Gay marriage takes one more step forward

Dominic Turner

Image © Fritz Leiss

When President Obama yesterday announced his support for gay marriage he made an important and symbolic gesture, not merely of his own ‘evolution‘ on the issue, but of the Western world. It goes without saying that Obama, in trademark timidity, waited until the polls indicated that gay marriage was supported by a majority of Americans, and that even whilst he is personally comfortable with gay marriage, he is bringing forth no legislation to make it a reality. Nevertheless, yesterday marked a historic moment in the Gay rights movement.

I am not gay, and neither are any members of my immediate family. I have many friends and members of my extended family who are, but the issue of gay rights has never affected me personally. But the struggle for equality of all peoples is not a cause to be fought by only those who are affected. Good white men and women marched with their black brothers and sisters to end segregation and apartheid in the 20th Century. Gay rights are fundamentally civil rights and another articulation of the cause for equality.

Here in Britain we have come a long way since the 1980’s and the despicable s.28 Local Government Act, which outlawed the supposed “promotion” (and by that they meant discussion) of homosexuality in schools. Civil Partnerships now allow gay couples to enter into the legal equivalent of mariage. The Human Rights act has been used to allow the same rights of succession in housing for gay couples. One of the most encouraging aspects of the last decade is the leadership of the Conservative Party’s support Civil Parternships, and gay rights. But the hesitation from the lunatic fringe of the Tory Party to recognize gay marriage reveals, at its heart, a regressive and dogmatic conservatism. Civil Partnerships but not Marriage? Those who hold this counter intuitive position march under the same ideological banner that sustained segregation. Seperate but equal.

Part of my frustration is an inability to understand why so many people in North Carol yesterday voted to make gay marriage unconstitutional. People who cast their vote without any compunction or remorse, not to enrich their own lives but to deny their fellow citizens, their fellow human beings, the same civil rights they enjoy. Why would they deny to others what they already have? And then there are those who try to use religion to divide, moralize and to degrade the lives of others. Did the people who voted for the gay marriage ban ever consider the creed “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Do supporters of ‘traditional marriage’ also believe that a man can keep slaves as mistresses and have as many wives as he pleases as the Bible allows for?

The love of a fellow man or fellow woman is inextricably linked to the fellowship of all humankind. The same compassion we feel when we see injustice because of any arbitrary distinction, that we happened to be born with. My own feelings on the virtue of the institution of marriage are somewhat mixed. But in a world where it seems all too often that the most selfish urges of human nature are prevalent, it seems a magnificent stroke of luck that one person would wish to commit the rest of their life with another. With merely 50% of marriages succeeding we should be surprised that peope still wish for the chance to marry. And that’s all it is, a chance.

The history of these struggles tell us that in the final analysis, liberty will always overcome the enemies of human progress. “The Moral Arc of the universe is long,” Martin Luther King said, “But it bends towards justice.”

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