|Whaddya mean "unnatural"? You bigot!|
One of the more sophomoric slogans of pro-gay marriage campaigners is "if you don't want a gay marriage, then don't get one!" You can almost hear the hyuck-hyuck-hyuck snigger after the exclamation mark.
There may be a serious point contained within this slogan: if Call-me-Dave Cameron actually pushes through his promised amendments to marriage legislation, the British government will have to redefine the nature and purpose of marriage. It is this point that seems to me to be least understood by the man on the #37 Clapham omnibus whose point of view tends to be "well, if gay people want to get married, I don't see why they shouldn't...". The mainstream media has largely ignored the issue of the redefinition of marriage, focusing on perceived "injustices" in the status quo. As many commentators have described far better than I can (see Marie Therese here and here (h/t Mulier Fortis)) from a rights and purely legal point of view there is currently no discrimination against gay couples in British law: civil partnerships confer the same legal rights as marriage, but recognise that marriage is different and distinct based as it still is on a stable sexual relationship geared towards the procreation and rearing of children; and this even in secular law where non-consummation is still considered reason for divorce.
I would argue that gay couples, if anything, have more rights at present than other individuals in British society. Two sisters or two friends who have lived together but are not in a relationship cannot use legislation to confer legal rights / inheritance / succession onto their friend / sibling. Really, to be fair, civil partnerships should acknowledge that human relationships come in all shapes and sizes. I had an elderly, blind piano teacher when I was in my teens. She had had the same carer / companion for over 50 years but they were not in a sexual relationship: a civil partnership would have acknowledged their interrelationship in a far simpler way than the only other option which was a complicated combination of living wills and ordinary wills.
And then there's the rather delicate question of the nature of marriage and consummation. I've read several imaginative and rather jokey accounts, as well as a few tasteless ones, of what might constitute consummation in a gay marriage. The fact is, that the adoption of gay "marriage" will make consummation a nul point. Marriage will no longer be linked to procreation, it will be about two people who are in love. Awwwww. Sweet that, but will it last a lifetime? And what exactly is the point? Could it be about the Big Day? I reckon that it's driven in part by the wedding industry: I'll bet that someone has the commissioning documents for "My Big Fat Gay Wedding" already waiting for the change in legislation. I'd also put money on the fact that at least one large publisher will have a glossy gay "Wedding" magazine ready to hit the shelves within days of the announcement of the change to the law.
Back to my original point (the soup's bubbling on the stove and I'm typing against the clock): why should I be forced to have a gay marriage? Because that's exactly what's going to happen if this bandwagon rolls on uncontested. I don't want a marriage denuded of its meaning. Why should the definition of my marriage change just because a small a vocal minority are demanding that ALL marriages change to accommodate them? Why is new ideology being retrofitted to old law? Just as it's outrageously unfair to change the terms of someone's employment contract without notifying them (pity the poor registrar who, after 20 years in the job, is told to like it or lump it when civil partnerships came in) it's equally unfair to change the legal nature of every marriage in the country without asking permission of those who are married. Since when was the following small print at the bottom of the marriage certificate:
"Terms and conditions apply. Government may choose to redefine marriage on an electoral whim. Past performance is no guarantee of future integrity" ?