Some things are difficult to explain, simply because they seem so profoundly obvious. My post on climate change felt rather like that. I found it hard to express myself, because it all seemed so fundamental, so clear, that it was difficult to grasp why or how anyone would need it explained. Nonetheless it sparked a fairly vigorous debate.
Legalising gay marriage seems, to me, to be a very similar topic. It feels obvious to me that anyone who who believes in equality, fairness, justice and compassion would argue that there is nothing to debate. If we disallow gay marriage, we tarnish ourselves and our society.
The tired old argument that “marriage is between a man and a woman” isn’t actually an argument at all. It is a statement of history. Sure, we used to discriminate. We used to discriminate on the basis of race, of gender, and of postcode. Once the statement was a little different. Once people would have said “marriage is between a man and a woman of the same race,” with just as much emphasis and strength of feeling. Possibly more. Yet now we recognise the fundamental insanity of that statement. Love does not recognise skin colour or genetic makeup.
Denying gay couples the right to marry does not protect marriage. This unattributed quote, seen on twitter, sums it up beautifully: “So, let me get this straight…Charlie Sheen can make a “porn family”, Kelsey Grammer can end a 15 year marriage over the phone, Larry King can be on divorce #9, Britney Spears had a 55 hour marriage, Jesse James and Tiger Woods, while married, were having sex with EVERYONE. Yet the idea of same-sex marriage is going to destroy the institution of marriage? Really?”
Legalising gay marriage is no threat to my conventional, heterosexual marriage. But maintaining discrimination is a threat to my children. Whether they grow up gay, straight, or endearingly twisted, I want my daughters to grow up in a world where people are treated fairly and equally. Where people are valued for their minds and their hearts. Where their sexuality is their own concern, and of no interest to anyone outside their private lives.
We are not teaching our children that right now. We are teaching our children that gay relationships are somehow less deserving, less valid than straight. In doing so, we damage and divide our own community, just as much as we did when we discriminated on the basis of race. (I am rather naively assuming we don’t do that anymore – but we have at least achieved something when no-one, not even Andrew Bolt, wants to admit to doing it.)
Similarly, the argument that we could recognise gay relationships in a legal sense, without actually using the word marriage, is a decoy away from the real issue: equality. We could do that. It might even be an easier fight. But what would it achieve? We don’t gain anything by locking gay relationships out of marriage, but we lose a lot. Don’t give me dictionary or religious definitions of the word marriage. Give me, instead, the dictionary definition of equality.
It is time to state firmly, loudly, and unequivocally, that all people are equal and valued, whether gay, straight or kinky. The true measure of a couple’s relationship is in their love and commitment, not in their sexuality. One day we will look back and be appalled that this topic was ever debated, just as we look back on racial segregation with horror. Let’s bring that day forward.
*Australian MPs are consulting their constituents about gay marriage right now. Email your MP today.