LEWIS BARTLETT wants to be allowed to be married in chapel. No matter who it’s with.
It now seems that by the time I actually find someone suitable, marriage will be a possibility for my fellow homos and me. Obama’s most recent announcement, coupled with our own government consultation, points to an increasing acceptance for gay marriage.
What a divisive idea that is. While I might occupy myself with the choice between a Maid of Honour and a Best Man, the reality is that there are a lot of people who really do not want to see same-sex couples saunter down the aisle. Not that such people would be invited, anyway.
I’m no stranger to the arguments against me when I mention the suddenly huge topic of gay marriage, having already challenged Archbishop Sentamu about his opposition earlier this year. Despite my letter and its reply, and the best efforts of certain individuals and groups, I am yet to see any substantial counter-argument against gay marriage. Procreation and raising children? Gay couples adopt all the time, while plenty of childless hetero couples get married. That marriage is a traditional, unchanging institution? Take your pick from the issues of divorce, inter-race, or Gretna Green marriages. Religious disagreements? Sorry, I must have missed our transition into a theocracy where civil marriages stopped being a thing.
Maybe I’m blinded by my vision of the perfect wedding cake, but having had a fairy-tale rite promised to me practically from birth, I fail to see how the problems of people I will never know should deny me my day. In fact, if I were to slip off and marry, I’m pretty sure their lives wouldn’t change in any way. At all.
But assuming that Mr Cameron maintains the UK’s status as the “best place to live as LGBT in Europe”; and continues to insist that the current consultation is about how to implement, not whether to implement such a welcome change, my speculation turns to something I overhear in Cambridge all too often: religious, and in particular College Chapel, marriages.
While Selwyn’s chapel is glorious, my rather cold and distant relationship with any formal religion means I’m not sure it would be right for my own big day. But the same is not true for everyone. Being gay and having a faith are not mutually exclusive, and this begs the question of just where the next set of battle lines will be drawn, of whether all my friends will be allowed to marry in the place they met and spent their most formative years. College chapel marriages are a solely heterosexual right, and an important part of an alumnus’s relationship with their college; a right denied to so many in this university.
Mr Obama has (finally) jumped on the pro-homo bandwagon, with his announcement in favour of equal rights, – make no mistake, that is what we’re discussing here – poignantly timed to follow North Carolina’s state constitutional ban on recognising same sex couples. The debates there mirror the debates here, and I can’t help but appeal to history to sort them out.
Support for gays marrying is on the rise, and unrest about the current lack of equality is clear, no matter which institution gets involved. Be it the legions of pro-gay marriage Church of England ministers, or the surprisingly defiant Cameron in the face of his rebelling backbenchers. In the states, the similarity to the fight for inter-racial marriage 45 years ago is uncanny, and a generation later its former illegality is inconceivable.
I can’t help but think, rather Whiggishly I admit, that in another few decades this whole debate will be looked upon with the exact same wonder attached to all major civil rights movements: how could people be so terribly, shamefully bigoted?