Why ‘gay’ marriage?

There is a bit of discussion around about gay marriage, which has brought out some of our favourite homophobic institutions to say our favourite idiotic things – gay marriage undermines normal marriage, marriage is meant to be a union of one man and one woman, and marriage is meant to provide a home for children. There is enough being done to combat and ridicule these claims elsewhere by people more able than me.

Surprisingly, I want to say that I don’t agree with gay marriage, but for very different reasons than those given. This is the same basis on which I disliked the civil partnership system that was brought in under Labour. I guess my problem is semantic in the first instance, but is indicative of a deeper concern. On reflection, I think I don’t want my gay friends to be my gay friends for the same reason.

The reason is this: there is nothing sufficiently special about homosexuality to require the presence of the word in every description into which it could be crowbarred. My gay friends are my friends who happen to be gay. Others happen to be different races, heights or genders. One has strikingly ginger eyebrows. And, really importantly, it doesn’t matter. These distinctions are arbitrary in almost all scenarios and pointing them out is unnecessarily labelling people, and potentially divisive.

Gay people shouldn’t have to have a gay wedding to enter a gay marriage, in the same way that they shouldn’t have to have a gay breakfast before driving their gay car to their gay job*. I think we should change the way we consider sexuality in relation to everyday life – it is most basically a matter of what you want to do with your genitals, and very little else. Just let people who are in love marry each other if they want, in the same way that any others can, and don’t introduce needless distinctions.

Of course, people of course can use their sexuality as an identifying mark if they choose, and the building of a gay community has been a great force for positive change. However, in a civilised nation, this identification should not be systemic and enforced. If a gay couple want to have a big gay wedding, great, power to their elbows, but a couple that just want to get married as their hetero contemporaries can, should be able to do so. The current rhetoric doesn’t really allow this.

This probably seems flippant, but actually I think unnecessary distinctions between gay marriage and straight marriage are indicative of a fundamental separation that people still hold in their head. What we really need to recognise is that every gay person is part of the wider community, whether they choose to be part of the gay community or not. Their gayness is, or should be, just one characteristic among many that should not be made to stand people out in day-to-day life.

*I saw a formulation very much like this on Twitter, but can’t remember who wrote it. Sorry!

Edit to add: Of course, as has been pointed out immediately to me, whilst the law continues to discriminate, the distinction will need to be used in public discussion. But that could and should be ended pretty simply, following the Spanish example, and just changing the marriage act to say something like ‘any two people can…’

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