04 February, 2013
I now pronounce you man and husband
What puzzles me is that the settled opinion among the Righteous is that all remaining opposition to the proposal — proposal? Binky, dahling, marry me! Sod off, Charles, what do you think I am, some sort of wooftah? — that the irreducible minimum of opposition comes only from religious nutters and from homophobic Tory backwoodsmen who'd sooner have legislation to have suspected members of the ferrous community publicly horsewhipped in the market square until they recant their vile perversion.
Hmm. Well, I'm an atheist, as it goes. Indeed I clearly remember the morning in Sunday School when I concluded that the stuff I was being taught was a bit thin in the Occam's razor department. Obviously I didn't have the language to express it in quite those terms at the age of ten, but I was a precocious little smartarse and that is essentially what it came down to. And much as I appreciate the contribution of some organized religion as a cohesive social and moral force, I've seen nothing to overturn my position in the intervening 54 years.
As far as homophobia goes, well that's for others to judge, but as I have made clear before, I'm very much with Mrs Patrick Campbell on the matter: if they don't do it in the street and frighten the horses, then I'm not really interested in the activities of the local amateur brownhatting society. Provided they wipe up after themselves and don't expect me to watch and applaud the more athletic sequences, that is.
But what has any of this to do with marriage? In the argument over "same-sex marriage", marriage is presented, shall we say, as the public celebration and acknowledgement of a committed long-term loving relationship, sexually expressed or reinforced, between two people. You can faff around with the precise formulation but that's the essence of it, the formal recognition of a hopefully permanent loving relationship. And only historic and outdated prejudice limits the recognition of such a relationship to mixed-gender partnerships.
Well, that's all very nice, but why would society evolve such a thing? Marriage is not this season's passing fad or even the reflection of some relevant but ultimately temporally or spatially localized social arrangement like, say, sumptuary dress codes. Marriage is a damned-near universal human institution, uniting a man and a woman for the procreation of children. Whatever the minor variations, and whether regulated by state, church or purely by strong socal custom enforced by the threat of communal opprobrium, that is what it always comes back to. It reenforces the man's ongoing responsibility to support his wife and children, it encodes the clan relationships and responsibilities of the extended family, it defines the processes of inheritance of property and of status. It is, in short, about the maintenance of social structure and continuity. The pair-bond between the man and wife may be at the centre of the institution, but they are not the whole of it.
But what of childless marriages, ask the proponents of same-sex marriage? An interesting point but I don't think it invalidates the paradigm. Whether barren by intent or by unfortunate outcome, a childless marriage might arguably be seen as nugatory and indeed it is often regarded with disapproval or pity. But it is accepted.
A gay "marriage" is not generally perceived as conforming or being able to conform, even in principle, to the core paradigm. Even if the couple choose to raise children, there is artifice involved, such as adoption or the artificial insemination of one partner of a lesbian couple.
The point is that "normal" marriage is overwhelmingly targeted at the procreation and rearing of children into established and sustainable social structures, whereas gay "marriage" is, in the great majority of cases, little more than a public celebration of a long-term relationship.
Society is, on the whole, unsentimental. It is about survival and about power relationships and projecting your genes into a successful future. That society should evolve persistent structures to adapt the child rearing pair bonds of our hunter-gatherer ancestors to the more complex needs of settled societies with heritable property, this makes sense. That society should evolve persistent structures simply to celebrate the pair bond itself, this makes no sense.
So there you have it, gay folks. I think you're barking up the wrong tree. What is your driver here? Jealousy? Malice? Faux outrage at the denial of perceived "rights" and spurious equality? The pizazz of the big "wedding"? A need to pretend to be "normal" by playing mummies and daddies?
Civil partnerships adequately meet your acknowledged needs for a legal structure to cover the complications arising from intimately shared life and property. That should suffice. The only problem with civil partnerships is that government chose to ceremonialize them into "marriage lite" instead of implementing them as simple legal contracts prepared by a solicitor, thus creating undue expectations.
Right, enough of this waffle. Me and a couple of my oppos are off down the woods with our twelve-bores to see if we can flush some nancy boys out of the undergrowth and teach 'em the error of their ways.
Why can't we stop at civil parnerships? Because the plan was always to create a dynamic - to bring about a situation where it would appear that gays, having been given their share of the cake and the icing, were being mean-spiritedly denied a slice of the cherry on top. If you've swallowed the principle that the state is in the business of rubber-stamping people's sexual arrangements in some vaguely moralistic manner (as opposed to acknowledging that the facts of human reproduction are what they are), you may as well call the rubber stamp "marriage".
Pity about the religion thing. Personally I found being an atheist pretty bleak. One of the benefits of belief is that you can indulge in a certain amount of sentimentality with the assurance that there is substance underlying it.
These points aside, I can only say I wish you could slip into the chamber in a Lynne Featherstone disguise and cast a vote tomorrow.
In order to facilitate everyone, and their wishes, we hastily constructed a multi-layered society that allows some to say 'yay' and some to say 'nay.'
This, in turn, brings on a whole bunch of arguments as to whether the 'nay' is more valid than the 'yay.' Or in this case, the 'non-gay' and the 'gay.'
Both sides have a case, though essentially the case for marriage is to assume that the non-heterosexuals can be as close as possible to the heterosexuals in all but one way. I leave you to decide what that is.
But at the same time we have encouraged and nurtured -- mostly by immigration -- a whole bunch of people whose devout religious beliefs oblige them to, apparently, patrol the streets and vehemently demand that people of what they believe is a prohibited sexual leaning are promptly banished. That religion will not even remotely tolerate the idea of gay relationships anywhere, let alone in their back yard (no pun intended) but they are exempt from having to provide the venues.
Fair enough; it's their front door and they have the right of not wanting trespassers.
But as the patrollers grow in numbers and vehemence, in recognition of their dismay that their newly adopted country is so dissolute and immoral, the gap grows between them and us.
The gap between the yay and the nay is one thing, but the greater gap between those and the 'no way, not ever,' is set to grow and grow.
Don't expect the progressives to wonder if maybe they are destroying something irreplaceable. They know best.
Moral Maze is the only programme I know of where a _debate_ actually takes place, but even so there seems to be no mechanism to prevent 'liberals' from using non-arguments once they get backed into a corner. Somebody needs to stand up and tackle this issue. We shouldn't be basing policies on egotistical preferences. Why should an MP stand up in Parliament and claim that because he's been in a same-sex relationship for 21 years so therefore what he argues in favour of must be logical and correct?
This marriage business is just an example; what is really upsetting is how we have buried the idea that arguments must be defensible on philosophical not personal grounds.