Why are we wasting time debating gay marriage?

man placing ring on woman's fingerThis is usually a non-political blog but sometimes the soapbox positively nudges itself under my feet, especially when I’ve spent many, many long hours in a car with not much for company but the radio. For non-Australian readers, be advised that the election from hell is nearly upon us. We’ve been listening to political discussions since Julia Gillard announced the election about six months ago. I’m not sure what the Australian people did to deserve such cruel and unusual punishment, but there it is. We’ve been in de facto electioneering mode ever since. With the demise of Julia and and the resurrection of Kev* the rhetoric has picked up in frequency and volume. Like every other Western country, we have our share of problems. Our economic surplus has disappeared in a flurry of spending so that now we owe hundreds of billions, our health care system is creaking at the seams, education needs an overhaul, we should be considering food security instead of selling the farm, the climate is changing… etc etc. All important issues which will impact the lives of future generations. But what is the one issue which just about everybody spouts on about?

Gay marriage.

Marriage, we are told, is a ‘traditional’ union between a man and a woman. It says so in the Bible so it must be true.

Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks here. Forget about messy emotions like ‘love’, when  we talk about ‘traditions’ going back thousands of years marriage is about procreation and ownership. Carrying and raising a human child is an exhausting business which leaves a woman vulnerable, so she needs the assistance of someone to help protect her and provide for her. This person is usually a male, who in return gets to donate his sperm to the embryo in a rather enjoyable way. The same sort of thing happens with gorillas and horses. But a male can’t be expected to care for the offspring of some other male, hence we have a contract, called ‘marriage’, between the man and the woman.

Take it a little further, and children are needed to help run the farm and later, to provide for the parents in their old age. Great economic reasons for such a union. But take it a little further. Women soon became commodities to be bought and sold. Marriage was about strengthening relationships between families and gaining rights to territory. The endless wars between French and English armies after 1066 were the direct result of such unions.

Please don’t imagine the common folk didn’t do the same thing, marrying off their children to the most eligible family. In most all human societies that I can think of, property and inheritance is paternal. To put it another way, who did your mother belong to? Not so long ago, the marriage ceremony exhorted the woman to “love, honour and obey” her new husband before he put that band of ownership on her hand. Excuse me while I puke. Girls of my own generation were encouraged to keep a ‘glory box’, collecting baby things and items for the kitchen etc so they would be well-equipped when the time came for them to move into their ‘traditional’ role of wife/home-maker and mother. As the song says, what’s love got to do with it?

Don’t get me wrong. Love is an enduring, powerful emotion which sometimes helps and sometimes hinders more contrived relationships. After all, even if you are simply a commodity to be traded for power and influence – or maybe the value of your dowry – it’s easier to accept if you quite fancy the fellow. Sure, it’s a two-way street. A man might be expected to marry a woman he doesn’t like, let alone love. Certainly, a loving relationship is more likely to result in monogamy. But men (by dint of not having a womb, and by social acceptance) can get away with a bit on the side, while that release has only recently been an avenue open to women.

These days, love is supposed to be the overriding reason for people to enter the state of marriage. People choose not to have children (raises hand). Marriage is simply a social statement of a relationship, a commitment to another person.

Which brings me to the nub of this rant. Why do we give a flying fuck who marries who?

Why are we wasting our time debating an issue which is nobody’s business but that of the two people concerned? Why should we care if the social commitment (with its attached legal safeguards) is between two men, or two women? Homosexuality is increasingly accepted. This last, old fashioned, repressive bastion is absurd. Just pass the bloody bill and concentrate on things that matter to everybody.

Pant pant pant. Thank you for listening. I’ll get off the soapbox now.

* Kev – Kevin Rudd, Australia’s current prime minister

18 thoughts on “Why are we wasting time debating gay marriage?

  1. Allison

    I, for one, enjoy your soapbox posts!
    I also agree. Who cares? Fix the economy, fix education, fix medical care.

  2. Marion

    There are a lot of religious fanatics in the US who believe in a loving God who is going to send everyone to hell if there’s marriage equality. Kind of hard to win a rational argument with those folks.

  3. John Irvine

    Whatever you get it will be run by politicians… that’s two strikes. We have a similar problem over here. We have a dickhead PM but there’s no-one else out there… that’s very scary.

  4. John Irvine

    I am in 100% agreement with you, Greta… no more to say, except that whoever you guys get as PM it will be a disaster. But if Abbott takes Canberra a lot of International shit will hit the fan. Julia was a sad loss.

    1. Greta van der Rol

      Ah, now, John. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I don’t agree on Gillard. I’m not besotted with Abbott. But putting presidential politics aside, I just don’t want another 3 years of Labor nonsense.

  5. juliabarrett

    All right, I’m gonna play devil’s advocate here because I agree 100% that gay couples deserve to experience the same happiness and legal protections as straight people. However this issue of what constitutes a legally recognized marriage might become a slippery slope.
    My son asked me this question: What if a brother and a sister want to get married? Is it anybody’s business if they aren’t hurting anyone?
    Well, how does one answer that question? Perhaps a taboo against incest is simply social convention and not really applicable. In ancient Egypt brothers and sisters married. In many countries today it’s quite normal and acceptable for first cousins to marry.
    Are these rules arbitrary? What if a 40 year old man wants to marry a 13 year old girl and he has permission from the girl and her parents. Is he hurting anyone? Think Coal Miner’s Daughter – Loretta Lynn married her husband when she was 13, according to most biographers, and he was 22 or 23.
    Yes, I hate the drama and there are other very important issues to deal with, but this question is bigger than recognizing gay marriage.
    Some people might say plural marriages should be legal. Plural marriage is legal in many parts of the world.
    Not saying gay marriage shouldn’t be legal, just asking questions…

    1. Greta van der Rol

      All good questions. And many of these things go back to the inheritance issue, most particularly when the couple concerned conceive a child (brothers and sisters, cousins). Sure, some of these issues become murky. But if we’re talking about consenting, same-sex adults, it looks pretty black and white to me.

      Thanks for making it interesting by asking some thought-provoking questions.

  6. MonaKarel

    In my day it was a hope chest or in my case a “hopeless” chest. Marriage came late since I was just too danged picky!
    Not even state by state, apparently a county clerk refused a license to a lesbian couple though New Mexico is a declared okay on gay state. I say why keep them from being miserable like so many of the heterosexual couples are!!! And think of what it does for the economy, OMG the weddings they can plan
    Seriously. The right to pledge forever to the person of your choice should be inalienable, and was in fact mentioned early on in this country’s history: “Live, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”

  7. Steven J Pemberton

    Hear hear! Because it makes little practical difference to most people’s lives whether homosexuals can marry, but it stirs up a lot of emotional reactions, the cynic in me would say the reason it’s getting so much attention is to distract from something else.

    We’ve had civil partnerships in the UK for a few years, which are gay marriage in all but name. Earlier this year, we gave homosexuals full equality in marriage rights with heterosexuals. I was pleasantly surprised at how uncontroversial this was – it didn’t produce nearly as big a media storm as in the US or Australia.

  8. Invisible Mikey

    Since here in the U.S. we are having to slug this one out on a state-by-state basis, I have full sympathy for your level of irritation. It mirrors my own. I wrote on the topic back when our Supreme Court was determining the legal indefensibility of the “Defense of Marriage Act”, the national law defining marriage as “between a man and a woman”. The post was entitled “Get Used To It”.

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