By Joshua Townsley
Now, I accept that this article may be preaching to the choir somewhat, but here goes. I believe that if two people love each other they should be allowed to celebrate it in whatever form they wish. Pretty basic argument isn’t it? Well, unfortunately some disagree. ‘Marriage is a Christian ceremony’ some cry, as if Christianity is somehow incompatible with homosexuality. ‘Civil Partnerships are basically the same thing’ others say. Or worse, ‘where does it end?’ Most of these statements are peculiarly preceded by the phrase ‘I’m not homophobic, but..’ Hm. Well, let me address a few of these now.
Firstly, marriage does have its roots in religion, obviously. That’s why we have them in churches. But I argue that religion no longer holds monopoly rights over the concept of marriage. Society owns this concept, as it does many other previously Christian notions. For instance, the thousands of Atheists who marry in church every year, or my Muslim friend who celebrates Christmas. More fundamentally, it doesn’t have monopoly rights over love. But gay marriage represents just another erosion of ‘core Christian values’ in Britain. Ok then, let’s take a look at some of these ‘core Christian values’ shall we? The bible says I would have been put to death at the age of 16 for having a Sunday job (Exodus 35:2). At least I’m not a woman in which case I could have been sold into slavery long before then (Exodus 21:7). Maybe it’s better not to take the bible too literally… Besides, you’re telling me that if Jesus came back today, this is what he’d be upset about? Not youth unemployment, global warming or poverty?
But surely, Civil Partnerships are the same? Well, no actually. Civil Partnerships were a botched, half-arsed compromise similar to the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ law in America. They are not the same as marriage; they are patronising and treat the love between two human beings as inferior. It’s just a title though? Maybe, but it’s symbolic. And in effect, that symbol restricts the ability of two loving individuals to celebrate their love for one another. And I’m not convinced that allowing two people who love each other to marry will cause society to collapse in a rubble of immorality. Because that argument was used for years to prevent mixed race marriages, and I’m just so thankful that we’re all still in one piece after the horror of legalising that.
Let’s think practically, institutions in Britain have an historical knack for reforming just in the nick of time. I’m thinking of the Monarchy during the 17th Century and the House of Lords in 1911 as two key examples. They do this in order to survive. That is why we have an old established Parliament and a good, proud Queen as our Head of State. Religion has a fundamental role to play in our society and should be respected. For centuries, Britain’s culture has been shaped by the teachings of Christ. But this culture changes, and religion has to change with it to survive.
Why does this matter to me? Well, simple, I’m a liberal, and value equality and the championing of minority rights. I oppose restriction of an individual’s liberty unless that person’s actions are causing harm to others. And actually no, I’m not gay, or particularly religious. Not that this matters one bit, but I want to establish why this issue is a biggie for me. Dad ‘came out’ to my brother and I about five years ago now when I was 16. Mansfield born and bred, he proudly works as a Special Sergeant in the Nottinghamshire Constabulary. Last year he was also Chairman of Pride in the great county of Nottinghamshire, for which my brother and I put up numerous large and colourful banners at the Forest Fields site. He works hard, serves his community, pays his taxes, oh, and has chickens too. I love my dad, and am appalled by the fact that in the eyes of the law, his love for a person who happens to be a man is unworthy of the title of marriage.
Good news is the consultation process on ‘civil marriage’ has just begun. Get involved, sign en e-petition, talk to people or write a venting article like this one, and maybe then it’s just a matter of time before my dad can marry on an equal basis to anyone else. Because gay marriage represents a fundamental battle for rights, and liberalism has spearheaded these battles throughout history. Every day that sails by without recognition of this fact is another day we let our central liberal values sap from us as a party, a country, and most importantly as human beings.