The M Word.
I’m going to throw two words at you now, and before your heart next beats you’ll have your opinion on your sleeve, ready to judge every word I’ve typed, for the better or worse.
Before I get going, I should let you know that I’m not writing this to sway your opinion. Those against gay marriage are often against it because of something a wee bit more engrained than something that can be swayed by the sporadic blogs of a DirtBlogger!
I should also say, I’m not gay. My parents aren’t gay either. Even my boyfriend isn’t gay.
I’ve read a lot of pro and anti-gay marriage articles and blog posts recently that start out with their gay credentials. The daughter of two lesbians, the Cardinal Archbishop of St Andrews, the gays themselves, even a few gay Catholics. I, however, have no gay credentials unfortunately. I have a couple friends who lean the other way, and the only person I know to be a fully-fledged, card-carrying member of the gay-cause is my boss, but I’m simply not bathed in the company of the LGB community!
I’m not writing this on behalf of anybody, I’m not writing this in defence of anybody, and I’m not writing this to change your opinion. I’ve spent the last week being bombarded with tweets, news reports and topical shows about gay marriage and every time its mentioned, I want to scream my arguments at the six different screens that are throwing their arguments at me; so here we are. I know my readership isn’t large by any means, but I just want to set out my stall in an ordered fashion.
A natural point for a relationship to reach these days is marriage. Of course there are those who never want to marry, those who think its an out-dated model of working, and fair play to them; you’ll notice, however, these people tend to be okay with other people marrying (apart from the occasional scoff, of course).
When two people are in a long-haul relationship – gay, straight, Mormon or otherwise – they’ll often want to marry at some point. Unfortunately, there are people that don’t want them all to marry.
The thing I’ve noticed this week about “the gay marriage debate” is that it is not a debate in any way. In fact, calling it a “debate” is a bastardisation of the word. All the coverage of the gay-marriage “debate” hasn’t been about getting two opposite parties together, and fighting it out. Oh no, only one show I’ve seen has done this, the rest has been less about a debate, and more about covering what the Catholic Church thinks as if its gospel.
Their arguments against homosexuality used to be ever so simple.
‘It’s unnatural, and people should stop choosing it as a lifestyle!’ they’d trumpet, confident that these were simply the whims of a rebellious cohort of heathens!
And how this argument enraged me! It’s not a choice my gut would scream! I’m not straight because I chose to be, its just something that happened!
This was a lovely argument, because it was just a case of convincing the Church that it wasn’t a choice. This wasn’t easy, and I don’t think it ever will be understood by some of the clergy, but it was a simply black-and-white argument – if it was a choice, then of course they’re choosing the wrong option, if it isn’t a choice, then they shouldn’t be judged. After all, you can’t judge someone for something that isn’t their fault.
That’s like racism.
Then along trotted Milo Yiannopoulos. He’s gay, so surely his side in this argument is decided? Nothing’s ever simple…
He’s gay, and he’s the Chief Feature Writer of the Catholic Herald. He’s well aware that homosexuality isn’t a choice, but in his opinion – for want of a better phrase – its a cross he must bear! He appeared on 10 O’clock Live this week to argue against gay marriage, and from this appearance I learned two things.
Firstly, he is a deeply unhappy young man. I don’t mean this offensively, I’m taking this view from everything he said (see it here). He isn’t happy that he’s gay. He acknowledges that he is gay, but in “knows” its a sin, and he “knows” he’ll be punished on judgement day for it.
It saddened me greatly to see somebody so unhappy with themself because of something I disagree with so vehemently, but unfortunately the choice he has made is to be Catholic. His homosexuality isn’t the weight on his shoulders, its his religion.
By the end of the “debate”, it had all been boiled down to one thing – when gays profess their love for one-another, when they take on the rights of a wed couple, when their family has wiped away their tears and spent the night getting sloshed and watching their Dad’s dance to LMFAO’s Part Rock Anthem, when all this has been done, can they use the “M” word? Can they call themselves “married”?
This appears to be what its all about.
Every time I see the every-Catholic questioned on TV, they proudly proclaim that if the gays are going to insist on being gay all over the place, they can get themselves a Civil Partnership! Oh yes, its got all the rights of married couples, so that’s enough! It’s unnecessary to change the law because there’s already a provision for getting all those rights! So leave our word alone you bumders!
