the real thingWhat’s in a word?

I’ve told the story before (here) about how, during negotiations with Policy Exchange – David Cameron’s favourite think tank – over the terms of a proposed same-sex marriage debate, they became distinctly frosty when I challenged their assertion that gay marriage should be called ‘equal marriage’ with an insistence that conventional marriage should therefore be called ‘real marriage’.

There was another entertaining incident last month while I stood at the gates of Downing Street. Half a dozen chairmen of local Conservative associations went to the door of No 10 in front of TV cameras to deliver a letter to the prime minister signed by 25 senior party colleagues that protested against the government’s same-sex marriage legislation (here). Peter Tatchell got wind of this, grabbed the opportunity for media publicity and rushed to the gates to bellow his usual hate speech about homophobes at full volume down the length of the historic and world-famous cul-de-sac.

Peter Tatchell outside Downing StreetHe also held up a poster: “End ban on same-sex marriage. Marriage Equality!” it proclaimed. With equivalent Alice-in-Wonderland logic and a wish to flap his wings and fly, he could have urged the government, “End pull of gravity. Bird Equality!”

The gay lobby and their useful idiots in the government and media have brilliantly manipulated the limited public debate about same-sex marriage by capturing the word ‘equality’. But by framing it as an equalities and human rights issue (eg here) they have messed with our language and wilfully disregarded the underlying realities.

male and femaleThe problem is that biology, nature or God (which I prefer, of course) has ensured that a same-sex couple can never undertake the act of marriage no matter how much they love each other or how long they live together. Two men (or two women) are physically unable to be naturally intimate and consummate their union through an activity that unites them and has the potential to reproduce and provide the next generation.

This is the essence of marriage and, further, in its purest ideal it is the private act that follows the public exchange of vows and signing of public documents; it is the intimate deed of physical and spiritual union that on the marriage night completes the coming together of two individuals and engages them in the mystical mathematics of procreation: 1+1 = 1 = 3+. It is consummation which transforms the marriage ceremony from a contract to a covenant.

I’m aware of course that the ideal is more honoured in the breach than the observance as today few couples refrain from sexual relations until the wedding night and many choose to co-habit rather than marry. But, for instance, financial honesty is another ideal that is vital to society’s wellbeing and is enshrined in the nation’s law. The fact that it is breached by everyone from corporate fat-cat tax fiddlers to single mums who falsely claim benefits and students who bunk the bus doesn’t deny the importance of the ideal. We have not (yet) attempted to redefine honesty and make it more inclusive such that fallen former MP Margaret Moran (here) could suddenly find herself re-included in the ranks of the righteous and her court sentence and criminal record scrubbed.

I am also aware that by choice or disability some married couples do not procreate. But this too doesn’t change the marriage ideal or its social value.

Of course two men or two women can have a legally-defined relationship which may or may not be called a civil partnership. A lesbian couple or two spinster sisters may love each other and live together all their adult lives; certainly where necessary the state ought to provide for them by statute. (The state currently and unfairly provides for the first but not the second (here).) But they can no more be married than they can defy gravity.

fruitful unionConsummation is so central to marriage that it too is enshrined in the nation’s law which decrees that marriage is voidable if it is not consummated (here).

This is the crux of the matter: the hard reality is that consummation physically cannot take place except between heterosexuals so the government has been forced to fudge and create a fundamental inequality in its ‘equal marriage’. Through the legislation and unlike heterosexual couples, same-sex couples will be exempted from any need to consummate their ‘marriage’.

So what’s in the word? They are married but not married. They are one but not one. They are the same but not the same. They are equivalent but certainly not equal.

It is Through The Looking-Glass stuff and a socially destructive confusion of the meaning of marriage by the government: “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less” (here).

In the next post we will look at other inequalities and the discrimination against minorities that will be created if the Bill becomes law. Meanwhile I’m praying that politically the Dumpty in Downing Street has a great fall over his Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

4 Responses to “Unequal Marriage 1”

  1. Stuart Cunliffe Says:

    Very well said.

    God bless you.

    Stuart Cunliffe.

  2. Alan Ji Says:

    How elaborate.

    Some of us don’t need anything more complex than the pledge that your soul mate will be your sole mate.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Excellent article! Well said.

  4. James Says:

    “The problem is that biology, nature or God (which I prefer, of course) has ensured that a same-sex couple can never undertake the act of marriage …”

    Marriage is a legal contract. Invented by humans. Biology has nothing to do with it. You might as well say “biology has ensured that people cannot get divorced”, or “god has created the world in such a way that birth certificates do not exist”.

    “Two men (or two women) are physically unable to be naturally intimate and consummate their union through an activity that unites them and has the potential to reproduce and provide the next generation.”

    Well, unless they are intersex or transgender. But then the Christian right likes to pretend those two inconvenient groups of people don’t exist. I think you do have to accept, though, that *legally*, it is possible for someone to be considered a man in the UK even if they have a fully working female reproductive system. As the law stands, people like that are allowed to marry women (with whom they could generally not naturally reproduce) but not men (with whom they generally could). Thus this argument suggests that we should support marriage equality.

    Of course, you then torpedo your own argument: “… few couples refrain from sexual relations until the wedding night and many choose to co-habit rather than marry … by choice or disability some married couples do not procreate …”. So we must accept your understanding of marriage, because it is the only *possible* understanding of marriage, even though it is wildly different to marriage as it exists in reality? Were you drunk when you wrote this?

    “Of course two men or two women can have a legally-defined relationship which may or may not be called a civil partnership.”

    Which all the Christian fundamentalists have suddenly started supporting for some reason. Still, makes a nice change from wanting to silence LGBT people, lock us up, or blow us up.

    “Through the legislation and unlike heterosexual couples, same-sex couples will be exempted from any need to consummate their ‘marriage’.”

    As are opposite-sex couples. The only impact consummation has is on divorce proceedings in rare cases (and even then, its impact is minor). I think most people would agree that the law on consummation is an anachronism. There used to be a tradition that the bride’s mother would watch the consummation to make sure they did it properly (how else would anyone know if consummation had taken place?) – would you like to bring that back, too?

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