No one wants to be seen to be against same-sex marriage. That’s the main reason why I say I’m in favour of it. But, in fact, I can see only two good reasons why we should introduce same-sex marriage – because it will make people happy and it will stop all this nonsense about it. To give those people whose preferred partner in life is of the same sex a feeling of acceptance and legitimacy is surely worthwhile. This is the sentimental argument.
But does it really warrant a change in the law? The only argument about gay marriage that stands up to scrutiny is basically the sentimental one, because if you get away from the emotional argument there is no real justification for the government to pass laws that extend marriage laws to encompass same-sex unions.
The first thing a lawmaker would want to be sure of when passing a law is whether it is necessary, and you can easily argue that there is no need for a government to have laws about how people live their lives in their own homes and with people they love. This is one area in which we have very few laws for good reason.
Laws restrict what we can do.
Try to think of any law that permits behaviour or gives freedom. Any spring to mind? Come on. there must be one! Actually, no. Normally we start with freedom and then we pass laws to restrict it. Today, people have the right to live their lives freely with whoever they like precisely because we removed discriminatory laws. There were laws about gay relationships fifty years ago, and they were not very nice. Thankfully they have been removed. The justification for removing those laws was that the law should not interfere in people’s private lives. The same applies today. People can live their lives freely without any laws, what purpose do the laws play?
But we do have laws for heterosexual marriage. If there is no need for laws about gay marriage why do we have marriage laws at all? Good question, and in fact, many young couples eschew actual marriage and just live and have children with their sexual partner. That choice has become possible because the original factors that led governments to make marriage laws are often no longer relevant.
I was reading about marriage laws and they have been around for a few hundred years. Before that, people did not have legally enforcing state laws about marriage but they did have traditional ceremonies to celebrate unions and people were expected to abide by their choice and generally stay with their chosen partner. In those days, women had little power, and went from being dependent on their families to being dependent on their husband. With no power of their own, women were given by their family to another family and their original family wanted some assurance that their daughter was to be looked after. It was the inequality of power that made traditional marriage such an important ceremony. Marriages were a key part of maintaining social coherence by the continuation of family lines through legitimate children and subsequent inheritance of wealth and titles.
Every ancient society had marriage ceremonies but there were never any gay marriage ceremonies. They would have been pointless. The fairly recent laws about marriage merely codified what society had been doing for years. But the laws don’t mention anything about love – far from it.
The main reasons for laws around marriage were because of the inequality of power between the sexes, the legitimacy of offspring and the inheritance of wealth and titles and divorce.
So the basis for supporting gay marriage laws is very tenuous. The first two reasons are completely irrelevant. If the sexes are the same then the sexes are equal; if the sexes are the same then there are no offspring; if there are no offspring then legitimacy is not a question and the inheritance of wealth and titles is likewise redundant. Of course, there is divorce. You can see that serves a purpose for the division of community property. So the only non-sentimental reason for gay marriage laws is divorce. Is that what people are fighting for? Ask Stephen Fry whether his recent marriage had a prenuptial agreement and you will see how the last surviving valid reason also falls.
One argument is that marriage laws that exclude gay marriage are unfair and discriminatory. This argument is also fallacious. I may have a licence for my dog but I can’t have a licence for my cat . Is this discriminating against cats? Since no one is stopping gay people living together, is a law that binds them together legally relevant?
So my unfortunate opinion is that gay marriage legislation is pointless and an unnecessary restriction on the lives of gay people who choose to undertake it. In ten or twenty years from now there will be no gay marriages because those undertaking them will realise that they are really taking on the burden of regulating their lives according to a set of rules designed for other people in other circumstances with no relevance for their own lives.