So, finally, Parliament caught up with the prevailing mood of the country and voted to allow gay people to marry. Woohoo. I’m thrilled. About time too!
According to those who are against ‘gay marriage’ this is pretty much Sodom and Gomorrah (a bible story which they appear to have misunderstood due to the use of the word ‘sodom’ which is a town name, and gave its name to an act which was not one which only occurred between two men and is therefore not ‘a gay act’). Marriage is devalued! Marriage is for procreation! WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN! In reality no religious institution is going to be forced to marry same-gender couples if they don’t want to. Their right to discriminate through religion is protected, and not all religious institutions oppose same-gender mariage anyway. What is no longer happening is the extension of that discrimination throughout society based on the beliefs of a minority. Believe what you want, that is your right, but when you use that belief to oppress and discriminate, that is a problem. If you don’t want a ‘gay marriage’, don’t have one. Simple.
This wasn’t even about ‘gay marriage’, a misnomer which has been irking me for a while. This was about equality, and allowing couples who are not one-man/one-woman to be wed. This was about marriage being available to ALL, not just heterosexual couples (although it is still mono-amorous, but that’s another and way more complicated legal debate). This was about Marriage Equality, and frankly I’d prefer it if the debate had been titled that, but hey, we won, so meh!
This is a massive step for gender equality also. Marriage has long been held up by some as oppressive in that it inherently perpetuates traditional gender roles. This is because it has been “husband/wife”, or worse (as in many religious ceremonies) “man/wife” – seriously, the man remains an autonomous individual and the woman becomes an appendage to his autonomy and defined by her legal relationship to him? What’s THAT all about?! I am married, and for me it was a public show of my commitment to and love for my lover/partner/friend/cohabitee-through-life, and provided vital legal protection to boot. It had nothing to do with expected gender roles, and in reality we are not at all traditional in any way in our marriage. If marriage is no longer only to be undertaken between the man/woman couple, then the traditional gender roles through which men have retained privilege and women have been oppressed will also be challenged. Yay!
Of course if one wants to take on traditional roles, that is absolutely fine. It should be a free choice entered into willingly and openly. But those roles should not be forced on anyone, nor should the validity of a marriage be questioned if the couple are not conforming to traditional expectations. It does happen. It’s happened to me. I have been asked if my husband ‘minds’ me being the main breadwinner, and him being ‘forced’ to be the homemaker. Once I mention the fact my arthritis makes housework extremely painful for me, the questions stop. It’s okay for him to be a ‘carer’ for me, apparently, but not to actively choose the role. That’s not the reality of our marriage; we chose our roles, and we discussed our desires, wants, needs and expectations before we took the step. Marriage between same-gender couples challenges this patriarchal, heteronormative, oppressive assumption. It is a great day for feminism, a great day for equality, a great day for society.
I also see it as positive for transgender equality. Sometimes the transitioning to one’s natural gender causes problems for marriage. For example, if a transgender woman wished to marry a cisgender woman, she would be able to but ONLY if she retained the ‘male’ gender on her certification; a horrific denial of her identity. Likewise if a couple who wed before one of them transitioned, they could do so only at the expense of a denial of the transgender person’s identity. I am hoping now that equal marriage will mean the marriage will remain valid even if the gender of one member is altered on all official documentation, and of course same-gender couples can now marry.
It was a decisive vote in Parliament – 400 for the bill, 175 against. It was a free vote, which would seem to indicate to me that all votes should be free, get rid of party whips, party lines, being forced to vote with your party when it is against your constituents wishes etc. There is the predictable rebellion amongst Tory MPs who wish to oust David Cameron as a result of his vote for equality – if that doesn’t give a clear indication of the oppressive nature of right wing politics I don’t know what does. How ironic would it be if David Cameron lost his position as a result of his support of a policy of equality…
I digress. This vote is a GOOD THING. It brings about an equality the lack of which has long been a glaring insult to the nation’s sensibilities, and the majority beliefs and attitudes. It is a BIG step forward, for all non-heterosexual couples who wish to marry, and for equality in general. I am happy. I believe the majority of the country is too.