Sunday, 14 April 2013

On the 'Redefinition of Marriage'

Of late this blog has been taking more of a sceptical bent, intermixed with a bit of light-hearted discussion of religious themes in media and the like.

So it really is high time I gave the religious hornet's nest a good boot and see what stirs up in response.

Let's talk gay marriage.

As vjack pointed out recently, we do seem to be reaching an apotheosis in modern culture when it finally starts to dawn upon people that marriage should be something people have a right to irregardless of their sexuality. Recently Uruguay's congress passed a bill legalising gay marriage in their country with over two-thirds of their lower chamber in support, and just yesterday France's upper house of parliament approved a similar bill. Times are indeed a-changing, with similar legislation all across the globe being proposed and debated.

Now I'm sure that somewhere there exists a non-religious person who is against gay marriage. These things do happen, after all. It's just that I can only think of one individual who fits this description; overwhelmingly, those who oppose the right of a gay couple to get married do so on religious grounds. That's not to say that everyone of a religious mind is against this issue, since some of the most passionate supporters for this cause that I know are also very religious.

All manner of arguments and reasoning are fired back and forth when it comes to this subject, from advocates stating its a civil right to opponents denouncing it as unnatural. There's a whole range of shitty reasoning and logical fallacies being peddled in this debate, and sadly I don't have time to go over them all here. Instead I'd like to focus in on one particular argument being used against gay marriage. It's one of the arguments I hear most frequently when this subject comes up, both in conversation with others and in speeches by government figures.

I'd like to focus on the idea that supporting this movement is to support a “redefinition of marriage”.

Now commonly on my side of the debate (hazard a guess as to which this might be) the response to this assertion is that allowing gay marriage is not a redefinition, but I'm going to take a different approach. Let's say, for a moment, that allowing gay people to get married is indeed redefining the way in which marriage is outlined in law.

Now please explain to me why this is a bad thing?

As society changes, so do the laws. So does the language. As our concepts of morality and fairness change, the way in which we legislate such matters adapts accordingly, as does the way in which we speak. Forty years ago women were viewed only as housekeepers and other notions we'd find extremely outdated now. Sixty years ago and the idea of civil rights would have been laughed at.

Laws change. And to say that in allowing gay people to get married we'd be “redefining it” is to ignore the fact that marriage has been redefined many times before.

Christians themselves will tell you that the Bible does not actually define marriage as “one man, one woman”; that seems to be something we've added more recently. In the past, it's worth noting, marriage was a political thing as well, a means of securing alliances between families and extending one's influence. Love didn't really factor into it all until far more recently. Thus this notion of marriage as a bond between a loving couple (in this instance, one male and one female) is just one more change a long list of edits and revisions to how we define the concept of marriage.

So perhaps opponents of this movement are right in saying that we are attempting to redefine marriage (I'm not saying for certain they are, let me stress; this post is more of a thought exercise than anything else). I fail to see what the issue with this is. Laws and language are redefined every single day, and that's a good thing. If these things do not change with the times they will become stagnant and outdated, no longer relevant to the times, which is something the laws our society is governed by can never afford to be.

At the end of the day, it will forever baffle me why this issue matters so much to people. You don't want gay marriage? Don't fucking get one, then. Marriage is a civil right, and there's no religious monopoly on it.

Why the hell should one group get to decide for everyone who can and cannot get married? That doesn't strike me as terribly fair.