I think everyone has an idea of what the word “marriage” means. It can, and does, mean many things to many people, but I would hazard a guess that for most “marriage” is generally understood to mean something like a man and a woman have the ceremony where they are pronounced man and wife, they live in a house together, have children and live happily ever after. That’s what “marriage” means in the Western mind.
Undoubtedly, however, we live in changing times. As little as a hundred and fifty years ago, humans flying somewhere was incomprehensible. Travelling anywhere of great distance required months of hardship and the chances of death en route were as good as arriving safely. Just two generations ago space travel was the domain of nutters and science fiction writers. Within my life time, television was a miracle. Colour television was unheard of. Computers were the domain of the aforementioned nutters and science fiction writers who droned on about space travel.
But times have changed. I’m writing this on my laptop computer while my eight year old son is watching videos on his iPod and we're waiting for a plane to take us overseas. My how times have changed!
The topic du jour is same-sex marriage. Most people have an idea of what that is, too. It’s like “marriage” above, but substitute “man and woman” for “two men” or “two women”. Same-sex marriage has been on the agenda of many for some time. It’s one of those topics that regularly comes up for debate, usually driven by the gay and lesbian fraternity, or the far right conservative church. This time, however, Parliament has weighed into the debate because a Bill to legalise same-sex marriage has been drawn from the ballot and must be decided on once and for all. The changing times ahead will be even more interesting. There are people right this minute squirming in their cassocks, and shivering in their moored yachts. Which reminds me… Bishop Tamaki has been quiet lately. Off building His own little empire I know, but I’d be willing to bet His New Jerusalem won’t have unisex toilets.
A few decades ago, when what was left of the church completely lost control of the minds of the majority of Westernised people, every tradition, belief, and practise began to be seriously challenged. The foundation of religious belief, the creation of the Universe by “God” had been under scrutiny for a century and, to be fair, it wasn’t holding up too well. In the wake of revelations about the bible, the church and religion as a whole, the tenets that had allegedly held society together began to look more and more shaky and unable to sustain rational life.
Just as when the enlightenment opened the eyes of the blind, this new revolution opened the minds of the oppressed. Joe Average suddenly realised he didn’t actually have to conform to some 18th century ideal, or bow down to what was increasingly looking like an absent and probably even non-existent deity. That “hell” didn’t exist (even the churches were giving up that idea). And that he could live a fairly decent life without the restrictions placed on mind, body and life by an omnipotent minority.
So people started coming out of the closet. Like those simple, goggle-eyed slimy pteropod-like worms that poked their newly formed eyes out of the primordial sludge (so the scientists told us), people with all kinds of hitherto deviant proclivities peeked out of the minutely ajar wardrobe door. And I don’t mean just gay people. I mean people who thought rock music was actually not that bad; or those who thought interracial relationships were not evil; or those who thought aiming a gun at some foreigner and shooting him just because the Government said he was the “enemy” was immoral; or those who thought that maybe having a child outside of “wedlock” (now THAT’S and interesting term) wasn’t the end of the world as we knew it; or those who thought that just because the old man in the white collar said it, it didn’t mean it was actually so; and, to be fair, those who thought a relationship with God didn’t require an intermediary whose palm you had to grease to get a decent hearing with the Almighty.
Not coincidentally, about then a lot of people started having sex with a whole lot of other people to whom they were not married. And sometimes with people whom they hardly knew. And sometimes with whom they shared the same physical attributes. And with whom they shared a naughty little fetish. And by and large society did not implode (although the religious will have us believe it did, it can be argued that it was the religion, and the religious, that was retarding society the most. It can be argued that human society is centuries behind where it should be because “the church” held it hostage for fifteen hundred years.)
So, to marriage. Sure marriage was a relationship one man and one woman engaged in. Ostensibly to create more little initiates. And to live happily ever after. Marriage was changing. Just because a few religious purists don’t like it, doesn’t mean to say it's not true.
I don’t like how, now, all over the Internet there are ads for a multitude of products and services. It didn’t used to be that way. Why can’t we go back to the days of ad-free web surfing. I don’t like it, and I won’t accept it. Nevertheless, I’d be willing to bet before you got to this page, and after you leave it, you will be bombarded with ads. Me too. Deal with it. It’s the way things ARE.
