Marriage equality should be a priority for campaigners
It is understandable that gay rights activists would seek the right to marriage on principle
GAY MARRIAGE is, for newspapers, the gift that keeps on giving. Every day brings some new development. This week, Lord Maginnis, reliable unionist blowhard, triggered a fight with Mike Nesbitt, his less medieval party leader, by describing the business as “unnatural”.
“Does that mean that every deviant practice has to be accommodated?” Ken continued. “Will the next thing be that we legislate for some sort of bestiality?”
Across the Irish Sea, the Church of England – often seen as the jam-making, peacenik wing of Christianity – announced that same-sex marriage offered the biggest threat to its institution in 500 years. A report in the Independent noted the hierarchy is even raising the “spectre of disestablishment”. What next? The spectre of universal suffrage?
The semi-official opposition to same-sex marriage is beginning to sound a little testy. This is not altogether surprising. Over the last 15 years, an enormous – and largely unexpected – shift in attitudes to homosexuality has taken place.
Consider President Barack Obama’s recent decision to support marriage equality.
Such a move would have been inconceivable as recently as 10 years ago. To advocate gay marriage in the 1970s or 1980s would, for a mainstream politician, have seemed as politically suicidal as advocating the legalisation of heroin. Few pundits believe Obama’s move will significantly affect the result of the November elections.
Very good. It took a while, but the gay rights agitations of the 1960s seem finally to have made an impact on the mainstream. Full marriage equality may not be with us for a spell yet, however, the fact the changes are being seriously discussed indicates quite how far we have come.
Now we reach the rusty fulcrum of today’s argument. How and why did marriage become such an important issue for the gay community? No, the question is wider. Why does the whole institution of marriage remain so stubbornly, unshakably indestructible? Forty years ago, a great many pundits – not all of them fools – felt the social changes triggered during the Age of Aquarius were going to propel western society into a class of Patchouli-scented anarchy.
Attitudes to homosexuality may not have shifted as much as one might have desired, but the women’s movement was gaining traction. People didn’t feel the need to dress like their grandparents the moment they hit 30 and marriage no longer seemed like the inevitable consequence of romantic love.
The traditional, bourgeois wedding – a dress that referenced pagan notions of virginity; men in Edwardian costumes; vulgar displays of culinary opulence – seemed doomed to go the way of wearing hats to church and dismissing the ladies after dinner.