*sigh* gay marriage – it’s the 21st century, but still …

A post over at Chez Greta got me thinking (and got me formulating this post in the comments section). Yes, thinking! That thing where you say things, but only with your brain and only to yourself.

Specifically, it got me thinking about my own marriage, which is now two and a half years old, and marriage rights for gay people. You may have noticed that there was a recent decision in the state of California which finally dragged the state into the 21st century, legalising gay marriage and conferring upon gay couples all the rights everyone else takes for granted. Of course, it’s now facing stiff opposition, more than likely, I’ll wager, from the usual gang of conservative/religious/”Family” groups who always seem to be pushing against the tide of progress while most reasonable people are going “sure, why not?” or “about freaking time” (by the way: why does any group containing “Family” in the name automatically seem to mean “white middle class straight married Christian people with some sort of perverted interest in telling other people what they should be doing in the privacy of their own bodies and minds” instead of people actually concerned for peoples’ welfare regardless of their orientation, beliefs or particular combination of ages, genders or degree of genetic similarity?).

So, who exactly takes these rights for granted? Well, just about everybody. Dear Mrs M and I included. Obviously, anyone can plan a wedding. Anyone can arrange flowers, suits, dresses, food, entertainment for a single day of the year. Anyone can arrange their own personal “Love Day” and invite anyone they want. Anyone can get drunk and break a heel or lose a new Italian shoe, requiring them to pad around barefoot all evening (and not caring because it’s 30 degrees Celsius in February here in Australia). But, unfortunately, not everyone can get legally married and in turn enjoy the benefits of being legally linked to the one they love. Not everyone can be recognised as a spouse and make crucial decisions affecting their shared life, the lives of any children in the relationship, the fate of their loved one’s assets should the unthinkable yet inevitable happen, be legally protected from implicating their partner in a crime (if it should come to that, Dionysius forfend) and any number of other facets of married life we hetero types don’t even think about because they’re conferred on us from birth and last until death (provided we don’t “catch the gay” at any point before we die).

But I always think to myself, baffled “why?” Apart from referring to some passage in Leviticus (or is it Deuteronomy? I can’t remember, they’re both pretty retarded when it comes to questions of morality and I confuse them easily) I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard a proper, coherent, even partially convincing argument why a gay couple shouldn’t get married like any man & woman can, as easily as signing a form in an office, if that’s what they wish. Sure, in some parts of our post space-age world, Bibles, Qurans and other ancient stories still seem to take precedence over actual, rationally-based laws. Leaving aside the obvious examples of various Muslim countries, either theocracies like Saudi Arabia or Iran or supposedly secular nations like Turkey who still expect people to behave according to Mohammed’s dictates, the United States seems to be experiencing a sort of Christian Fundamentalist renaissance at the moment. There are creationist Biblical literalists being installed at all levels of government. As members county or state school boards, they push for the inclusion of Intelligent Design/creationism in science classes (Louisiana, Florida, Texas and many other states are currently or have been battling initiatives launched by such people). As state representatives, they push for or instigate laughable “abstinence-only” sex education programs in high schools (which amount to “well, if you don’t do it you won’t need to know how to do it or what happens when you do do it, so just don’t do it, now shut yer yap”. The Pentagon, invites (ashamedly Australian) creationist Ken Ham in for a prayer breakfast. The US armed forces seems to be littered with evangelists who see no problem in discriminating against non-religious soldiers. The Whitehouse itself is led by a born-again fundamentalist (who seemingly swapped his alcohol DT’s for a Jesus jones) who’s been reported as saying God told him to strike at Iraq! Hmmm, God told him to break every applicable international and domestic law and kill a million people for a massive pile of bullshit. Sure. But that’s another thread. Suffice it to say, given America’s long history of unfortunately being the home of particularly vicious forms of religious extremists from Benny Hinn to the *ugh* Westboro Baptist Church, it’s no real surprise to me that gay people are still getting a raw deal at the hands of the white Protestant majority.

But this is Australia and we still treat gay people like shit. We don’t have nearly the amount of religious whackos that seem to fill every possible niche in the States. We have our share (the Exclusive Brethren, various Pentecostal sects of which a beloved cousin of mine is one, much to my dismay and of course we have Mormons and the Jehovahs‘ Witless, a.k.a. “The Bloody Johos“). This is Australia and I bloody well expect better. I at least expect a bit more than the usual shit like “it threatens the sanctity of marriage”; “marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman [insert optional phrase about being for the purpose of procreation]”; “we are founded on Christian values” and yada yada, I don’t want to finish that sentence. We are, mostly, progressive when it comes to civil rights. We never participated in the slave trade (we didn’t buy and import Africans but convict labourers and captured Aborigines could easily have met the definition of a slave). My home state of South Australia, as just one example, blazed a mighty trail and gave women the right to vote in 1894, long before many other parts of the former Empire. Out of half a dozen disconnected colonies we became a properly Federated Nation in 1901 – through a vote, not through violence. Why, then, must this still be an issue? Can someone tell me why two men or two women getting married is going to, for example, threaten the sanctity of my own marriage? If anything, allowing gay people to marry will make the act of marriage more sacred and more honourable and more beautiful, by no longer excluding a large proportion of our society from this tradition for no good goddamned reason.

When my wife and I were planning our wedding, it often occurred to me that our gay friends had less rights than your average convicted criminal. Even multiple rapists and murderers doing life without parole can get married! But not your average, decent, tax-paying, law-abiding person of homosexual orientation. And while in some states or territories (as in the US) gay people can enter into “civil unions”, it isn’t the same thing. They can sign a legal document, sure, but they only get some shared rights. They can have a big shindig with their family & friends, but it just isn’t getting married. How can you possibly enjoy the pure, silly, romantic joy of a huge, public love-party without feeling a pang of “this is nice, but it’s only 90% perfect”.

Sad thing is, I don’t see and end to it any time soon. We may have finally rid ourselves of God-bothering Bush-buddy John Howard, but his replacement Kevin Rudd seems almost as pious if not more. And I’ve noticed if there’s one thing that pretty much guarantees discrimination against gay people, it’s a “close personal realtionship” with the Prince of Peace.

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