Marriage Equality – Much I Do About Nothing

Marriage equality for same sex couples is a hot topic in the States and many other parts of Christendom right now. As the pendulum of liberal public opinion swings towards reform, the religious reactionaries advance ever more bizarre notions for opposing the right of consenting adults to choose whom they wish to marry. It’s in the Land of the Free where the debate (if debate is the word) is at its most venal. An unholy axis is scaring the horses and the old folk with talk of a disintegrating society and the fall of America. The do as I say and not as I do Catholic Church is wielding its considerable power and marshalling its congregation; right-wing American politicians seeking the highest office in the land talk of paganism and a vomiting God; and crazy pastors across the Bible belt warn of Old Testament fire and brimstone and the End of Days. These strange bedfellows all agree that it’s the thin end of the satanic wedge. What next? Pet-wedding perverts? Marriage is between one man and one woman, they say, sanctified by God for the purposes of procreation. How do they know? Because it says so in the Bible, stupid. Actually, the Bible says a lot about marriage – about forced wedlock, polygamy and concubines. It supports all of them. Bible-bashers have selective memories.

Rather than take a trip on the merry-go-round of fables and myths, it might be more illuminating to take a look at history and absorb some hard facts. Until relatively recently, marriage was primarily a property contract. In most societies, girls were the chattels of their fathers; wedlock simply transferred ownership from father to husband. There’s a clue in the word ‘lock’. Often, the contract was transacted within the extended family in order to consolidate assets or preserve clan cohesion. It was generally best to keep it within the family. At the top of the social heap, marriage was a political device to forge alliances, strengthen authority and maintain dynastic power. The rich would oil the marital wheels with generous dowries and the poor might secure a slave bride through war. Women were booty. Like goats. The consent of the unfortunate (and often underage) girl was not required. The wife could get a raw deal; the goats might be treated better. If a woman failed in her primary role to provide male progeny, she could be replaced, supplemented or worse. None of this sounds particularly honourable or pious to me. Nor has this depressing state of marital affairs been consigned to the history books. It’s alive and thriving in many primitive corners of the modern world.

The spawning argument hardly holds water either. It’s an obvious biological fact that marriage is not required to have children. People don’t suddenly become fertile because they’ve been blessed by the shaman. Breeding is like falling off a log and we’ve been at it like proverbial rabbits since our distant ancestors crawled out of the primordial soup at the dawn of time. When Fred Flintstone first clubbed Wilma over the head and dragged her by the hair into his cave to make Pebbles, he didn’t need a holier-than-thou clergyman to stick his oar in.

Just recently, on my side of the pond, a top dog collar in the Church of England jumped on the wedding bandwagon. The Archbishop of York claims that the democratically elected Parliament of Britain has no right to change the definition of marriage. I think His Grace will find that the British Parliament has the right to do as it pleases. England got rid of meddling priests when they pissed off Henry the Eighth. Hell hath no fury like a tyrant scorned. Despite what the Archbishop may think, the meaning and interpretation of abstract concepts often evolve over time through intellectual inquisition and discourse. There was a time when the Church taught us with absolute God-given certainty that the Earth was flat and sat at the centre of the Universe. Woe betide anyone who disagreed. Stoke the bonfire and burn the heretics, they used to say. Fortunately, we now know differently. We discover and we evolve. Our religious establishments would do better to concentrate their energies on addressing the problem of empty pews and unheard sermons. Ironically, the Church of England would find it far more difficult to operate without the growing number of gay vicars in its ranks.

For an unreconstructed liberal and an unabashed secularist like me, this is a fundamental equalities issue. It’s also a love thing; and love, above all other things, is at the core of the Christian message, is it not? As far as I’m aware, no religious organisation will be forced to conduct religious ceremonies for same sex couples if they object. So, let’s just calm down and grow up.

Read all about Jack and Liam‘s life in a Muslim country

38 thoughts on “Marriage Equality – Much I Do About Nothing

  1. Brilliant post Jack. The trouble with those religious bigots who insist that one should follow the word of the Bible, is that they just pick and choose which bits suit a particular occasion, and conveniently forget the rest. It’s not much different with those following the teachings of the Qur’ān either. Hypocrites the lot of them!

    Like

  2. Tut-tut, Jack! You really need to get your facts right – you wrote ‘we’ve been at it like proverbial rabbits since our distant ancestors crawled out of the primordial soup at the dawn of time’ – not so! Back then it was all done by creating divisions not by conjoining – you need to brush up on the old evolution stuff. On the other hand, some ‘things’ haven’t evolved at all!
    Good post – keep the old pitchfork going 😀

    Like

  3. Hear hear! Why is that when love, respect and tolerance are supposedly at the heart of just about every major religion their adherants so often use them to pick spiteful, vindictive, hate-filled fights, and hide behind their ‘holy’ books as a defence?

    Like

    1. Hi Deri, my earlier reply got lost somewhere and I manage the bleedin’ blog. Anyhow, it gladdens my cynical heart to hear of the growth of liberal churches who include not divide. Let’s get the law changed and let them marry whoever they want (not their pets, obviously. That would be silly) 😉

      Like

      1. As a Washingtonian (hailing from the soggy liberal Mecca of Seattle), its about DAMN time we passed this! We’ve been pointing our fingers and tsk-ing long enough to California’s prop 8 and not doing a thing to fix it ourselves. We’ve finally progressed past the “everything but marriage” laws and went full fledged. Proud of my state!

