Gay Marriage: Who is it for?

8 Apr

This post was originally written and published for the British cheeky feminist blogzine The High Tea Cast.

Those who know me, know that very little else on the internet gets under my skin as Brendan O’Neill’s articles. It might be because in his articles he inducts ideas I support in a logic stream that, to me, seems almost perverse and twisted. For that I say, “Well done Brendan”. At least you are helping me to think beyond the ‘left’ and ‘right’ ideological boxes that I long assumed the world’s opinions were divided into.

Take, for example, Brendan’s recent Spiked Online article on gay marriage. He claims that the issue of gay marriage is a bad idea, not only because it erodes traditional institutions in place (the classic conservative argument against gay marriage), but also because he doesn’t think ‘the gays’ actually want it because gay activists once campaigned for their right to live outside these institutions. He doesn’t think the gay marriage issue is ‘populist’ enough to be given much weight as there has been ‘no leaping in front of the Queen’s horse, for the right of gays to get hitched’. As is typical of him, he smells an ‘elitist’ agenda at play here.

However, I would really like to know where you get off dividing the (post) post-modern consciousness into ‘populist’ and ‘elite’. He blames conservative ‘political parties’ and ‘massive corporations’ as having an elitist interest in regaining their sanctity by rallying support for this issue. I find this quite problematic as by adding an elitist tag to a particular political demand he is downplaying its legitimacy.

He also seems to have an outdated and static view of what a political demand would look like in current times in a democratic, technologically enabled society. So this ‘movement’ doesn’t look like the Arab Spring. Does that make the demand less valid? Is he really saying that we must wait for our citizens to be driven to the extreme desperate edge of their democratic pull from where leaping in front of the Queen’s horse looks like the best way to get what they want before we consider this issue serious?

Brendan’s article also cites the fact that historically ‘gays haven’t been interested in getting married’ as an argument against gay marriage being considered as an issue today. This, I think, is ignorant. Marriage is a tool the government(s) use to regulate the distribution of wealth and welfare, and despite arguments against the institution it has continued to persist virtually unchanged for centuries. Exclusion from this institution often results in frustrated desires and aspirations towards material and social progressions and pursuits of happiness. A petition to be included within such a rigid but pervasive institution might seem to many as the more desirable option.

Britain’s marriage laws are ancient. Everyone who marries these days is aware of the redundancy, if not the downright sexism and exclusive nature, of certain aspects of the law. When I married I cringed at these and was told by a Registrar at Trafford Registry Office that the laws have not been changed since mid nineteenth century because the MP’s don’t think its worth their time to discuss these details.

Perhaps the reason people don’t often raise their voice to pressure their MP’s is because once they are married the details of how they were married stops being such a huge bother, but the point remains that many people today feel that the current laws are antiquated and does not reflect their lived realities and aspirations. Is it such a stretch to imagine the gay marriage demands not as something that will dilute the meaning married people place in their legal and social position, but as a sign of growing discontent with the state prescriptions regulating their social interactions?


2 Responses to “Gay Marriage: Who is it for?”

  1. zeactualdan April 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    Very true. The English legal machine is, by default, conservative in nature and well known to be woefully behind the contemporary social and moral realities of progress. No where else is this more pronounced than in family law…..Should we really be sacrificing legal justice for the sake of an alleged need for “clarity” in the law which is, by all accounts, nothing but a legal fiction anyway? Rather like the fictitious nature of conservative arguments about the supposed ‘dangers’ of gay marriage, what will it take for us to acknowledge the reality of the situation and respond in a compassionate and humane manner? Gays are human beings, and deserve the same rights, equalities and protections as every other member of society. Such people need to cease hiding behind fictions both legal and religious and admit what this is really about: bigotry.

  2. jake.exe April 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    I’m forced to relate these arguments to my home country but they are so similar it’s a non issue. I find comments from the right wing conservative side to be very offensive with their arguments against same sex marriage. I read the argument that marriage is designed so a man and a woman can give birth. This is faulted on several levels, firstly the religious argument in this case can be broadened to include a heterosexual couple who through biological issues are not able to have a child should be excluded from being able to marry. Secondly and more personally, as a heterosexual male who has no interest to get married nor have children, I somehow have more rights than a homosexual couple who love each other and wish to commit to the relationship through marriage.

    The other argument I commonly read as allowing homosexuals to marry will erode the current marriage laws, this is a grasping at straws argument is there ever was one. I have two friends who wish to be married, both female, my parents have never heard of them, will never meet them. Yet somehow if these two get married my loving parents marriage will not be as stable as it is now according to the religious zealots campaigning against it.

    Now, to relate it back to my home country I find the political side to be very hypocritical, my current prime minister is an atheist, yet she’s forced to pander to the religious vote saying she doesn’t support same sex marriage when one of her front bench is a lesbian and most of the cabinet want a conscience vote on the matter. While the opposition leader, a hardcore christian no and most likely will be our next prime minister had his sister come out yesterday and declare she is a lesbian. Of course this made no difference in his stance, but to think that a person can accept that a family member is gay but still continue to deny them the same rights that any “normal” person has says a lot about the world we live in.

    In the end I’ve seen religion cause more damage to the world than two guys sleeping together will ever do, and looking at the countries that have allowed same sex marriage to happen have not collapsed into a sin fulled hell so I don’t see why it just doesn’t happen now. A few decades ago here it was illegal for whites to marry blacks, I see that a disgraceful, hopefully the next gen will think that males marrying males or females marrying females will look back and feel the same.

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