Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Reprise: A 13 year old writes about same sex marriage. MSPs please take note. #itstime #equalmarriage

This is a re-run of a post from May which I published around the time of the Westminster Same Sex Marriage Bill debate. As Holyrood prepares to vote on its own bill tomorrow, I thought it would be worth putting out there again. I'm going to send it to my MSPs and ask them to vote in favour of the Bill tomorrow. 

I had a bit of a proud Mummy moment last night when I discovered that at the time, an RE teacher had republished it, saying it was a very good read. 

Unfortunately, and to her great disappointment, Anna won't be with me at Holyrood tomorrow. That inconvenient school thing kind of gets in the way, but she'll be with us in spirit. 
Anyway, here it is as I wrote it then with some typos cleaned up:

Yesterday Anna told me she'd received full marks for a school essay on same sex marriage. She had been told to write a persuasive essay on any subject of her choice, so she wrote about something she feels really strongly about. With her permission, I'm publishing it below. It would be nice if MPs read it. She is not always tactful, and she challenges deeply held beliefs - but she's pretty perceptive and shows off both compassion and a passionate sense of justice. If you read no further, at least read her conclusion:
A place where same gender couples are treated as legally equal to heterosexuals is a place one step closer to destroying homophobia before it destroys many more lives.
Here's the whole thing:

Marriage can be an important milestone in a person's life, so naturally unmarried people of all ages fantasise about their own wedding - them and their beloved, the perfect bride and groom, committing to each other. Their parents crying through the ceremony, so proud of their baby. No fear of being disowned, nobody to call their relationship "unnatural", "illegitimate" or even morally wrong.

In 2015, same sex marriage is set to be introduced in Scotland, giving any two individuals, regardless of gender the right to get officially married instead of the "separate but equal" option of civil partnership. While this idea has rounded up a lot of support, those who disagree with it are perhaps the most vocal.

The number one reason for an individual to hold "traditional" (read: homophobic) marriage values is that their religion forbids it. The the infamous Leviticus 18:22 that may homophobic Christians love to call on. "Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind. It is an abomination." Upon hearing these words, every rational human being should be able to constantly pick out the holes in this flawed and overused quote. The first being that the Bible is a very old book that was not originally written in English and this particular verse can be translated in several different ways, eg elderly men not lying with young boys. The second is that some of the laws of the Old Testament are invalid. The same people who condemn homosexuality are rarely seen forcing victims of rape to marry their rapists (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) or killing those who work on Sundays (Exodus 35:2). While the Bible can provide solace and teach some wonderful lessons, some early books are not to be taken word for word.

However the most important reason religious arguments fall apart in this case is this: In the UK, we are not a theocracy. While everyone has the right to use their religious beliefs to govern their own life, it is not fair to use your religion to restrict someone else. It is not an exercise of religious freedom to try and prevent marriage equality. If you disapprove of same gender marriages, the noble thing to do would be to let those involved in such marriages live their lives in peace. Your homophobia cannot be justified by religion, your bigotry is no less awful with a quote from a holy book.

Unfortunately, religious reasons are just a small section of the motivation behind people's closed-mindedness. One of the other frequently used arguments is perhaps even more preposterous, even more illogical, and it is this: most couples of the same gender cannot have children. 

While this can tie in with religious arguments "Go forth and multiply, Genesis 9:7) it is often just used on its own. It is difficult to see why this argument is so often used without a religious statement when  a simple look at some statistics render it entirely invalid: over 900 million people in the world are starving. There are over 15,000 children in care in Scotland alone. In a world with so many people and not enough resources, or rather not enough co-operation from wealthy countries to share said resources), surely having a child is not the sole reason a marriage is formed - and f people who cannot have biological children wish to adopt, they are helping an already existent life instead of creating a new one.

Discussing whether a couple can have children or not in relation to marriage equality makes even less sense when you consider the real facts. A menopausal woman or infertile person can still get married, the possibility of a child is never picked on in these cases. Besides, many couples marry and do not desire children, whereas many children re born to unmarried parents, proving that marriage and reproduction are by no means mutually inclusive.

This argument falls apart again when you realise that just because the two people of the same gender cannot get married to each other, they are not immediately going to leave each other to enter a heterosexual relationship and have children. The two people will stay together anyway so allowing them to marry will not prevent the births of any children.

Many will say that as civil partnership exists as a near identical alternative for couples of the same gender, granting them the right to marry is not necessary. While it is true that the same benefits are granted to couples in a civil partnership, marriage holds certain emotional and cultural significance and connotations. Young children dream of one day getting married, not getting "civilly partnered". 

Another reason it is harmful to separate them into two different institutions is that many people will try to delegitimise a civil partnership by saying it is not a true marriage and does not count. This could be very hurtful to the civilly partnered couple and would give people more reason to say bigoted things about how same gender couples cannot truly get married and therefore their relationships do not count.

In any case, the concept of "separate but equal" has proven itself to be a flawed argument many times throughout history. Separate does not mean equal. Calling it equal is something only the accepted, privileged people can say safely, while the other group feels inadequate, like their "equal" separate thing is a rip-off of the original.

There is one argument in particular that does not even try to hide its utter and blatant homophobia and the people who use it do not seem to realise how harmful the thing they are saying is. I am of course referring to the argument that marriage equality would "promote the homosexual lifestyle" and make people accept same gender couples as normal. This argument is often used by closed minded people who cannot grasp that how people are able to express their relationships does not revolve around one individual's personal views.

This argument, along with "gay people are disgusting and unnatural" has no basis. All these arguments can be easily exposed as illogical with no back-up for the argument whatsoever. I could just as easily say that society's unwavering acceptance of marriage between one man and one woman suggests a "heterosexual lifestyle" and give no reasons why this is a bad thing but still oppose such marriages.

Apart from the obvious homophobia, this argument perpetuates that sexual and romantic orientation is a choice and excludes bisexual people in same gender couples.

In conclusion, marriage equality is certainly a good idea because it would improve the general quality of life for same gender couples while those it does not directly affect would suffer no ill effects. It would make the institution of marriage fairer and contribute to reducing prejudice by normalising same gender relationships. The only arguments against this are from self-centred individuals who cannot respect the rights of other people to be treated equally. A place where same gender couples are treated as legally equal to heterosexuals is a place one step closer to destroying homophobia before it destroys many more lives.

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