        Like

  4. Jamaican “Christians” (sorry about the quotation marks but in my view they often do not embody what I think of as Christian values) have a Bible quote for everything – especially anything to do with homosexuality. When you point out that the Bible does in fact endorse all kinds of wedding arrangements that would fill them with horror (one presumes). And I agree – why is it that “Christians” talk so little about LOVE, these days? Right now, Jamaican church “leaders” are busy getting upset about…guess what…horse racing on Sundays, which started today. Get a life!!!

    Like

    1. It was the same in Britain with the Sunday trading laws. I think the meddling priests thought it would sound the death knell for church attendances. They were right. Most families prefer a Sunday outing to IKEA. Who can blame them?

      Like

      1. Indeed – this is partly about their opposition to gambling in general – which goes on every day everywhere and there’s nothing they can do about it – but I wish they would get their priorities right and start campaigning against child abuse and other chronic social ills, instead. But they leave that up to the secular groups like Jamaicans for Justice (our leading human rights group, which by the way has been speaking up for gay rights recently)…. Sigh. Why do we expect so much more from the Church I wonder…?

        Like

      2. There was a time when many church leaders were truly radical fighting for social justice. Some still do but too many sit on their comfy arses. They’re making themselves irrelevant.

        Like

  5. This week on this side of the pond the news has intriqued me. First ,trying to get my head round the 4 bishops meddling with the governments bill on dealing with the welfare state reforms,
    ( What the heck are they doing in parliament ??)
    Followed by Carey , putting them in their place , ( well said IMO ) ,and then these latest comments from religious leaders, against , the elected Prime Ministers own comments. It seems to me a bit of political point scoring going on behind the scenes .I hope that the PM is doing what he thinks is right and not going after a HUGE number of potential votes .However ,I do think it is a win – win situation ,keeping the debate alive, and moving forward .I thank God that I come from a country that can actually have the freedom and courage to move forward ,there are still far too many that cannot do this.I too have been thinking of Henry the 8th and even the Roman Empire .
    For the sake of your health and blood pressure Jack my advice would be STAY CALM AND CARRY ON. Politics is a funny old game.

    Like

    1. Jo,
      Indeed politics is a dirty business. I hope Mr Cameron doesn’t buckle under pressure from the more conservative elements in society. I think he won’t but there’s still a lot to play. Don’t worry, my blood pressure’s fine. I rather enjoy the cut and thrust of it all. Ironically, we’ve not interest in getting married in the religious sense. Not our thing!

      Like

  6. I can’t believe we’re still talking about this. I’m just beyond words at how appalling I think it is that this is still open to “debate” in 2012. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

    1. I can’t see the article because I don’t subscribe to the Times but, despite her religious beliefs, Libby Purves has always been an advocate of equal rights so I can imagine what she’s written. What surprises me about the Archbishop is that he is black and talks of the vicious racism he’s experienced during his life. A case of the oppressed oppressing the oppressed. Disgraceful.

      Like

  7. What a refreshing view on marriage, with some easily forgotten truths brought to light. One day they will look back on certain aspects of our times as we do on those of the medieval period. Too bad that will be too late for those who are discriminated against now, though. Here’s for change!

    All the best from Chile…

    Like

  8. Excellent blog. Always love seeing a solid and well researched speech on equality of any kind. As a natural born atheist who is proud to be so it is also always a special treat when such an article is having even a subtle poke at religion.
    Thought I’d throw in some of my own knowledge too. In the good old days here in North West Europe when people had the sense to not have a religion but chose to entertain themselves with tales of Norse and Celtic pantheons of Gods and others similar fantasies marriage was as you say simply a legal contract. For the Norse in particular aside from the flowery issue of love it represented a union and promise of fidelity so that any offspring could legally be regarded as heirs. Womenfolk thereby obtained total control over the running of the home or farm and everyone knew where they stood for employment and property rights. As you rightly pointed out offspring where sprung outside of marriage and usually welcomed and loved equally. However, if marriage in place they inheritors in the eyes of the law could be identified. Obviously if an heir was later proven through evidence to not be the spawn of the groom all hell could break loose. Although tragic for those concerned we benefited from a wealth of literature that became the Icelandic Sagas upon which almost all Western stories were based.
    The main thing to remember is that Gods had nothing to do with it aside from a casual reference to a blessing perhaps. Essentially it was a promise amongst peers, friends and family to be honest and faithful to each other. What more does love need eh?
    Finally a late congratulations on the video (I’ve been on a downer and not “playing” with humankind of late but now feel the mania returning. Excellent work. I am off to tour Europe again in 8 weeks and promise to take the book with me and gather proof of my version of Scott’s book tour. Great shots of Turkey, I must return there soon as it’s been 21 years now! Music score great too, I especially loved the ragtime piece (ha, that’ll annoy him!!), seriously altogether an excellent piece of literature, video and music. I hope it reaps the rewards of success for both of you. You could get a chateau and treat yourselves to hanging around this type of cooler http://www.cavedelatourelle.com/cave/cubi-longue-conservation/categ_7.html Owning one of those is my new aim in life!
    Bon chance, Alan

    Like

  9. Alan, I really like your contributions to the blog – always intelligent and well considered. Thank you. Liam says thanks for the nice words about the video – it was his baby. .

    Like

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s