My marriage is under threat; its very existence is being undermined. I know this because the Catholic Church says so. I’m not Catholic myself, you understand, but if there’s one thing those priests know about, it’s marriage. Similar warnings are coming from other faith-leaders and the rightwing commentators.
And it’s all because of those pesky gays.
It turns out that the very foundations of our union will be irrevocably eroded if gays are allowed to marry. No less an authority than Rick Santorum, currently running second for the Republican presidential nomination, says redefining wedlock to include gays could “cheapen marriage… make it something less valuable, special”. Scotland’s leading Catholic bishop appears to argue that if gay marriage is legalised, the clamour will start for polygamy to be similarly blessed. But it’s not just marriage at stake. The Pope says that allowing gays to call themselves married is one of a number of threats to “the future of humanity itself”. Yikes.
Marriage, according to our religious leaders is less a robust, timeless institution than a precious, delicate thing – a dandelion in the wind, easily blown away by others you’ve never met enjoying the same benefits. It’s like being a member of an elite club and then finding out that Katie Price has joined. You wonder if you still belong.
I understand where they are coming from. I recently bought an espresso machine to which I was hugely attached until I noticed Whittard was selling the same model to gays. Suddenly my macchiato seemed cheapened; and questioned my commitment to the morning shot. Now the Illy languishes untouched and I have begun dallying with an old jar of Maxwell House I was once close to. We’d fallen out of touch after I’d committed to proper coffee but recently reconnected via Facebook. So I’m wise to the dangers of gay marriage. We all saw what happened when homosexuality was legalised. Crime rates soared, obviously because people felt their previous law-abiding status had been devalued by the decision to stop treating gays as criminals.
My wife and I are resigned to our fate if the government presses ahead with reform and have already begun discussing custody arrangements. It’s a pity; because we’ve been happy together. But it’s clear that at the first glimpse of Boy George at the altar I’ll abandon my family and move out to small flat above a Pizza Hut. Across the nation, young couples will cancel their engagements, put off by the weddings of other adults who love each other and increased competition for wedding venues from gays and polygamists.
When otherwise intelligent people rely on such specious arguments, you have to wonder whether it isn’t because they daren’t say what they truly believe – that gays are lesser human beings who should be denied the same rights as others. It would be wrong to tar everyone in this way, but it is striking how many of the most vociferous objections come from those with a less-than-stellar record on gay rights.
Where opponents of gay marriage have a point is in noting that there seem to be few benefits not already secured by civil partnerships. But like any excluded minority, it is natural for gays to rail against exclusion. It is hard to believe that all those Jews who used to campaign against their exclusion from elite golf clubs actually wanted to join them. I don’t think there’s ever been a great Jewish golfer and it’s a long walk to the club house if you get hungry. But when someone takes the trouble to bar you, well, a chap can take that kind of thing personally.
One of the most striking (and heartwarming) social developments of the past decade is just how quickly civil partnerships have become entirely unremarkable. It is hard to believe the same would not be true of gay marriage. But maybe this easy acceptance is what is really driving the increasingly apocalyptic warnings. Perhaps, what worries opponents is not that marriage and society will be disastrously undermined by this reform, but that they won’t.