The issue of gay marriage bothers me more than it should. I mean, it bothers me that some people are against it. Actually, scrub that, it bothers me that people try to get away with their homophobic bigotry by wrapping it up in the cloak of their religion that, in their minds, means it's not bigoted but part of a belief system that everyone is supposed to respect, whether we share that belief system or not. In no way does being religious make you a bigot of course. Neither does being non-religious; the two are orthogonal. My objection is the use of the cloak of religion to somehow excuse a repellent point of view.
It's perhaps the thing that annoys us atheists more than anything: 'oh you must respect that view, it's his/her religion.' What utter bollocks. Bigotry is bigotry. And if the anachronistic claptrap of religion tells them it's OK to be a bigot then I have no respect at all.
When I married my wife 18 years ago (OK, 17 years and 10 months if it matters), we did so in the local register office. For me, it was a declaration in front of my parents, family, friends and anyone else who cared, that I loved her and that then, as now, I had every intention of spending the rest of my life with her.
It's an emotional event. You know it's coming and you plan it and organise all sorts of silly trivialities. Family and friends run around and make sure your day is just right for you. At my request, my dad made me a cooked breakfast that morning as he had every day when I was growing up. My sister valiantly brought the wedding cake all the way from Guernsey in a December storm and managed to get it to Ipswich undamaged. Realising that our belief that the venue staff would clear up between the afternoon and evening was fantasy, the family rallied round and did it without us even knowing at the time, and so on. People that we cared about cared about us and made it a special day that began our married life.
What would be the difference had I been a woman or my wife a man?
What part did religion play in the day?
What relevance has religion to my marriage?
According to the Office of National Statistics, I'm in the majority. In 2010, 68% of weddings were civil ceremonies, up from 64% in 2000. The church's claim that marriage is in some way 'their rite' is patent nonsense (see this anti-gay rant by Scotland's cardinal Keith O'Brien, winner of the Stonewall's bigot of the year award). The church played no part in 68% of marriages in 2010.
Is it true that everyone arguing against gay marriage are religious? Almost certainly not, but many of the most vocal are using religion as their cloak. Take Ann Widdecombe. She recently lead an anti-gay meeting at the Tory party conference asking:
Is it bigoted to recognise that the complementarity of a man and a woman in a union open to procreation is unique and cannot be replicated by other unions?
Leaving aside the ugly made up word 'complementarity', why does she feel it necessary to mention procreation — a somewhat archaic word that at least hints at a religious view point? Many married couples have no children. Many couples with children are not married.
Oh, hang on… let's go back 10 years or so to when it became legal for gay couples of adopt. Unusually, I'm going to use the Daily Mail as a reference here because it's their article I can find online from that time.
Former Tory minister Peter Lilley said:
There does seem to be an agenda to try and equate cohabitation with marriage and homosexual relations with heterosexual relations. Children to some extent are being used as a pawn in this game.
No one thinks children should be used as pawns in any game, hence this quote comes across as entirely negative and pejorative. Many people would agree with and support the agenda to equate the status of homosexual and heterosexual relationships, but by using the term using children as pawns he makes that seem a bad thing.
The person I remember from that time though is, again, dear old Ann Widdecombe. In 2002 she said that adopted children:
… needed 'security and stability', pointing to research showing that within five years of the birth of a child, 8 percent of married couples had separated compared to 52 percent of unmarried couples.
Well, that statistic may be true and it is certainly true that adopted children have a particular need for security and stability. But you notice that the statistic doesn't say anything about whether those adoptive couples are gay or straight though does it? I saw her on question time around then too banging on about how gay couples must not be allowed to adopt because they were inherently unstable. Call me naïve but I have a suspicion that if a couple is prepared to go through the adoption process, they're probably going to be pretty darned committed to each other and to the children they adopt.
To show that people like Ann Widdecombe and (climate change denier) Peter Lilley are homophobic one only has to quote their words. So what about the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby? He said today:
We must have no truck with any form of homophobia in any part of the Church.
Hallelujah! – a church leader who isn't a homophobic! But hang on…
On the issue of same-sex marriage he said he had to examine his own thinking "carefully and prayerfully".
What? What is there to think about? Carefully, prayerfully or otherwise? If you will have no truck with homophobia then have no truck with homophobia and be at peace with the idea of gay marriage.
And if that's all a bit heavy, this video on the subject is very funny… (Source).