Perhaps unsurprisingly (considering around half of my close friends are LGBT), I have found that the response to the UK’s Parliamentary vote on equal marriage yesterday to be overwhelmingly positive. My friends on Facebook (both gay and straight) welcomed the news, and our Twitter feed was overrun by people congratulating one another. As I said yesterday, in five years time yesterday will been seen as a turning point by the gay community, but most people will barely remember it.
And yet, just a quick trawl of the internet and news websites this morning has reminded me that for every person who is happy to see marriage opened up to couples of the same gender, there are scores of vocal protesters who still believe that the world will end once this law has passed. I like to think that I’m generally a fairly calm and composed individual, who is willing to listen to other points of view, but on this subject, my patience has worn thin. So I’ve decided to write a list of ten things that I absolutely DO NOT want to hear from anyone on the subject of ‘gay marriage’ – or, as it should be called, marriage equality.
1. “But I thought that gays could already get married?”
Sometimes said by those who genuinely are just uninformed, the claim that civil partnerships ARE weddings was used worryingly often in the marriage debate. Unfortunately for the anti-equality brigade, there are real differences between a marriage and a civil partnership – starting with the fact that they are called different things! Even if there was not ONE difference between marriage and civil partnerships, just calling them different names makes them unequal. As I’ve said before, ‘separate but equal ≠ equal‘.
2. “Marriage is between one man and one woman”
Yes, right now, marriage is between a man and a woman. But the bounds of marriage have been rewritten before; it was once legal for children to be married, for daughters to be forced to marry someone of their father’s choosing, for inter-racial marriages to be illegal and out-of-class marriages to be heavily frowned upon. Marriage is an institution which changes as society does; and tradition should not dictate the law.
3. “Nobody gets married any more anyway”
Actually, recent statistics from the Goverment for England and Wales shows that marriage rates are increasing – and that the largest group of society getting married are those between 25 and 29 – so people my age! Regardless of whether marriage rates are going up or down – or whether any individual gay person WANTS to get married – EVERYONE (gay, straight and bisexual) should have the ability to choose to get married – and at the moment, they don’t.
4. “Teachers shouldn’t have to promote gay marriage to children”
This one really winds me up. It suggests that teachers are going to sit all these innocent little kids down and tell them that when they grow up, they MUST go and get married to someone of the same sex as them. This is ridiculous – teachers have always had to teach kids the current laws and facts in an age appropriate way. In the same way that teachers currently tell kids that some people get married when they grow up and others get a civil partnership, in the future they will tell kids that some men get married to a lady and some others get married to a man. And you know what? For kids with same-sex parents, for kids who grow up to be gay, for teachers who are gay and for kids who are bullied because people think they are gay; this is a good thing. No one is saying teachers will have to promote marriage equality; they will merely have to acknowledge its existence.
5. “Gay rights shouldn’t trump Christian rights”
Heard in one (in my personal opinion) particularly vitriolic MP’s speech yesterday, as someone who identifies as BOTH Christian and gay, this one really pisses me off. I, and the rest of the gay community am not asking for more rights than Christians. I’m not requesting that my sexuality is put before someone else’s religion. All I need is to be awarded the SAME rights as the rest of the population.
6. “Why is the Government worried about gay marriage? Shouldn’t they be getting on with fixing the economy rather than wasting time on this?”
If you’re straight and you’re saying this, then I’d like to simply ask if you’d be happy to wait until the economy is fixed until you could get married. We’re in the middle of an unprecedented triple dip recession which doesn’t look like it’s going to be fixed any time soon; should the government therefore not ‘waste time’ on NHS reform, school performances, the new high-speed railway proposals or prison changes until the economy has recovered either?! Face it, the government has enough time to decide on multiple issues – so this is a piss-poor excuse.
7. “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!!”
Feeding on from the ‘teachers shouldn’t teach about the gays!’ argument is the suggestion that children don’t thrive in a family that isn’t made up of their biological mother and biological father. Not only is this just. not. true (see the multiple studies that show children of lesbian parents actually do well at school and in wider life, including the ‘Adolescents with Lesbian Mothers Describe Their Own Lives’ study) it also completely undermines the families of single parents, of adoptive parents, of step-parents and families made up by grandparents or foster carers or godparents. Families – like people – are all different.
8. “People shouldn’t impose the gay lifestyle on the rest of the population!”
Barely any different from the ‘gay rights shouldn’t trump Christian rights’ argument, the things which really gets me here is the term ‘gay lifestyle’. I do not have a ‘gay lifestyle’; I do not eat ‘lesbian lunch’ and I don’t even want to get ‘gay married’. I want to get married, full stop. My sexuality is not a choice, nor a lifestyle, and I don’t want to impose it on anyone – but I do want to be able to get married, and I can’t see how my potential marriage could impact on anyone else’s at all!
9. “Gay people can’t consummated a marriage so gay marriage isn’t equal anyway.”
Something that was brought up by Nadine Dorries yesterday, apparently, because gay people can’t consummate a marriage, allowing same sex couples to marry wouldn’t be equality anyway. This one really did floor me; the whole point of my relationship with a girl is that I don’t want to have sex with a man… But this statement ignores that some couples get married knowing that they wont be able to consummate a relationship in the traditional way – including older couples who marry for companionship, or disabled people who marry for love even if they can’t necessarily have sex – or even couples who get married knowing one person is terminally ill. Whilst most couples do consummate their marriage as a matter of course, not being able to consummate a marriage doesn’t mean that the marriage shouldn’t be allowed to go ahead. (Plus, there’s that whole argument about how gay couples kinda do have sex, anyway!)
10. “Gays are disgusting.”
The truth of many arguments against gay marriage is simply that some people think that gay people are disgusting, that they don’t deserve equality or marriage, and preferably we’d be herded into communes with nothing more than basic rations and encouraged to die out as soon as possible. The problem with this is that the longer this mindset is allowed to continue, the more young people will grow up being ashamed of who they are and who they love. The more people will think that it’s okay to spout homophobic abuse at lesbian couples on the street. The more families will reject their children because they’re ashamed of the fact that their sons and daughters are ‘not normal’. Here is the fact of the matter; if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t have one. But you will be the one feeling ashamed and running back in 5, 10, 50 years time when your child/grandchild/best friend/lawyer/doctor is gay and they are still being persecuted because of something completely out of their control.Carley