Sunday, 9 December 2012

Same-gender marriage in the UK

Looking back at yesterday's post, I think I laid too much emphasis on the pain and regret. There were also triumphs of personal development.

I found myself forced to attempt many things that in my previous life I would never have contemplated. Who, in ordinary life, ever risks public humiliation or punishment by dressing up in different-gender garments? Or the trauma and consequences of coming out? Or the irrevocable results of radical surgery? Or forever alters their legal status by pursuing their options under the Gender Recognition Act 2004?

All these things required getting one's mind out of a stultifying rut, embracing the 'impossible', overcoming fear, defying convention, developing enormous self-belief, and perfecting the art of serious self-organisation. It was also a stern test of resolve, of emotional resiliance, of whether one had the grit to undergo major surgery and the rehabilitation that followed. And to face the possibility of a future life of impoverished loneliness, and memories that would hurt.

I did face all that, and won out. So I would claim that the last four years have made me a better, stronger person, with knowledge and insights and experience I would never otherwise possess. If you asked me to compare the person I used to be with the person who now is, I would confidently tell you that I am now much better qualified to be a 'useful citizen' or an understanding 'good samaritan'. But not a saint. And no longer 'a strong arm' around anyone's shoulder - a role that disappeared when I lost the male look and mindset. But I can cry or rejoice with you. The old person was much inhibited where emotional expression was concerned; but then 'his' hoary protective shell was very thick and inpenetrable. Nowadays my garden fence and front door are the only barriers needed. You can look in, and see me, and call to me, and I will answer with merry eyes.

There would be no blog if I was afraid of revealing myself. You know that has to be true.

And now to the subject of this post: same-gender marriage (let's refer to it from now on as SGM). In public discussion it's always referred to as 'same-sex marriage', as if the words 'sex' and 'gender' were interchangeable. As ever, the 'sex' element taints the basic concept with images of What Happens In Bed, and whether such a marriage has any utility in Saving The Species. So it's preferable to speak of 'same-gender' marriage, because then these issues recede somewhat, and the discussion has a better chance of weighing up the pros and cons, and getting to a rational conclusion.

Wikipedia has an article on the current national debate on SGM at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage_in_the_United_Kingdom. It's a useful overview on how attitudes are developing. The thrust of the pro-SGM argument is that 'marriage' is an excellent thing, encouraging a stable home life and all the positive effects that flow from being a member of a universally valued institution. It matters that vows have to be spoken, in a hallowed place, and that the commitment is perceived to be higher in status, more exacting, and more permanent, than the mundane Civil Partnership. And that it is wrong and discriminatory and unjust that some of those who aspire to marriage can't get it.

Opponents cling to the narrow 'man and woman' concept, chiefly because time and custom have made it the norm; or because their particular secular or holy authority is against anything else.

Being neither a traditionalist, nor religious, I can look at this question without those biases. Nor do I have a special personal interest: nobody has proposed to me, or is likely to.

I look at it this way. Discrimination is always wrong. The existence of any kind of underclass harms society. We need to eradicate status differences, not perpetuate them. A marriage that works well is definitely a good thing. Two people working together in a respected, high-status relationship can achieve more than two people who feel they are being held down in an inferior kind of setup. They will feel more valued, more responsible, and no longer marginalised but mainstream. They will have more public recognition, more of a stake. So they will want to strive harder, which may have very good economic results. They will worry less about their position in the community, which might mean less anxiety, and better overall health. And if they are a family unit, it will be a better thing for the children. Happier parents, and therefore happier children, will mean fewer kids go off the rails. All of this adds up to a great case for making SGM available to all who want it.

The location of the ceremony could be in a church or at a register office. I'm indifferent as to which, but those with religious beliefs may prefer church. But surely not just any church. I don't think that clergy should be forced by law to paticipate against their own inclinations: they should have the option to refuse service if they wish. It seems only reasonable. And indeed why would any couple wanting a gloriously happy wedding put themselves through an ordeal - a ceremony in which the person officiating was doing it insincerely with gritted teeth, and in front of a hostile congregation? Even if they thought that God himself was looking on with a blessing on his lips?

