I use this blog as a soap box to preach (ahem... to talk :-) about subjects that interest me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Marriage for all

This post describes my position concerning gay marriages.

I expect that most people, with the exception of religious bigots, would support the formalisation of homosexual unions.

After all, it makes sense that if two people form a stable relationship and share their lives with one another, they should be able to care for each other, inherit from each other, and, in general, have their union formally recognised. And this, regardless of their political convictions, religious beliefs, ethnicity, sexual preferences, or gender.

Opponents of same-sex marriage, including many of our politicians, insist that the word “marriage” should be reserved for heterosexual couples. Further, they claim that in making that statement they are not guided by religious beliefs, but only by their personal moral rules.

I find such a position unreasonable. Some of those politicians, regardless of their denials, do it because of their religious affiliation. Others probably believe that the country is not ready for same-sex marriage and don’t want to jeopardise they possibilities of re-election.

I see marriage as a contract between two people. Why somebody should be excluded from it is for me a totally alien concept. There was a time when so-called “inter-racial” marriages were illegal. Worse than that, there are still countries where two people cannot marry if they belong to different religions. In our “enlightened” western civilisation, though, these are things of the past. The discrimination on the basis of gender will have to go as well.

One of the apparently reasonable objections to gay marriages is that if marriage were open to same-sex couples, they would then be able to adopt children. The objection is that a child, to grow into a balanced member of society, needs both a father figure and a mother figure.  There might be some truth in such an opinion, but who is to say that two men or two women couldn’t assume the diversity of roles that a child need?  I would go even further and claim that the two members of a couple always have different roles within their relationship, whether they have the same gender or not.

Besides, a growing portion of marriages end up in divorce, which indicates that always more children live for a while in a dysfunctional or, at the very least, unhappy and unbalanced family. And the number of single parents is also on the rise. The fact that two people can biologically procreate has never been a guarantee that they will be good parents.

Further, a growing proportion of couples decide not to marry and prefer to live in a de-facto relationship. So much so, that laws have been created to recognise such “loose” (for lack of a better word) unions. So, why should it be possible for heterosexual couples to form “loose” unions but not for homosexual couple to form “tight” unions?

I tell you, in fewer years that you can count on the fingers of one hand, gay marriage will be accepted in many, if not most, western countries.

Actually, why limit the number of people who can get married to two?  If marriage is really to be seen as a civil contract between adults, perhaps it would make sense to extend it to more that two people, all bound by the same rules. I know, I am being provocative and perhaps, on closer examination, there are many reason for limiting marriage contracts to two people. But the point I am trying to make is that people still attach to marriage law a special status that it shouldn’t have.

Part of the problem is that we use the same word for two completely different things: one is a religious ceremony celebrated by a cleric, and one is the stipulation of a contract regulated by the Marriage Act.

We should split the two as clearly as possible. I confess I don’t know what the situation is in Australia, but in Italy, where I grew up, thanks to the Lateran Treaty of 1929 between the Catholic Church and Mussolini, priests can transfer catholic marriages to the civil authorities. No wonder that then people confuse the two.

Let the religious people have their marriages as they like, and everybody else, heterosexual or not, sign the contracts they want.

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