What’s the big deal with gay marriage?

The big news of today was that (is that?) religious institutions will now be able to host civil partnerships or, as the Daily Mail and Telegraph like to call them “gay ‘marriages'”.

This is good news. Why the government was ever allowed to tell religious people what they believed (without it being a national scandal) will always remain a mystery to me. That non-secular organisations can host Civil Partnerships will mean the world to those who can now have a ceremony in the eyes of God (assuming he’s watching).

What’s yet to be explained is, given the current zeitgeist for less bureaucracy, why add line after line to existing CP legisation, rather than just removing a few from the Marriage Act. Why not Let the gays marry.

When Tony Blair introduced Civil Partnerships, he opted against using the word marriage to placate the (already vociferous) opposition from religious groups (and of course, being a closet catholic at the time, he probably wasn’t crazy about the idea himself). In the backward days of the mid-noughties, this seemed like a good idea. Better some progress than no progress at all.

That was 6 years ago and now the world has moved on. Ed Miliband supports gay marriage as does Nick Clegg, so why can’t we have it?

When Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson got married in Canada, they UK government didn’t recognise it, instead insisting that they were in a Civil Partnership. They took the UK government to the European Court of Human Rights,but lost. The court found that although ” the couple had been discriminated against in their right to marry their partner of choice, this discrimination was justified to protect the traditional notion of marriage as a union between a man and a woman primarily with the aim of producing children.”

This equation of marriage with children is sadly not unique to the European Court. A parliamentary report in France found that allowing the gays to marry would result in equalised adoption and child-rearing rights. Such a situation would, apparently, contravene the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Marriage of course, does not mean children. As far as I’m aware, it never did (at least not legally). Indeed according to Oxford University, childlessness is a growing worldwide trend, so why do we hold gay people to a higher standard than straight ones? Good ol’ fashioned homophobia? Surely not!

The Arch Bishop of York (and others) like to couch this in terms of “competing rights”. Allowing gay people to marry somehow infringes on religious people’s right to, er, hate them.

I have no problem with people hating gays. I get it. There are passages in the bible which say certain things and some choose to believe them. That’s all good, but they’re just wrong. Allowing gay marriage doesn’t affect straight people unless they’re on the guest list. The devout can and should be able to hate gays, but the government indulge them for doing so.

David Cameron once described Civil Partnerships as righting ” one of the great unfairnesses”. As platitudes go this is brilliant, but now he has the opportunity to build on it and make it something real. If he really wants a Big Society, let the gays be a part of it. Let them get married.


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