Ethon Lowe | Marriage: straight or gay, who cares?
Peter Espeut, the Roman Catholic deacon, is outraged that the time-honoured word ‘marriage’ is defiled when used in the term ‘same-sex marriage’. In his Gleaner column ‘Pro-gay drivel’ (August 9, 2019), he states: “The word of marriage has only one meaning in custom and in law: the voluntary union of one man and one woman.”
Not anymore. Marriage involves cultural traditions, religious beliefs, legal rulings, and basic human rights and cannot be resolved by dictionaries or even history. The latest of the Rights Revolutions unfolding now is marriage between persons of the same sex. I can now get married to a person of my own sex and even marry myself. Same-sex marriages are now recognised by law in a growing number of countries, although in many others, including good ol’ homophobic Jamaica (‘Out of Many, One People’), marriages continue to be allowed only between a man and a woman.
To allow heterosexual, and not homosexual, couples to get married, wrongly discriminates against gay men and lesbians and denies their equality before the law. But is this argument of non-discrimination sufficient basis, according to state recognition to same-sex marriage, or is it a debate on whether gay and lesbian unions are worthy of the honour and recognition that state-sanctioned heterosexual marriages have?
Allowing people to celebrate their union any way they choose without state sanction (privatising marriage), dispute over gay marriage would become irrelevant. But I doubt that this would be allowed anytime soon. Looking closely at the case for same-sex marriage, it cannot rest solely on non-discrimination and freedom of choice. More important, we should think of the purpose and virtues it honours.
The essence (purpose) of marriage is exclusively for procreation, proclaims the Christian fringe. Same-sex marriage is, therefore, unnatural. It is a sin. A British politician noted, “Since the passage of the same-sex couples Marriage Act, the nation has been beset by serious storms and floods” (God’s handiwork, no doubt).
One satirical news article pointed out that “if gay sex causes large-scale moisture events, married gay people should be encouraged to spend time in deserts. If one simple kiss summons a pea souper, imagine what fully penetrative gay intercourse could do”. One religious escapee from the US Bible belt, known for its traditional Christian values (and, incidentally, has more marriages and more marriages ending in divorce than its northern neighbours), was told that “the important thing is to get married and have children, then Christ would come”.
Those who argue that the purpose of marriage is procreation should consider the fact that the aged, the infertile, and those who choose not to have children are not precluded from marriage. They further claim that it is unnatural for adopted children to have parents of the same sex, arguing that their perception of human relationships will be distorted.
So, what is natural? ‘Natural’ is not a synonym of ‘good’, because plenty of natural things are not invariably good: diseases, earthquakes, untimely deaths. And many things once thought unnatural – vaccination, blood transfusions, organ transplants – are now regarded as good, although unnatural. If children are loved, and well nurtured in human relationships, what does it matter if they live with adopted parents of the same sex? What if they have one parent? Does it matter? No. Then why not two of the same?
Whether marrying is for procreation, wealth, acquiring property, etc, these formalities are latecomers, but human intimacy is as ancient as life itself. Marriage should be the exclusive loving commitment between two partners – be they straight or gay – and the only effect that marriage in the socio-legal sense has on marriage is usually to spoil it.