with deleted scenes, a director's commentary, and a free megaphone for insulting Jews."

12/05/2005 9:14 pm  
Anonymous zeno said...

I already wear her pants whenever I can (don't tell).

12/05/2005 10:08 pm  

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