But the problem is, that’s a wee bit hypocritical. Saying “you shouldn’t be getting so worked up about a silly word” and “leave our word alone” in the same breath isn’t exactly the fairness that old Jesus and his mates once wanted.
Here, though, I can bring us into another of the much-tendered arguments of the Church against gay marriage; the idea that marriage is a “God given” thing. That marriage is, for all intents and purposes, theirs’.
It doesn’t take long to tear this one down. Marriage has been around for about 800 years longer than Christianity. This is fact, this is fact that is easily Googleable, or you can just Wikipedia “Marriage” if you want to see it in an easily-digested chunk. But, but, but! You might be of the opinion that marriage was still given by God, its not marriage’s fault that Jesus didn’t touch-down for another 770 years!
Let me quote the big-man himself! (Not Ford Kieran, the Pope). “… Catholic teaching on marriage as a natural institution elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament…” So by his own admission, the Pope knows that marriage isn’t a Christian invention, it isn’t a Christian thing, but it has been made into sacrament by the Church. I’m not even going to try fighting that – for the most-part its true – but even the Pope has said the word “marriage” has simply been scooped up by the Church and put it on its pedestal.
So, if the glorious head of this organisation admits that marriage isn’t a Christian thing, why are they still claiming ownership of the word itself? What gives them the right to fight for it to be held specifically for a man and a woman? This is probably the argument that infuriates me most.
I recently posted a status update on my Facebook in support of gay marriage. I didn’t think much about it, until the next day when my dear Gran commented. My Gran is a lovely lady, a huge fan of technological advances of the internet, but her comment went like this…
Ah yes, the “marriage is for kids, and being gay can’t get you kids, so there’s no need for marriage” argument. Aside from the condescending “no need” part of that argument (just because there’s no need, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it! I do plenty things that aren’t necessary, but I do them because I like it. Is the Pope’s funny hat “necessary”? Nope, but he wears it anyway! Hear me complaining?), and aside from the already disproven argument of “God allowed marriage”, there’s the key part to this argument of child bearing.
My dear Gran, who’s otherwise an awesomely tolerant women, thinks that there’s no point in marrying if you’re gay because you can’t bear children. This would almost be a logical argument – almost – if this was a rule they applied to all marriages.
If a woman is infertile, should she be allowed to marry? No. It’s simple. God allowed marriage for the procreation of children – you can’t have children with an infertile woman – therefore that type of marriage is not necessary. The same goes for men who’ve had testicular cancer; you can’t make babies, so there’s no need for you to marry. Am I making too big a leap here? I fear not.
I decided to do a little research into the Christian way of “marriage” to see what it says in the pact about child-bearing. I have here the five suggested vows at the point of marriage – suggested, I should point out, by the Church…
Sample Wedding Vows #1In the name of Jesus, I ___ take you, ___, to be my (husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, for as long as we both shall live. This is my solemn vow.
Sample Wedding Vows #2I, ___, take you ___, to be my wedded (husband/wife), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, 'til death do us part: according to God's holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my love and faithfulness.
Sample Wedding Vows #3I love you ___ as I love no other. All that I am I share with you. I take you to be my (husband/wife) through health and sickness, through plenty and want, through joy and sorrow, now and forever.
Sample Wedding Vows #4I take you ___, to be my (husband/wife), loving you now and as you grow and develop into all that God intends. I will love you when we are together and when we are apart; when our lives are at peace and when they are in turmoil; when I am proud of you and when I am disappointed in you; in times of rest and in times of work. I will honour your goals and dreams and help you to fulfil them. From the depth of my being, I will seek to be open and honest with you. I say these things believing that God is in the midst of them all.
Well then! That’s that settled then! It’s all there, in black and white; marriage is for procreation!
Hold up… wait a sec… nope. It doesn’t mention child-bearing once. If marriage was simply bequeathed to us in the name of child-bearing, you’d think they’d give it a mention, no?
This is because it is not a valid argument. People (mostly) don’t get married so they can have children! Yes, its a feature of marriage, but it is not the point of marriage.
