Human beings have a long history of persecuting minorities and those different to others, and homosexuals are one minority group who have borne the brunt of societal disapproval over thousands of years, suffering discrimination, prejudice, and verbal and physical abuse. Like women’s suffrage and coloured rights before, it is now time to stop persecuting people based on their sexuality, and acknowledging publicly the right of homosexuals to same sex marriage.
The UK is taking positive steps towards legalisation of same sex marriage, and marriage rights for same sex couples are now supported by a majority of the US senate, but having just visited Australia, and heard and read some very ignorant and backwards views on the topic, I thought it would be a good opportunity to write an article on my own thoughts: to debunk some of the myths and fallacies, and convince those who are still against the issue that equality for all, gay or straight, is the best way forward.
Update (18/4/13): New Zealand has now legalised same-sex marriage with 77 of 121 members of parliament voting in favour of amending the 1955 Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to wed, making New Zealand the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to do so.
This post is obviously more serious than the usual posts on Find Keep Love, but the issue at hand is one that is intertwined with love and relationships, and humanity and society in general. One of the myths I’ve heard quite often is that sexuality is a choice and that being gay is a lifestyle, not in-built biology. In the circle of gay friends I have, I can’t recall anyone who hasn’t said that their preference for the same sex began to develop around puberty (when sexual hormones begin to kick in), and I know of no-one who has specifically “chosen” the gay lifestyle.
The best humans are dynamic and fluid thinkers, and more progress is made in humanity when there are more open minds and hearts in the world. Education, experience and openness build stronger relationships between different cultures and people, foster understanding, and cultivate tolerance and acceptance of others. The world can always do with more love, and affording gay partnerships the same rights as heterosexual partnerships is one way in which we can share even more love and happiness throughout the world. Here are five important points as to why gay marriage is a step forward for humanity:
- Gay marriage is not a threat to straight marriage. It doesn’t infringe on the rights of straight people, but allows the same rights as traditional male-female couples to be held by non-heterosexual couples. Marriage ties biological parents to their children, but also step-parents, parents who adopt, and gay parents.
- Legalising gay marriage will not turn otherwise straight people gay. Just like you cannot convert a gay person to become a straight person, the opposite doesn’t work either!
- Sexuality, once developed, is an innate characteristic of that person, and there is a broad spectrum of sexuality: there aren’t just “straight” and “gay” people. Young adults (and even older adults) may experiment (as people do with non-sexual things), but to find out who they really are inside. Allowing gay marriage might increase reported gay numbers, but only because they feel safer to be themselves and “come out” – it won’t increase the number of gay people per head of population.
- Same sex marriages won’t harm children. Opponents of gay marriage often say that children do best when raised by their married (one male, one female) parents. But in the US today, a third of all children do not live with married parents – due co-habitation, divorce and single parenthood (a quarter live with a single parent). This trend began many years ago, decades before the same sex marriage was mainstream (see Social Indicators of Marital Health & Well-being – Fragile Families With Children). Recognising same sex marriage can be done separately to any parenting rights. There are already homosexual parents out there. The most important thing we can do as a society is to teach children that, above all, we value loving relationships.
- There’s often an argument with drugs: that a “softer” drug like marijuana will inevitably lead to harder drugs like heroin and cocaine. A similar argument has also been applied to gay marriage. Allowing gay marriage will not lead to the desire to allow marriage between humans and animals (bestiality), blood relatives (incest) and even multiple men and/or women (polygamy). It does, however, lead directly to assessing these options/futures and we should indeed think about consequences of such actions, including whether as a society allowing a particular type of relationship would be harmful. There are some interesting philosophical debates on why bestiality (for example, animals cannot consent or make rational decisions or judgements) and inter-family breeding (difficult to argue if the arguments of a religious or cultural nature and problems with reproduction are taken out of the equation) are wrong. Polygamy (or group marriage) is a discussion for another day, but if a trio, for example, are in love, why shouldn’t they have the right to have their partnership legally recognised? Watch this space, because this could be the next civil rights movement.
If I were to define modern marriage (or ‘civil partnerships’ if the majority wish to maintain this term for male-female heterosexual partnerships), I would state it as follows:
If two people (man and woman, man and man, woman and woman), unrelated by blood and of the same human species, wish to have their love for each other officially/legally recognised by their country/government/society and be afforded all of the benefits of being in such a partnership, they should be free to do so, and all such relationships should be of equal standing.
