THE last time I wrote about marriage some religious nuts wrote to me to tell me that they were praying for the unity of my family. And that was the nice ones.
The were upset about my contention that marriage is an institution of limited worth. I wasn’t saying that it was a bad thing, just that it is not necessarily a good thing.
This is logical. Being married is no description of the state of a relationship between a man and a woman. Being married doesn’t tell you whether a couple are on speaking terms, whether they have children, whether there’s violence in the relationship, whether they are happy or sad, whether they live in the same house or even in the same country.
What is marriage anyway? is that not a reasonable question?
Most people in this country, like myself, are actually in two marriages. One marriage is under the auspices of a church and one is under the charge of the state.
Mine, for example, is with the Roman Catholic Church and the Irish Republic. As we all know, these are now two very distinct ‘agreements’. One you can back out of and one you can’t. Completely different. One is all about god and a singular theology, and the other is about who owns the house and the record collection.
Yet both marriages cover the same relationship. And both covet the same word. Yet it proves that various forms of marriage can co-exist if the will is there.
And so to gay marriage.
There are very good solid reasons why gay people should get married. People in long-term relationships are entitled to the legal protection that marriage offers regardless of their sexuality. While this would be available if a couple signed a legal contract, in the real world of human relationships a lot of people suffer because of the absence of this form of common recognition.
Gay people have been left in penury after a lover has died because they can’t show that a legal relationship had existed. No fair-minded person could agree with this situation and I think that a civil institution could be set up with little dissent across the board.
Of course, marriage also has a social standing in our society and I guess that many people in gay relationships would like to have that respect too.
As someone who doesn’t really get the marriage thing, I don’t know about this. Personally, I don’t accord marriages any more kudos than people living together on a long-term basis. If I was to judge whether a particular man-man relationship was better or worse than a man-woman relationship, a marriage certificate wouldn’t be much use. You have to know the people involved. That’s not all that radical – that’s common sense.
In this country, we should allow gay people to get married, if they want to. The churches will ring-fence their marriages so that those who put more faith on the holy side of matrimony will have their institutions unsullied.
So different people can have different types of marriage. Like the way it is now, only fairer.