Are you for or against the proposal to allow gay marriage?
OPINION: Among the arguments against same-sex marriage is that gay couples can already have all the protective status that marriage does under law.
Conservative gatekeepers are saying cannot we keep our version of marriage intact and allow gay civil unions to exist in a legally parallel, but distinct, state?
Does this sound at all familiar? A good deal of this rhetoric has similarities to the "separate but equal" thinking used to justify apartheid and racial segregation. Admittedly, in those cases, the "separate" was far more emphatically enforced than the "equal", but the comparison is not lightly made.
Within existing law there's still an element of requiring gays, like the blacks of US southern states, to sit at the back of the relationship bus, where they belong. They still get to ride on the same journey as the decent folk, so what's the problem?
So is the rather too expansive appropriation of marriage as a state between man and woman - case closed. We are advised to consult a dictionary: "The legal union of a man and a woman in order to live together and often to have children," says Oxford.
Yes, well, voting was once the right of men alone; to be gay was to be happy and carefree. Dictionary definitions do change over years, as society does.
Next question is whether marriage is inherently a religious state, entered into by those who do so as a particular act of faith in this being God's will. In which case, the argument is akin to saying that the defenders of heterosexual marriage are simply asking to keep this state distinguishable from others.
But consider this: Christians, Muslims, Hindus and many other religions have held sharply different views on whose marriages were truly sanctified in the eyes of God - and whose weren't.
Even within faiths, exclusivity was at times entrenched. Catholics and Protestants haven't always seen eye to eye on the status of each other's marital unions.
In hindsight, should each of these religions, and denominations, have held firm to protect the status of marriage as a closed-ranked holy huddle? Surely not.
Those for whom marriage is special for what it excludes, rather than for what it embraces, are becoming proportionately fewer.
New Zealand should be ready for gay marriage. We hope it is.
Countries that have introduced gay marriage laws have not seen a reported corrosion of the state of heterosexual marriage. For its part, New Zealand has survived homosexual law reform and civil unions without evil social consequence. Those who argue otherwise are looking in the wrong place for their scapegoats for what few would deny to be problems of parenting.
Our problem is too few true, utterly committed, unions of loving couples.
We need more marriages. More commitments that aspire to a way to declare something more than a letter-of-the-law legal status.
Unions whose participants want to live a married life; not just something that technically runs parallel to it.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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