14 December

Marriage and Playing a Role

The principal argument advanced in favour of gay marriage appears to be based on a desire of gay people. Gay couples, it is claimed, consider their love equivalent to that of heterosexual couples and want it publicly recognised as such. That is all very well, but love, like religious faith, may be unintelligible to third parties. We can talk about it, and it may be life-changing for us, but it remains intangible beyond the individual’s profession of it.

If the proposed drastic change in British marriage law is to have any firm conceptual and cultural footing it ought to be based on something stronger, and of more concrete public benefit, than a private, even if apparently profound, sentiment.

The onus must surely be on supporters of gay marriage to demonstrate the need for the proposed legal change and explain why manifest differences between heterosexual and homosexual couples are not an obstacle.

Celebrating a couple’s love is a natural part of family life but we do not need, nor have we ever needed, a government official to tell us to have a good time or to express our solidarity with the newly married. The State has an interest in marriage which gives birth to, and socialises, succeeding generations. A couple’s love is of interest to the State insofar as it produces, and contributes to the welfare of, children.

With children manifestly out of the equation, advocates of gay marriage have still to identify a public benefit in which the State has a genuine interest directly related to gay relationships.

That is not to say that the State has no interest at all in gay relationships. Disproportionate levels of substance abuse, sexual promiscuity and mental health problems in the gay community are ever better documented. Even the gay writer and actor David Hoyle has gone so far as to declare gay culture ‘the biggest suicide cult in history’.

For gay people recognition of marriage is about playing a role in normal society and no longer feeling ashamed of being sexually attracted to their own sex.

The State clearly should take an interest in the high levels of unhappiness among gay people which arguably lead to  disproportionate levels of substance abuse and the tragic cases of teen suicides. Extending the cover of ‘marriage’ to gay couples might, it could be thought, have a positive effect on this. But that begs questions politicians appear unwilling or unable to answer. Why have they not made the case for gay marriage on these grounds before? Is it right to instrumentalise so vital a social institution in this way? What are the risks and potential consequences of defining marriage in a manner that explicitly excludes children?

Insofar as marriage has a potential for making homosexual people feel less different or abnormal, we must recognise that it already plays an important role in supporting parents in caring for their children. This must not be underestimated.

The haste at which David Cameron’s coalition has moved on this issue is deeply worrying when the arguments are still not fully expressed or understood by either side of the debate.

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