I would love to get married someday, I’ve even got a woman on the go just now that might someday be the one that does it with me (excuse the word-choice). I don’t want to get married so I can have kids, I want to get married because its an affirmation of love. Its a statement of your affection for somebody. Yes, it comes with various rights and whatnot that the unwed don’t get, but that’s not why I’d get married. When and if I do choose to propose, it’ll be because I want to profess how I feel, not because its the only way I can get to impregnate some poor wench.
Child-bearing is certainly a factor of a lot of marriages, but it is wrong to say that marriage should be restricted to only those that can do it.
Cardinal O’Brien recently made the news by writing an article in support of the anti-gay marriage agenda, and you can read it here. This piece seems to be the starting-point for a lot of the “debate” I’ve seen this week, and his argument is best summed up by this passage;
“Redefining marriage will have huge implications for what is taught in our schools, and for wider society. It will redefine society since the institution of marriage is one of the fundamental building blocks of society. The repercussions of enacting same-sex marriage into law will be immense.
But can we simply redefine terms at a whim? Can a word whose meaning has been clearly understood in every society throughout history suddenly be changed to mean something else?”
He says that we – as a society – simply cannot let the gays use the word “marriage” because the act of “redefining marriage” will have “immense” repercussions.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t go into any detail about what these immense repercussions would be, but his argument has one, basic point. He later says, “It was not created by governments and should not be changed by them.”
It is true that governments didn’t “create” marriage – the Ancient Greeks were doing it long before they were the “Ancient” Greeks – but this doesn’t mean governments can’t redefine it. Government didn’t create murder, but they can redefine what it is without a peep from the Church. They didn’t create disability, but they can redefine this too, again, with no argument from the Church.
So why are they getting their backs up about the word “marriage”, and not these other things that governments are free to redefine?
Also, there’s the hypocrisy of saying that the state can’t redefine “marriage”, when they’ve done it so many times before.
Before Christianity came along, it was the norm for couples to live together for a year before they married. They could even – dare I say it – bear children. Then the Church came along and changed this. They took the word “marriage” and, using their influence over the governments at the time, made it mean something totally different.
A 16th century Catechism from the Church said that married couples must “live together throughout life”, but this is no longer enforced. Before 1837, Jews couldn’t legally “marry” in the eyes of the English government, but this too was changed.
Saying that redefining would cause immense repercussions would almost be a legitimate scare-tactic (and that’s exactly what it is) if it wasn’t something that the Church have been doing themselves for literally hundreds of years.
There’s also that pernickety little niggle about how marriage is between “a man and a woman” and this shouldn’t be changed because this is how its been understood “in every society, throughout history”. This just isn’t the case. This is a lie.
Marriage is fluid, as I’ve already shown, and goes through numerous significant changes every few generations. Saying that every society ever has said its between “a man and a woman” can easily be disproven by the words of the Church themselves. In 1566, the Church defined marriage as “a conjugal union of man and woman”.
“man and woman”. Not “a man and a woman”. It may be a minor detail, it might even have been a sign of the language of the time, but its an important difference nonetheless. All it says is that marriage is something done by “people”.
All of this, though, is based on the Church’s view of “marriage”.
It’s at this point, that I can explain my biggest frustration to the fore. (If you want an eloquent rebuttal to Keith O’Brien’s article, you should read this. It’s fantastic and funny and everything the Church needs to hear.)
Church weddings should not be open to homosexuals.
This isn’t a quote I’ve grabbed from somewhere, this is my honest opinion.
I aggressively disagree with a lot that the Church say and do, and as such, I am not a member. Despite my protestations, I firmly believe (ha!) that they can do and say whatever the hell they want, within the confines of their own group. They can pick and choose the members that they want, they can expel people for being homosexual all they want, its their choice. What is it that Evelyn Beatrice Hall said? “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
It’s like when the BNP were forced to take in black members. I thought this was a bad move (controversial, I know, let me explain). Nobody forces you to be in the BNP, so their membership doesn’t need to be open to everybody. Telling them that they must change their rules to let black people join may have seemed like the fantastic, human-rightsy thing to do, but it should simply come down to one thing; will the group let you join? There are loads of groups that I can’t join because of things I have no control over; like the WI for instance. I may want to join, but its their group. They created it, they made the rules. If they don’t want me to join, then I’ll simply have to make my peace with it.
A great example is night clubs. I could stoat up to a night-club in white trainers and be turned away, I could be refused entry because of something trivial. I disagree with it, sure, but its their club, they made the rules, I’ve got to abide by them or not be in the club. Simple.