If the national debate leads to new legislation allowing SGM, there is a welcome spin-off for trans women who married their female wives as 'men' before transitioning. They will be able, at last, to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate under the 2004 Act, without needing to divorce first and then remarry. What a good thing. To be Mrs and Mrs, with official approval. Brilliant.

7 comments:

  1. People are under the misconception that 'because they are religious' it is ok to be married in a Christian church or that they need to be in a 'holy place' to do so. It is right and proper for Christians to be married in a Christian church building for the building is there for their use. What goes on in a church is for believers, not unbelievers. The church building is not there for all and sundry unless they are seeking to know God. This is why it is wrong to impose a secular law for unbelievers or same gender proponents to be able to marry there. It is like saying that members of a local Labour Party are allowed into meetings held by the Conservative Party. The State has no right to impose such a law. The Church (membership) equally should not interfere with secular law but should always try to persuade Government to base legislation on God's will. If Government don't listen or refuse counsel then so be it. Therefore regarding same gender marriage the Church must make a stand against it for it is against God's will. Secular law allows it and that should be enough but don't try to persuade a Christian to think it right. Seeking 'approval' and acceptance for a same gender union by performing the ceremony in a church building will never make it right in God's eyes. People who do so are deluding themselves for if they read Scripture and believed in God's word they wouldn't be there in the first place! They wouldn't be getting married anywhere. The secular view is one of let people do what they wish and give everyone the same liberty to do so. The Christian view is to follow God's will and to point people to God in love whilst showing them the error in their ways. Why is it a good thing to be Mrs and Mrs or Mr and Mr? It isn't. I am divorced by authority of a human judge's ruling but in God's eyes I am still married for I made a vow to Him when I got wed. There is no physical side to our relationship but the spiritual bond is as strong as ever, why do you think I still love her and want to show it by looking after her? I cannot break a promise to God but an unbeliever can do what they please and don't they do just that?
    Yesterday I made the suggestion that you read the Book of Ecclesiastes Lucy because it would help you come to terms or understand why you were feeling the way you were. I don't know if you took me up on that suggestion but I hope you did. Now I am suggesting you read the whole Bible. No doubt you will have a reason not to but I pray you don't.

    Shirley Anne x

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  2. I am starting to like Quakers, they are all for it...

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  3. They make good porridge is all....LOL

    Shirley Anne x

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  4. I'm sorry, but whilst I agree with your point that you should not force priests to marry same sex couples, your view of non-believers is insulting to me.

    I was not married in a church, in Holland a church service is purely spiritual and not legal, so you need to get married in a town hall before the religious service - and we choose to just do the civil service as neither of us is religious.

    That does not lessen the connection I have with my wife one iota. I would do almost anything for her, as she would for me. I miss her during the day and cannot wait to see her again in the evening. I put myself out to make her life a little easier, and she does the same.

    I believe that I have a very strong moral compass, stronger than quite a few Christians that I have known, born not out of religion but out of respect for fellow people. So no, just because I am not a Christian does not mean that I "just do what I want". Being a decent and civil human being stops that, not religion.

    Stace

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  5. Saying that people can do what they like Stace is not the same as saying they will. The reference was intended to show that those who do not believe in God are able to do what they please, just like the rest of us I might add, Christians too. The only difference between a Christian and an atheist or one of another faith is where we put our faith. Please don't take offence as none was intended.

    Shirley Anne x

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  6. I don't normally take offence at things online, life is too short :)

    But, your post got to me. As you say Christians, and anyone else, can do exactly as they please - faith has nothing to do with it. What stops them is their moral compass; their personality; their ability to tell right from wrong.

    I'm sorry if I took it wrong, but in the post it seemed that you were saying non Christians find it much easier to do bad things, to shirk their responsibilities and to take their relationships more lightly.

    I just wanted to say that is absolutely not the case. Good people are good, bad people are bad. I don't think someone's faith has the slightest impact on which side of that fence they sit.

    Stace

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  7. Glad we agree Stace

    Shirley Anne x

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Lucy Melford