You’ll note this has nothing to do with religion as religion, like sexuality, should be a private matter and unique to each and every person. I have included “unrelated by blood” to cover those who believe gay marriage will lead to incestual relations, and included “of the same human species” to cover those who believe it will lead to bestiality.
There is also an argument that it is “natural” for men and women to marry, because only a man and a woman can reproduce via sexual intercourse. While it is true that heterosexuality is the most common sexuality, there is indeed a broad spectrum of sexuality (see the Kinsey scale, for example) from 100% straight (heterosexual) to 100% gay (homosexual) and everything in between (bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and so on). There are girls who like girls and boys, and boys who like girls and boys, in different proportions. While homosexuals cannot reproduce alone, there are heterosexual couples who can’t reproduce, too, and there are couples who don’t want to reproduce. Should they have lesser rights as well because they aren’t behaving as heterosexual reproducing couples?
Another key point I want to make is that I don’t believe churches should be forced to change their beliefs or marry homosexuals, because many religions don’t believe in it. This doesn’t mean that as a society on a whole we can’t progress and improve our own thinking to recognise non-traditional relationships. With many societies becoming more culturally, racially and religiously diverse, we need to encourage and support everyone equally. Modern science is also teaching us more and more about sexuality (see above regarding the sexuality spectrum) and sexual development, and this needs to be included in any sensible contemporary policy-making. The state should recognise each couple’s relationship in terms of the law (straight or gay). The choice of ceremony and location (religious or not) comes down to the personal beliefs and wishes of the couple, and whether or not that religion accepts their circumstances. The issue of same sex acceptance is being hotly debated even within some religions, as to whether in fact their religious practices allow for it (for example, interpretations of the Bible in this respect vary).
It is important to be actively aware of one’s own culture and this issue, if anything, is a good opportunity as a society to question our existing cultural practices and beliefs, and ask why do we do what we do? And, most importantly, do these practices help or hinder our progress of improving the world we live in? Having lived in Australia, Japan and now the UK for extended periods of time, and travelled extensively, I have experienced different cultural practices – some unique and good, some bizarre, some passed down from generation to generation as some kind of ritual or practice from another time. But just because you’ve done something a particular way in the past, it may not always be good and it doesn’t mean it should always be done that way. Adapting, changing and developing thoughts and practices based on new evidence and experiences is how we can better ourselves and improve society and the way we live. It is the core of the scientific principles and philosophy that I live and teach.
In the end, the ability to rationally discuss clearly emotive subjects like gay marriage, question our taboos, and muse philosophically is a good thing (and is what separates us from the animal kingdom). At Find Keep Love, our mission is spreading love, in all of its forms, and providing thoughtful discussions to provoke your own thinking. Our stance is that love – whether it be between a man and a woman, a man and a man, or woman and a woman – should be recognised and supported officially and legally. From the point of view of the state, marriage is about conferring rights with regards to taxation, inheritance, medical decisions, and so on, not to make value judgements. We should be teaching future generations the importance of loving relationships, to accept, understand and respect those born differently to the “norm” (I use quotation marks here to ask who and what defines a “normal person”), and that discrimination based on sexual preference is an infringement of an individual’s human rights.
How do you feel towards the legalisation of same sex marriages?
And finally, here are a couple more resources to help you understand the fallacies the anti-gay marriage lobby present.
Firstly, a great article from the American Psychological Association on ‘Sexual orientation and homosexuality,’ which discusses coming out, the nature of same sex relationships, and whether lesbians and gay men can be good parents.
Next, from the UK, a summary of ‘6 Myths about Gay Marriage Vote and the Facts‘:
- Myth: Adultery won’t be grounds for divorce among same sex couples.
- Myth: Teachers will be required to promote same sex marriage. A teacher who refuses to teach same sex marriage could be sacked.
- Myth: Allowing churches to opt-out of performing same sex marriages could be overturned by the European Court of Human Rights.
- Myth: There is no mandate for this change.
- Myth: Gay people don’t want this reform.
- Myth: This change could cost the [insert political party name] Party victory at the next election.
There is also a great post by Patrick Stokes on ‘Love thy neighbour: religious groups should not be exempt from discrimination laws‘.
Finally, based on US arguments, this image has been travelling around the internet recently (if anyone knows who to correctly attribute it to, please let me know):
Thanks to M.B. and B.W. for their kind editing and comments.