Answering the advert in the Times

by Symon Hill

I wrote yesterday about “Gay Marriage, No Thanks”, the oddly named new group campaigning against same-sex marriage, supposedly in the interests of children.

The organisation yesterday carried a half-page advert in the Times (a costly business), giving a list of ten arguments against same-sex marriage. Here is my response to each of them:

1 ¬† “Intact biological families provide the gold standard for the wellbeing of children”.

We can all name intact biological families that are abusive and violent, as well as loving and healthy homes in which children have been raised by single or adoptive parents. The notion of a nuclear biological family is a fairly recent invention; families have differed across time and culture – a truth that the anti-equality campaigners seem keen for us to forget.

2 “Children have a human right to be nurtured by both their biological parents.”

I would be interested to know how far the “Gay Marriage, No Thanks” group would take this argument. What if one or both of the parents is violent, abusive or unable to raise them?

3 “Gay parenting by definition denies the child from having one or both biological parents”.

This is not a different argument, but a repetition of the one above by different wording. But what is “gay parenting”? Gay people do not generally do gay cooking, gay working or gay praying. There are many family structures that are being overlooked. I know a family in which the children were raised by three parents (living together in a relationship with each other), two of whom were their biological parents. The children in question are some of the most well-balanced, emotionally healthy and considerate teenagers that I have encountered.

4 “Popular support for the bill is based on the unfounded theory that people are ‘born gay’.”

I for one don’t believe that people are born gay and I strongly support equal marriage. It’s true that many supporters of the bill do believe that people are born gay; it’s a view that many gay campaigners promote. But saying that you’re not born with a sexual orientation does not mean that your sexuality is a choice. Even if it were a choice, it is far from clear why this would make it wrong. What matters is that a same-sex marriage can be healthy and fulfilling for those involved and for society; not whether people were born gay. Incidentally, this argument contradicts Argument 8 (see below).

5 “All school children will taught that as adults they can have marriage relationships with men or women.”

I’m sure they will be able to work that out whatever they’re taught. I hope that school lessons will continue to encourage discussion of a range of views on the subject. This will be a vast improvement on my own schooling when Section 28 prevented me learning anything about dealing with my bisexual feelings.

6 “Adolescents commonly experience temporary same-sex attraction; this does not mean they are gay.”

Indeed it doesn’t. Why is this an argument against same-sex marriage? I wouldn’t advise people of any gender or sexuality to enter a marriage without being very sure about it, very much in love and very committed. I look forward to the day when people can fall in love with each other and enter loving, honest, mutually fulfilling relationships without worrying about gender.

7 “There is no evidence that same-sex marriage strengthens marriage. In Spain, marriage rates fell precipitously.”

Is the strength of marriage dependent on numbers? The statistics can say nothing about the quality and love of the marriages concerned.

8 “Behind the bill is a militant move to deny gender difference.”

On the group’s website, this statement is followed by the assertion that “queer theory, which developed in the 1990s, has been a driving force”. I would love to think that queer theory had been a driving force, although in reality, mainstream LGBT groups such as Stonewall seem quite averse to queer theory, often opting instead for suggestions that people are “born gay”. Radical queers, on the other hand, tend to talk of the social construction of gender and sexuality. Argument 8 thus seems to contradict Argument 4 (see above).

9 “Equal love leads to unequal marriage.”

The group point out that there will be different legal definitions of adultery for mixed-sex and same-sex couples. This is because the definition for mixed-sex couples is so narrow, based as it is on a very narrow understanding of sex. I would be happy to amend the legislation to broaden it out. Bizarrely, this statement on the group’s website includes a link to a Guardian article by Peter Tatchell, arguing that the bill as it stands does not go far enough for equality. I agree – but I doubt the group behind this advert will join me in pushing for more radical change.

10 “Civil partnerships already provide all the legal and financial benefits of marriage for gay people”.

Many of those behind the anti-equal marriage campaigns also campaigned against civil partnerships. They seem to have very short memories. Legal and financial benefits do not seem to be a very good reason to get married. Marriage is about love, commitment and mutuality. For religious people, it is usually about seeking God’s blessing on a life-long relationships. That’s why we want equal language.

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