And, in my opinion, this applies to gay marriage.
I understand that the Church doesn’t like homosexual activity. Fine. I disagree, but fine. I also, therefore, understand that they don’t want to be marrying two homosexuals. Fine. Again, I disagree, but this is a club that you don’t have to be part of, you can leave at any time, so they can write their own membership rules all they want.
The problem here is that the Church aren’t just saying “We won’t marry two homosexuals in the name of the Church”. They are saying, “We don’t want anybody marrying two homosexuals”. This is something very different.
This would be like the management of the aforementioned night-club saying “We won’t admit those in white trainers”, then going door-to-door, saying to all the other clubs, “We have this rule, so you must too!”. It’s madness, it doesn’t make sense, and I wish the Church would see this.
I’m personally not of the opinion that homosexuals should be seen as “sinners”, but I’m not going to go around saying “You must think this too”.
When it comes to the gay marriage “debate” it seems to have all been boiled down to the word “marriage”.
Should homosexuals be allowed to call their union a “marriage”? It should be a lot simpler than its being made out to be.
If you are a Church, and you don’t want to “marry” two homosexuals, then that’s your prerogative. If you don’t want the state to allow the civil marriage of two homosexuals, then tough! You are not the state! I completely agree that you shouldn’t be forced into marrying two people you don’t want to marry, but its nothing to do with you what that state says it can and can’t do!
It’s been a massive disgruntlement of mine that the Church has so much power over the government. I completely understand why they have all this power – Church and State were once one and the same – but now they are not.
If the Church has an issue with something that the State wants to do, they are perfectly entitled to have their say. They can even believe (right or not) that their say should be taken without argument, but this shouldn’t be the case in practice.
If an argument, for or against anything, is based on logic, then it naturally should be carried into legitimate discussion. If, however, it’s based on unquestioned ideology, then we have an issue.
You can say gay marriage will be catastrophic for society all you want, but until you can explain how or why, then your argument isn’t an argument at all; its a belief. A great example of this is from Barack Obama, in a discussion about abortion… (It’s a long one, but I implore you to read it all)
“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values.
“It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.
“Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible.
“If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.”
So yes, if you are ideologically opposed to something, then please explain to me – somebody that thinks your faith is unfounded – why your opposition is universally logical. It’s not a ridiculous, unfair request; I just want to know why I should agree, without saying its what God, or Jesus, or the bible said. On a side note…
I want to say here that this isn’t a fight against religion. I don’t mind my Gran being religious, because she’s happy to be religious, and its hurting nobody. I know religions can do a lot of good (the Church feeds more people in Africa than I do), and I know that – God-forbid – I could be totally wrong about how I think the world was created and how our morals should be governed. Be religious all you want, just please don’t impose it on us that don’t want it.
My high-school teachers would scorn if I wasn’t to sum things up in a neat little conclusion, but I’ll keep it short.
Every argument I’ve heard against gays marrying seems to be simply about the use of the word “marriage”. Apparently it can’t be redefined (it can), and apparently redefining it would have immense repercussions (it wouldn’t). Apparently its only for child-bearing (its not), apparently its God-given (it, probably, isn’t).
Gay marriage isn’t (or shouldn’t be, anyway) an attack on the Church, and I am a firm believer in the Church being able to say who they will and won’t join in holy matrimony, but they similarly should afford us atheists the same luxury. State, civil “marriage” should be between whoever the hell wants to do it, as long as its consensual.
If this fight is all really about the use of the word “marriage”, then we should all grow the frick up! It’s a word!
If you want to tie yourself to one person, you can call it a union. If you want to tie yourself to someone, you can call it a merger. You can call it an alliance. You can call it a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious for all I care; its a word! Words are just a way of conveying what you mean to someone else that happens to have the same understanding of the word!
If you refuse to recognise that a certain word means a certain thing, then that’s your problem; you shouldn’t be telling people it should be illegal to use it! Applying the word “marriage” to gays will not harm society (if you think it will, please disprove me with logic).
We – those in favour of gay marriage – aren’t trying to oppress you, or change your way of thinking, or hold you down and put our testicles in your eyes and make you like it. We want two gays to have all the rights and protections of two people who happen to be of the opposite sex.
Stop getting so worked up about genitalia!