Some years ago I was invited to debate same-sex marriage on a radio program and was daunted by the prospect of coming up against a renowned US political debater who was a devout Christian. My opponent opened the program but almost closed it immediately in his opening address, as he related that he was a divorcee with a sad experience of a failed heterosexual marriage and that he lived next door to two gay men who had been living together in a happy, exclusive partnership for longer than he had been married himself. He could not, he said, see why two such people who were so obviously in love should not be married. We were all floored, and my opponent is now a firm friend.
He had, of course, properly focused on the fact that, at its core, the issue of same-sex marriage is about love and freedom, and that to deny marriage to a small number of our fellow citizens is to curtail their liberty, treat them unequally, disadvantage them financially and legally, and cause them grievous personal hurt. Not to allow someone to marry is a draconian measure and needs to have a sound reason; society should only make such discriminatory legal prohibitions if it is sure that they are necessary to prevent causing personal harm and social disruption. It is this point which has occurred to the finest legal minds which have addressed the issue; when, for instance, the justices of the US Supreme Court asked the lawyers before them who were opposing same-sex marriage what harm it would do to the rest of society, none could offer a logical explanation.
For indeed same-sex marriage harms no one. The argument that it somehow damages heterosexual marriage is specious; no man’s marriage is damaged by someone else’s, and the validity of one man’s right to matrimony does not depend on anyone else being denied that right
For indeed same-sex marriage harms no one. The argument that it somehow damages heterosexual marriage is specious; no man’s marriage is damaged by someone else’s, and the validity of one man’s right to matrimony does not depend on anyone else being denied that right. No harm has ever been identified arising from a same-sex marriage law. Since 2001, when the Netherlands was the first to do so, no sky has fallen upon the countries that have enacted such laws. As of today, there are 22 countries where same-sex marriage is legal, including the United Kingdom and US, and none of them has been visited by plagues of frogs or the death of first-born children. In fact, in no country where same-sex marriages are legal has there been any visible damage to society or any diminution in the validity of heterosexual marriage. None. Period.
Homosexual men and women have, until very recently, been prevented from undertaking any legally recognized form of partnership, so it is unsurprising that homosexual relationships have been seen as less stable than heterosexual ones. Homosexuals are often lambasted for promiscuity, a trait that detractors like to tie to the AIDS epidemic. One imagines, then, that opponents of what is called “the homosexual lifestyle” would encourage gay men and women to settle down, tie the knot, and, like heterosexual society (well, perhaps like some of it) live in a faithful monogamous relationship. Isn’t it weird that those who denigrate homosexuals want them to carry on being single, suggesting, based on who knows what thought processes, that instead they should confine themselves to celibacy.
I have made no mention here of religion, for the strictures of any religion should play no part in devising social policy for a secular society. In matters of science and human rights, the religious have no claim to speak to the rest of us with authority.
The current population of the Chinese mainland is 1.39 billion. It is estimated that about 5 percent of these are homosexual, so we’re talking about a “minority” of 70 million people! This vast number of otherwise perfectly law-abiding citizens, more than the entire population of the UK, cannot marry those they wish. Were same-sex marriage to be made legal on the mainland, 70 million people, a hell of a large number, could be made happier, healthier and more productive at a stroke. Incidentally, this would fit in perfectly with the current demographic of a preponderance of males in the mainland’s current population makeup. Legalizing same-sex marriage is truly an idea whose time has come. In 2014, The Chinese Journal of Human Sexuality published research showing that nearly 85 percent of respondents supported same-sex marriage.
When a policy is humane and fits in with the milieu of the time, it creates a healthier and more productive society and makes all citizens equal before the law, and has no identifiable bad effects. What on earth is stopping us enacting it now?
The author has been the secretary of the Pink Alliance since 2008.