For a burd with an opinion on more or less everything, I’ve found myself curiously detached from the debate on equal marriage.
As it has raged, I’ve tried hard to find a reason to fulminate. But every time I’ve come close, Groucho Marx has crept unbidden into my thoughts.
And maybe my inability to get worked up about the issue is because I neither want nor can see myself ever belonging to the marriage club. Once, maybe.
Even if I ever managed to find somebody fool enough to have me – and my pops might still be prepared to offer serious money to anyone who might – the prospect of it resulting in a bridal march down the aisle in a meringue is a non-existent one.
So, in truth, I find it hard to comprehend that so many couples of any sex do want to belong to this club. I, of course, can afford to be nonchalant, given that I have the right to join, if I want to. And perhaps, if pushed, some lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people might admit that the reason they seem to care so passionately about belonging to this club is simply because they are not wanted.
Really though, it is a moot point. We live in a country which on paper at least, has embraced human rights for all, which has embedded equal rights for everyone in all aspects of our everyday lives. The actuality of inequality might be proving more stubborn to remove from many people’s lives, but at least, now, in Scotland, in principle, we all enjoy equal rights.
Unless of course you are gay, for there are still some bastions of discrimination and prejudice left in our society, and that essentially is what the equal marriage debate is all about. Everyone, everywhere, no matter who you are, where you come from and whom you love, should have the same rights as everyone else. Including to marry in the same place and to take the same vows as heterosexual couples.
If faith is important to you – and it is to many lesbian and gay couples, just as it is to many straight ones – then making your marriage vows before God and having a religious ceremony matters. For everyone else, the church – both the main denominations in Scotland – has offered its marriage service with few reservations: in most cases, it as an institution and they as entities have turned a blind eye to the fact that many folk have come to expect a church wedding as one of their many social options. They pay lip service to the religious connotations and instruction required in order to get to the altar. And if that’s allowable for straight couples, then it should be good enough for same sex ones too.
Indeed, I’d have more sympathy with the churches’ position on this, if they hadn’t demonstrated such hypocrisy over the years. Divorcees are allowed church weddings these days, yet for long enough, this was seen as a big no-no in the eyes of God. Yet, for those who truly believe and adopt his teachings, the sacraments of baptism, marriage and burial were always available. And to deny homosexuals one part of this trilogy – without doubt, gay people have been baptised (even in adulthood), gay people’s children will have been baptised and most certainly, lesbians and gays have been given a religious burial – seems somewhat inconsistent.
Nope, a society is either equal or it is not. We cannot allow a pick and mix approach to equality – a modern, forward looking state affords all its citizens the same rights. And if some folk can get married in a church and have a religious blessing, then that must be open to all.
There is no other conclusion the Scottish Government can and should reach. Anything else would be just plain wrong. While the Scottish Government has been aff its bravery pills recently, this issue is not one it can bottle. Nor is it one upon which the propensity of either side to vote yes to independence should be considered. Not everything can be whittled down to a referendum gain or loss and indeed, many still want government that smacks of principle and not just pragmatism.
Doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do might just find favour with some. “History calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for the common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy.” This one from Karl Marx.
The issue of equal marriage comes down to what is fair, equitable and just. And I want to live in a fair, equitable and just Scotland. Where everyone is treated the same and can expect equal treatment under the law. In a rights-based society, there can be no hierarchy nor relativity nor exceptions. And I’d like a government focused on working for and delivering for the common good.
Whether or not any lesbian or gay couple – or indeed, bisexual or transgendered couple – would ever want to get married in church is neither here nor there. Everyone – all of us – should have the right to, whether or not they wish to exercise it.
Indeed, I rather hope that having won the argument, the LGBT community adopts Groucho Marx’s maxim. After all, who would care to belong to a club which would have them as a member?