Love and marriage

I don’t want to live in a society where discrimination is hard-wired into the institutions that surround us.
I don’t. It’s as simple as that.
I don’t want to be discriminated against, and I don’t want the people I share this island with to be discriminated against either.
As lovely and wishy-washy as those sentiments are, I am drawn to this topic, on this occasion, by the rumpus surrounding the UK government’s proposed changes to marriage.
The 2004 Civil Partnership Act gave same-sex couples the option to enter into a legally recognised and binding partnership with all the same rights and responsibilities afforded through marriage. But it’s not marriage, it’s a civil partnership.
Now the government wants to open out the scope of marriage, so that it is available to same sex couples. Not surprisingly there has been a lot of negative reaction from some quarters, the obvious ones being the Church and the right-wing moral majority lobby. But I’ve also heard criticism of it from gay men (ok, one gay man) claiming that this attempt at equality will just push people to more extreme oppositional points of view.
The Church – Catholic and Anglican – is against marriage being made available to same sex couples. This should not surprise anyone. Nor, frankly, should it concern anyone.
I respect anyone’s right to follow their religious beliefs right up to the point where they impinge on the dignity and freedom of other people. So, this is not an attack – even a mild one – on organised religion.
However, I think the Church needs to wind its neck in – as they say in Liverpool. It doesn’t own marriage. It didn’t invent it. It existed during the pre-Christian Roman Empire, and further back was evident in Ancient Greece.
Traditionalists… behold the wound-in neck of the Church and prepare to follow suit. Anyone in the “we shouldn’t tinker with important societal traditions” camp needs to consider the changes to their precious tradition in the past. For example, women no longer lose all property rights when they marry. This is a good thing. It is also a good example of why things like marriage need to keep changing over time.
Marriage exists today as a legally binding state of personal affairs between two people, and has been modified over the years to ensure it is – broadly – in step with wider social and economic concerns. And when, as some people do, you’ve had enough and you want out, you don’t get divorced in a church, you get divorced in a court of law.
Arguments about marriage being about a natural state of affairs between a man and a woman, or that the best environment for raising children is in a happy, stable home with married parents – one of each gender – are all well and good.  But they start from a set of assumptions that are plainly unrealistic.  After all not every marriage is happy and not all children are raised by loving parents.
Whatever your vision of an ideal world, chances are we don’t live in it. But that’s no reason to do nothing, or to adopt an entrenched oppositional stance.
Replacing the current two-tier approach of marriage for straights and civil partnership for the gay and lesbian community is an indication that the UK is committed to eradicating discrimination.
To me, that can only be a good thing.

Let love be genuine. abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good

The build-up to the royal wedding, all the hype and expectation, left me fairly cold.

I don’t have a problem with the institution of marriage, nor with the monarchy per se. But the fuss that takes place on the periphery is, for me, a massive disincentive to pay much attention.

So it was that, after weeks or even months of taking little or no notice, I found myself instinctively sitting in front of the TV on the morning of Friday 29 April to watch the proceedings.

I know I am not the only person who reminisced about the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, as she was known back then in 1981. Similarly, I’m not the only person who reflected upon their own wedding day while watching the spectacle of two young people full of love and hope becoming husband and wife.

The 1981 royal wedding was the point at which my mother decided we were through with watching the world in black and white, and we got our first colour TV. For us, it was a pretty big deal. Although I don’t recall watching very much – if anything – of that royal wedding.

I guess it’s fairer to say it was a big deal for my mum.

Roughly mid-way between that royal wedding and the one that just took place, I got married.

My mother didn’t get to see it. She had died just less than a year prior to the occasion.

So it was that, as I sat listening to the readings and homilies at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, I thought about love, and hope and expectation. I thought about life and it’s uncanny knack of paying no attention to the plans we make. The people we become as we grow older are not the people we once were. We are changed by the lives we lead, the highs and the lows, the cards we are dealt by fate.

The joys and the disappointments.

If you have never found yourself wondering, in the face of a mountainous set-back, what the point of it all is, whether you have the strength to carry on, or why you foolishly made the decisions that led to the point you’re at, well you simply haven’t lived.

When children are very young they fall over – a lot. Parents watch anxiously to see if they are hurt, or if they will start crying, and there is always lots of encouragement not to cry, not to dwell on what just happened.

As we get older we forget how easy it is to fall over.

Failure, I read very recently, is a better teacher than success.

But it’s up to us to pay attention and learn from the lessons it delivers.

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