Yep, you are in for one of my rare but ultimately fun opinion pieces.
This time I am focusing on a topic close to my heart and very much in the press at the moment.
Specifically, gay marriage and its current main (and very vocal I might add) opposers, the Catholic Church.
Let me start by saying that I am not a religious person. I count myself as a committed atheist and was raised in the church of Say-Please-And-Thank-You-And-Stand-Up-For-What-You-Believe-In. And I am still there now.
I also want to say that this is not an attack on religious people. I have the utmost respect for someone who can pour their belief and faith into something. I can't though and, as long as you don't preach to me and tell me (and by extension others) that our lifestyles and beliefs are wrong, then we will get along just fine. Some of my favourite people are religious. I am just not.
So here goes...
I was upset and angry to read the letter written by Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Peter Smith, respectively President and Vice-President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, explaining the Catholic understanding of marriage.
Firstly, I understand that the Catholic Church have certain views on homosexuality and, when it comes to that issue, the Catholic Church and I will have to agree to disagree. I believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with two people of the same sex loving each other and having an adult, consensual relationship. It makes no odds to me and some of the people I love the most are gay. Hell, if Steve and I can be together, why the hell shouldn't anyone else?
In the letter, I took specific issue with two particular lines; the first,
'Marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children.'
basically makes me feel like an incubator. It has reduced my marriage to a means to reproduce.
My marriage isn't that. I would have 'reproduced' with or without a piece of paper telling me it was ok. I have also not conceived a child as a direct result of being married. Steve and I love each other, we loved each other before we were married and we love each other now we are married. The baby I am currently housing did not occur because God told us to and we had ticked the necessary married box. It occurred simply because we wanted a baby and that wanting just happened to occur nine months after our wedding, (it also has something to do with a night of copious vodka shots and a double bluff but that is another story).
The second line that sat awkwardly with me was this,
'We have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations.'
The Catholic Church have no duty to me and I find it presumptuous of them that they feel they can speak on my behalf, on the behalf of all married people.
The other issue I have with the church's position on this topic is that it is taking the literal meaning from the bible which, if I am not mistaken, isn't the case for a million other topics. The bible states, for example, that daughters may be sold into slavery, that you are forbidden from working on the Sabbath, that you may not ever eat shellfish and I won't even mention the ban on contraceptives that the vast majority of even religious people seem to happily overlook.
These things have evolved. So has the notion of marriage.
I would encourage you to read this fantastic and intelligent article by Greg Jenner. It details the evolution of marriage and discusses the Catholic Church's arguments against it.
So what does marriage mean to me?
Marriage means loving someone. And them loving you. And you both wanting to stand up and tell each other that. It is something that means everything and nothing. I would not love Steve less if we weren't married; it wouldn't affect the strength of my feelings for him or my commitment to him but I do feel that it has cemented our relationship and, for me, that is nice.
Nice, I said, not vital.
I value our relationship and our marriage is an extension of that.
Steve and I are very lucky.
We are lucky that we met and fell in love, of course, but we are also lucky that we both happened to be one man and one woman and therefore could do pretty much as we pleased without the judgement or condemnation of others. We wanted to get engaged, we got engaged. We wanted to get married, we got married. We wanted to have a baby, we made a simple decision not to use a contraceptive. It was that simple for us.
Isn't that lucky?
If Steve was a Stephanie then we would have had to fight continuously for all of the above. And we would have had to face a host of judgemental people. We would have been left out and excluded. We would have been whispered about and called names. Our lives would not have been our own.
And all because of something we have no choice in; our gender and who we fell in love with.
Because, and tell me if you disagree, I really didn't have much choice in who I loved. I went out with men I didn't love, no matter how hard I tried because they were sweet/cute/hot as hell/rich/had a fab name. And I had loving feelings for men that I didn't even like. My heart led the way. Not my head.
And I don't believe that anyone should be discriminated against just because of that. If you love someone and want to marry them then there should be no-one standing in your way. There wasn't for me and what makes me any better than anyone else?
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