God created Adam and Eve in that garden – not Adam and Steve. What is your view of the growing phenomenon of same sex marriage?
That said, numerous arguments have been levelled against gay marriage, some of which possess a modicum of validity. The first of these is intuitively congruous to democratic principles, at least on the surface. Simply put, the majority of people in society are against same sex marriage, ergo, it should not be allowed. This is true in liberal countries such as Britain and the US, and is even more valid in more conservative nations like Japan and Singapore. Furthermore, many critics of gay marriage argue, society is at present “not ready” for such “radical” upheavals, and until it is, same sex marriage should be frowned upon.
However, such a view is reductionist and simplistic in its application of democratic ideas. Even while the “majority rules” principle is applied, we cannot ignore “minority rights”. Equal rights, including the right to marriage, dictates that homosexuals, though obviously a minority, should be exempt from discriminatory legislation that deprives them of matrimonial bliss. 70 years ago, one man believed that the mandate of the majority allowed him to persecute minorities. One man believed that society loathed these minorities, and that imbued the state with power to strip them of their rights. That man was Adolf Hitler, and he precipitated the massacre of millions, including thousands of homosexuals. Obviously, those ghastly horrors of the Holocaust are not completely analogous to the absence of marital rights, but it does serve to illustrate the ludicrous subtext of the argument that same sex marriage should be disallowed just because most people are against it.
Moreover, the argument that we should “wait and see” is simply unjust, especially given the urgency with which homosexual citizens are demanding same-sex marriage. “Wait means never”, as Martin Luther King so aptly put it, since institutions of power rarely change slowly and gradually, but rather require agitation and radicalism to catalyse reform. Parallels can be seem in the Women’s Suffrage movement, and more recently in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Back then, the argument was that “society wasn’t ready”, and that “the majority was against equal rights”. Would that have justified the continued discrimination against African Americans? Again quoting King, “justice delayed is justice denied”. There is no time to take the tranquilising drug of gradualism. Similarly, we have to recognise the fierce urgency of the case of gay marriage, and that there is no better time to accept and legalise it than now.
Other critics of same sex marriage claim that marriage is fundamentally a religious construct, therefore the hostility of religion towards same-sex marriage is justification enough for banning it. Christianity, Judaism and Islam (or the people of the Book) in particular display virulent opposition to any progression in gay rights.
In my opinion, this argument is unfounded. Firstly, marriage is by no means a religious institution. Undoubtedly, it has been influenced by and has links with religion, but if we examine the anthropological origins of marriage, the stereotype that it was always religious falls apart. Research in the University of Montreal, Canada, has shown that marriage in church is a relatively recent phenomenon in historical terms, only about 300 years old. Even then, that was largely because of the function of the church as a social node rather than the existence of pious believers. Prior to that, marriage had no link to the clergy save for the registration of it by the local vicar, which hardly counts as a crucial religious role since the vicar was often the only literate member of a given community and hence the only person able to register marriages. Before Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and other major religions, marriage already existed. Hence, the lack of a determining role played by religion sufficiently refutes the above argument.
Furthermore, even if marriage were religious in origin, in the modern context it is non-religious – atheists get married. Also, most modern states are secular, and the division of church and state implies the non-interference of religious institutions in the determination of gay rights. For instance, in Belgium, marriages are held at the city hall, and are given the state’s blessings, not the Church’s. If heterosexuals wish to obtain divine approval through a church ceremony, they are free to do so. Similarly, since Catholicism disapproves of homosexuality, it can refrain from sanctioning same sex marriages but allow the state to fulfil that function. In essence, the role of the state is to define the liberty of all (including homosexuals), not to mandate its moral code.
Lastly, and perhaps most dangerously, people oppose same sex marriage “because it is just wrong”. They feel it somehow, inexplicably, cheapens the institution of marriage in general. The notion of it being “unnatural” or “disgusting” is, unfortunately, widespread. This can be seen in born-again Christian George W. Bush, who ever since he gave up Jack Daniels for Jesus Christ, has stubbornly objected to gay marriage. Placards reading “gays are possessed by demons” are often seen in evangelical anti- gay demonstrations in the USA.
This irrational hatred scares me. It reflects an emotive, dogmatic well of hatred inimical to a civil society. If anything, I believe that the acceptance of same sex marriage is likely to strengthen the institution, not weaken it. These are the people who have fought years to get their love legally recognised. There are also the people who are willing to strive to make marriage work. These are precisely the people who see the value inherent in marriage. In the world today, with ballooning divorce rates, shotgun marriages, and increasing cynicism regarding matrimonial union, it would be a travesty to prevent the most sincere champions of the cause of marriage from getting married. Same sex marriage will strengthen the institution of marriage itself by being inclusive and by reminding us of the foundation stone of marriage that defies class, race, religion and sex: love.
In conclusion, the final response to same sex marriage should be “Why not?” Why deny two loving individuals the right to matrimonial bliss, especially since they are the most responsible, most desirous and hence in many ways deserving of that right? Let us not forget that equality is the way any civilised society is run and led – it is time to let Adam and Steve wed.