Marriage – and why change is a good thing…

I was lucky enough to be invited to the wedding of my good friend Praneeta to her lovely new husband Dave yesterday. The couple were blessed with good weather for their outdoor ceremony in Cornwall Park, and the day – and evening – were everything a good wedding should be: equal parts ceremonial, tear-filled and laughter-filled. Praneeta is as kiwi as they come, but is also Fiji-Indian, and they had a Hindu ceremony. Dave is a white boy from Howick (holler Howick!). The day was a wonderful combination of both of their cultures and families, and their differences were celebrated.

Ah, if only all differences could be celebrated, it got me thinking. I have had far too many conversations recently with people – generally of my father’s generation – who are adamantly opposed to the idea of homosexuals being able to marry, as Louisa Wall’s bill is currently proposing. They claim that they don’t have an issue with homosexuals per se – but that marriage is the sole reserve of a man and a woman, for the purposes of pro-creation. It is also suggested that to allow homosexual couples to marry would undermine the very fabric of our society. Homosexuals have Civil Unions, and should be happy with that, apparently. Well, here is what I think about that…

Argument One: Marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman: Yes, that is how it is defined in the Marriage Act currently – which is what Ms Wall is seeking to amend. And if you look in the dictionary that will be the general definition too. But, nowhere does it say that definitions remain concrete over time. God, think how much the word ‘computer’ has changed in definition since its inception as a massive huge thing sat in a room somewhere, that has now become something so small it can fit in your hand bag. Definitions of things do, and must, change over time to meet the requirements of the world around it. They can’t stay static just for the sake of ‘tradition’. At a point in time marriage was the sole domain of a man and a woman (and generally a man and a woman of the same class, race and religion). But, as the rights of homosexuals to do everything that heterosexual couples can do have developed, it is logical and indeed necessary that the definition of marriage adapts to meet this change.

Argument Two: Marriage is for the purposes of pro-creation: This is an argument I PARTICULARLY love rebutting. As I have blogged about previously, I have no intention to pro-create myself (unless the definition of ‘pro-create’ is adapted to include owning a golden retriever, which I fully intend to do…). However, I do hope to get married one day. To have my love and commitment to someone else witnessed by those around me, recognised legally and to have a big party (honestly, it is mostly about the party…). So, can I not get married if I don’t plan to have kids? And rebuttal point two – gay couples CAN have kids, in the same way that fertility-challenged heterosexual couples can also have kids. There are a myriad of ways these days. And rebuttal point three – these days, marriage is not a necessary pre-cursor to having kids. Many choose to have kids out of wedlock for a multitude of reasons. It is not a frowned upon thing anymore. It is an accepted way of doing things – well, for those amongst us choosing to be accepting that is.

Argument Three: Marriage is not a fundamental human right: Article 16 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights – the cornerstone of all human rights law (you can trust me on this, I kind of have a Masters in it…) states:

Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

Interesting wording that – ‘Men and women’. So both men and women have the right. It doesn’t stipulate a man must marry a woman and vice versa. It just says both genders have the right to marry. It doesn’t rule out the prospect of one person of one gender marrying someone of the same gender. Don’t believe me? Believe Amnesty International. Oh, and the UN. So YES, there is a fundamental human right to marry – and to limit the definition to a man marrying a woman, is to deny fundamental rights to a whole section of society, something which New Zealand has been pretty good at NOT doing in recent years. So let’s not start now.

Argument Four: There are already limitations on who can marry, so it isn’t out of order to leave homosexuals as one of the groups who can’t: It is said that there are ‘qualifiers’ for marriage. You need to be of a certain age and have a full intellectual understanding of what you are entering into. That’s true. I couldn’t marry a 12 year old (even if many 30 year old men do have the same mental capacity as a 12 year old.. ;-)). And there is a valid reason for that. To allow me to marry a 12 year old would place the 12 year old at risk. They would be agreeing to something they don’t understand the implications of. That makes sense. The same argument can in NO WAY be made for a homosexual couple. No part of the couple is put at risk of harm from the union. So to say that they fall into the category of people who are rightly ineligible for marriage just makes me mad.

Argument Five: To allow homosexuals the right to marry would undermine the fabric of our society: It is said that the ‘traditional’ family – a man, a woman, and children – is the basis of our society. It is also said, by some, that to allow non-traditional families – such as a gay man and a gay man and children – to become something that is condoned by law, would undermine our society and cause massive problems in future years. I’m sorry people, but that ship has well and truly sailed. As the show ‘Modern Family’ illustrates – albeit mostly for comedic effect – the definition of a family has, rightly, evolved over time. I fail to see what ‘societal problems’ come forth from such ‘lack of tradition’. ‘But, what about the kids?’, people say about gay marriage in particular. ‘Won’t they get a hard time at school if they have two dads?’. ‘And won’t they lack a female influence?’. Ok. One – kids get a hard time at school for the most ridiculous of reasons (people – naming your kid ‘Apple’ isn’t going to give them an easy ride – FYI). And as things change having two dads will become far less of a novelty. Also – kids learn discrimination from their parents – so the more open we are, the less likely kids will get bullied for reasons like this. Two – in my experience kids who only have one parent, or have parents of the same gender, are more than catered for in the ‘support from other family members/family friends of the missing gender’ department. I myself was motherless from age 14, but was far from motherless in reality. I had aunts, cousins, family friends, and a sister who more than ably filled any gaps I may have had in terms of influence and knowledge. And I know most gay couples who have kids make a special effort to ensure this happens. And really, we have MUCH bigger issues to resolve in New Zealand – domestic violence, drug use and teenage suicide being among a few – so let’s prioritise shall we?

Ok, I am all ranted out now. I hope those who I have debated this issue recently find some food for thought here – and are open minded enough to at least consider my rebuttal. Our world is an ever developing and ever changing one – which is what makes it so magical and interesting. If things stayed the same all the time what a dull and boring existence we would all have. And what would I have to blog about? 😉

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