Liberals are a funny bunch. We can be powerfully and passionately political, but get so bogged down in earnest discussion that we forget the very basics. I am guilty of this sometimes – I overthink the linguistic implications of trying to ‘reclaim’ the word ‘slut’, and miss out on some fun-sounding slutwalks.
But we should never forget why the basics are important. Last night I had a timely reminder, when I met a friendly, liberal guy in a pub who argued against equal marriage:
“If we let gay people get married then we legitimise the institution of marriage. And aren’t there more important things to do, like fix the economy? Oh, and if gay people can get married then what’s to stop polygamous groups asking for multiple marriages?”
Put on your hard hats, people: I’m about to throw some rocks.
We shouldn’t ‘let’ gay people get married
It is not a question of ‘letting’ anyone do anything – you’re not giving gay people your permission to get married – you are obliged to give them the same rights and freedoms as you’d give anyone else.
If someone is released from prison because they’re found innocent you’re not ‘letting them leave’ you are obliged to give them their freedom back.
There’s a beautiful picture doing the rounds on the internet showing some idiotic right-wingers from 40 years ago protesting against mixed race marriage. It’s contrasted with a contemporary picture of people protesting gay marriage with the slogan “Imagine how stupid you’ll look in 40 years”
Fuck whether you’ll look stupid in 40 years – you look stupid right now. You’re failing to recognise that, regardless of who someone loves, shags and visits Ikea with, they are still fundamentally a person.
So it’s not a question of ‘letting’ gay people do the same as straight people. We are morally obliged to give all people the same basic freedoms. So let’s get on with it.
There are more important things than gay marriage
Yes, there are many things more important than the human rights of those in the western world who are already blessed with rights aplenty. If you’re worried about that then be my guest – pick a charity and open your fucking wallet.
But in the meantime it’s so rare – so heartbreakingly rare – that we have the opportunity to make such a monumental difference. It’s a teeny tiny legislative change, and it’s simple. Compared to dismantling the NHS or reviving a sluggish economy, it’s as simple as breathing in and out.
You could wake up one morning and find yourself in a society that is fundamentally fairer than the one in which you went to bed. That is an opportunity so fantastic that not seizing it seems wilfully destructive. So get on with it.
We’re opening the door to polygamy!
Leaving aside the question of whether we should actually legalise multiple marriages, this is a huge, ridiculous, stinking red herring. Why? Well, legislating for multiple marriages is infinitely more complex and ethically challenging than simply removing the gender specifications from a current marriage law.
It’s not a ‘slippery slope’ – it’s a completely different mountain. We can discuss polygamy another time, but right now we’re talking about legalising gay marriage. Let’s get on with it.
Gay people shouldn’t legitimise the institution of marriage
I am unlikely to ever get married. The party appeals but the rest leaves me cold with horror. I won’t get married – I think marriage is shit. But if some people have the legal right to eat that shit then I don’t see why anyone else shouldn’t have the same goddamn right to chow down on it too.
If you think that marriage is so bad that gay people shouldn’t do it, and you’re waving banners calling for an end to all marriage – gay and straight – then good on you. I won’t march along on your protest but I’ll respect your slightly odd opinion.
But you’re not, are you? You’re not. You’re saying ‘marriage is shit, leave it to the straights’. Which sails so far and fast past the point that the point itself is but a tiny dot on the horizon.
Here, I think, is the key – we should legalise gay marriage even if gay people don’t want it. Because I am straight, I can make a stand against the institution of marriage by choosing not to get married. At the moment some people don’t even have that choice – they can’t actively reject an institution that they were forbidden from joining anyway.
So even if every single gay person in the whole world decides that marriage isn’t for them, they should have the same right as I do to say ‘I don’t’. The act of marriage isn’t as important as the choice itself – a choice which should be offered to all people equally. So let’s get on and offer it.
Being gay is fundamentally wrong
I’m not going to get into this. If your religion or your personal ethics are so viscerally anti-gay marriage then you’re not going to change your mind after reading a rant from a sex blogger. You probably clicked off the page a long time ago, so this post isn’t for you.
It’s for the liberals who argue that there are more important things, for the lefties who say that gay people should boycott marriage because the institution itself is flawed. It’s for the people who say ‘we’ve got civil partnerships, that’s close enough’. It’s for those who aren’t interested one way or another because they know that gay marriage will become legal eventually, so what’s all the fuss about?
This post is for you. At the moment the UK government is holding a consultation on marriage equality. And although I love a good pub debate, I don’t want to sit arguing about the nuanced implications of our individual viewpoints while one of the best opportunities to advance equality slips through our fingertips.
So we can fight about the detail over a pint, or we can recognise that no matter what our liberal quibbles, all people should be treated equally. Let’s just get on with it, shall we?