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The times they have a-change-d?

September 8, 2010

Not too long ago, I read an article about an interracial couple living in America in the early 1960s. It detailed how their marriage was ‘illegal’, the police raids to make sure they weren’t committing the crime of interracial intercourse, and generally struggling to live in a world that by and large refused to accept their love. Fortunately, the world has somewhat realised the error of its ways, and such treatment is now considered both repugnant and illegal.

I say somewhat because there is a contemporary parallel to be drawn between what constitutes an ‘acceptable’ marriage. In this case however, the focus has shifted from race to gender. Granted, marriage has its history in male/female relations, but it was politics that gave it the racial dimension. Religion has obviously played the largest role in defining marriage, placing the ceremony in a church (because that is clearly the only place the eyes of God can see it from). However, the issue now is how relevant religion remains to marriage. Because after all, this seems to be the main argument against gay marriage.

It is a fact – lamented by some – that church attendance has been dwindling, whether due to scandals, apathy or irrelevance (or all of the above). Similarly, couples are moving towards ‘non-traditional’ ceremonies on beaches, in parks or underwater, conducted by celebrants instead of priests. Thus there has clearly been a shift from religious to legal marriage. The question is, with people choosing to get married in a purely legal fashion, why does gay marriage remain such a controversial issue?

For all the progress and attitudinal changes society has made over the last few decades, homosexuality remains an identity that many are uncomfortable with. It is the equality that gay marriage would lead to that is the very thing that undermines its prospects. If homosexuals are put on the same level as heterosexuals, well, that just changes the whole game. Homosexuality is fine as long as some part of it can be hidden away and ignored or looked down upon. Schoolyard insults still revolve around sexuality. It is ‘insulting’ to be gay, and it grates on my ears to hear people use the term in a derogatory fashion. As Joe Jackon said, don’t call me a faggot, not unless you are a friend.

What really shits me though is the double standard. I have had conversations about marriage that go like this:

Me: I’m not a firm believer in marriage because I’m not religious.
Person of double standards: Yes, but marriage doesn’t have to be about religion.

And then:

Me: What’s your objection to gay marriage?
Person of double standards: The bible says marriage is between a man and a woman!

So marriage is only religious when it suits your agenda it seems. You may have not attended church in 30 years and Christmas is good because it gives you a week off work, but dammit, you’ll stand up for what’s in the bible! And you know, those other Christian values of not casting stones and being nice to others.

As can probably be evidenced from this, I have no problem with gay marriage because at the end of the day, I cannot see any legitimate opposition to the idea. It is simple enough to separate religion from marriage these days, so objections on religious grounds are spurious.  Furthermore, I am firmly of the belief that if something doesn’t directly affect me, I should just shut the fuck up about it (something that a lot of people should take heed of). I don’t care if Bob can marry Jim, and it doesn’t affect your dead-end marriage with your fat wife either, Harry. Just let them be as miserable as you are.

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