Sunday, 14 August 2011

Marriage is so gay

These puppets have no opinion on gay marriage
This article was originally published on Amansaman.

The release of the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey is an annual opportunity to be depressed at the number of morons who call Scotland home. The most recent results show that more people now dislike gypsies, foreigners and transgender people compared to the previous year. Oddly, self-loathing doesn’t appear to be measured, though I suspect it’s on the rise too.

One piece of good news for people who believe in not being a moron is that support for gay marriage has shot up. 61% of Scots now think marriage should be open to all, and only 19% were dead set against the idea of two people who love each other being able to legally call themselves husbands or wives. And with both the government and opposition parties making positive noises, it does seem that marriage equality for same sex couples might be delivered by the current Scottish Parliament.

We can expect the coming debate to be characterised by the following sentiments. On the one hand:
  • Marriage is a religious construct, and it’s not for the state to tell religious people what they should believe. That should be left to mistranslations of ancient texts and the people we pay to indoctrinate our children about them.
  • Marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, and changing that definition will rend the very fabric of society, destroy the concept of family and turn the country into a morally relativistic wasteland.
  • Gay people already have civil partnerships, so they don’t need marriage, the greedy buggers.
On the other hand:
  • Marriage is a construct defined and regulated by the state, and the fact that religious groups have their own, separate interpretation of it shouldn’t impact on the state’s ability to redefine it whenever appropriate.
  • The definition of marriage has been changing constantly for centuries, in terms of recognising the rights of those of different races to marry, changing the age at which marriage is permissible, and most recently changing marriage from a contractual ownership of a woman by a man to the more equal contract it is today.
  • Civil partnership marks out same sex relationships as less significant than mixed-sex ones.
Detailed and honest assessments will be made of all of these claims and a fair and equitable settlement reached with an emphasis on our shared goal of social justice.

Ha.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that was how politics worked? Evidence-based decision-making, open and honest discussion, consensual conclusions? How lovely. No, in reality the items above will be largely invisible under an avalanche of slander, sensationalism and fear. Politicians will be terrified of invisible constituencies and their next election result. Pressure groups will promote myths about gay “lifestyles” and religion will be pilloried as a force for evil. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria, as Dr Venkman might say.

We’ve already seen the opening shots of this. A couple of MSPs have stuck their heads over the parapet to prop up and then shoot down some straw men about forcing churches to marry gay people. The heat generated in the responses has been greater than the light. Polarised ranks are already forming, positions being entrenched, demagoguery being polished. It’s pretty depressing to be honest. And we know it can be incredibly damaging, because we remember the Section 28 debate and the Keep The Clause campaign. Thank goodness Brian Souter, the man behind that hate, no longer has any sway in the politics of this country. (What’s that? He’s a major party funder and has just been nominated for a knighthood by the Scottish Government? How extraordinary.)

Here’s hoping we can rise above it this time. Here’s hoping no-one tries to buy off democracy with a chequebook this time. Here’s hoping religious disagreements can be dealt with without fear and anger this time. Because really, this is about love. And with all the shit going on around us – riots, economic meltdown, the Fringe – we need a bit of love.

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