While the religitards were bickering about what colour the drapes in the new church building should be, or whether or not women could lead the congregation in prayer, normal people changed, too. Moved on. Grew up. Old men started marrying young women. Oh, hang on. That had been happening since Abraham or before. That’s right... older women were now marrying young men; black men were marrying white women; black women were marrying white men; lawyers were marrying waitresses; kings were marrying commoners; French men were marrying English women; fat people were marrying thin people. Some people were still getting married in the churches, but others were getting married by a river, or on a beach, or on a mountain, or while skydiving naked, or in scuba gear under the ocean, or at the drive-thru chapel in Las Vegas, or in a gothic ceremony, or by a Satanist priest. Marriage as we thought we knew it wasn't "normal" any more.
But more importantly, almost as many people as were getting married were also getting divorced. No longer was marriage an immutable life sentence. It was something that if you didn’t like it, you could change it. Women could express some dissatisfaction with it. They could take on a more egalitarian role within it. They could even dictate some of the terms. Or, if either party wanted to, they could ditch it altogether. Which didn’t necessarily bode well for the children made from the relationship, but that wasn’t the sole responsibility of mum or dad either.
Whether purists liked it or not, “marriage” had changed. And not only had it changed, but further, it had begun a journey in which it was to become a constantly-changing entity. It was taking on new form, new meaning, new challenges and new rewards all the time. It. Had. Changed.
So it is no surprise now to most reasonable people that “marriage” should simply be inclusive of gay and lesbian people who wanted to get married.
But for some reason, there is more opposition to two people in love who just happen to be the same gender getting married, than to a man and a woman who get married, cheat on each other in the first week and get divorced the week after that.
It is fair to say that any opposition to same-sex marriage is born of homophobia. Bob McCroskie will deny that, but it is nevertheless true. Only the conservatively religious and the severely homophobic (between which there is significant cross-over) are opposed to same-sex marriage. Nobody except a hard-nosed few buys into the argument that re-defining marriage cheapens the idea of marriage. It offends their immature sensibilities, sure, but same-sex marriage will no more cheapen the idea of marriage than any of Larry King’s 8 brief marriages already do.
Some time ago, a compromise was reached in New Zealand. We call it “civil union,” a charming sounding arrangement that means the same thing as marriage. Almost. Except it undoubtedly reminds the participants that they aren’t really married. Hetero couples had gone from shacking up to being in a civil union. Gay couples could pretend to be married but really they weren’t. The reality was (is) that anybody in a civil union is by definition a second-class citizen, unworthy of the title “married”.
So it’s not about “being married” as much as it’s about being accepted as an equal human being, and being afforded the dignity of being treated as an equal. The church, holding the Government hostage, likes to look down its consecrated nose at a certain set of society, perhaps to make itself feel better, and enjoys wielding as much power over our lives as it can. Same-sex marriage and euthanasia are about the only means by which the church dictates to society now. I believe both of those strangleholds are about to disappear.
Bob McCroskie was bleating about how if we allow same sex marriages today, tomorrow the polyamorous people will be lining up to legitimise their unions. You know what I say to that? I say BRING. IT. ON! Hey Bob, aren't the majority of "marriages" modeled in your bible polygamous?
If three people want to “get married” and live their lives accordingly, who are we to stop them. I say let them do it. There are many many people living in such relationships already. It is their responsibility to deal with the dynamics such an arrangement would bring. Who are we to legislate against such a thing? There is no difference between saying three (or four or five or ten) people, or two gay people, cannot be married and saying a black man and a white woman cannot be married (which many churches actually still say).
The 21st century is one of consent. If two (or more) adults consent to being engaged in something, and it’s not illegal (a whole other argument) we should not let a minority of narrow-minded bigots thwart their endeavours. Marriage is no longer the domain of the church. It never really has been, except they hijacked it like they hijacked every other aspect of human society in their lust for power and money. Same-sex marriage should be legalised and any religious institution that opposes it should be prosecuted and closed. Their bigotry was kicked out of our bedrooms years ago, now it's time to kick it out of our court rooms, too.