I now pronounce you


Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, according to the old song. It’s true enough, even though you see horses pulling carriages less these days. It doesn’t specify in the lyric that the people getting married have to be a man and a woman, although having been written in the mid-50s by Sammy Cahn, its implication is likely to be that you should be a man and a woman in order to get married, because you did in those days – and still do in all but nine of the United States – but the song’s sentiment has lasted well over the years. So even though Sammy – most famously through the voice of Mr Frank Sinatra – is implicitly promoting legal heterosexual union, it is still one based wholly in love, so would surely apply to a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, and any transgender combination in between.

Love and marriage, love and marriage,
Go together like a horse and carriage.
This I tell ya, brother, you can’t have one without the other.

Love and marriage, love and marriage,
It’s an institute you can’t disparage.
Ask the local gentry and they will say it’s elementary.

Try, try, try to separate them, it’s an illusion.
Try, try, try and you only come to this conclusion:

Love and marriage, love and marriage,
Go together like a horse and carriage.
Dad was told by mother you can’t have one
You can’t have none.
You can’t have one without the other.

I ask you this: how much time have you spent in your life agonising over what you think about gay marriage? For me, since the issue of civil partnerships first arose this century, it was probably a couple of seconds, after which I arrived at the obvious conclusion: why the hell not? There is, to me, literally no reason why not. (Fortunately I am not bound by religious dogma of any kind, so my decision is final and resolute.) But it seems that out there in the world of traditional, right-wing thought, especially religious right-wing thought, some people spend an awful lot of time wrestling with the issue. Actually agonising over it. To the point of sending worried delegations to government and taking to the streets with placards.

Even though my views on the banning of fox-hunting are clear – another issue that took up a lot of Parliamentary time during the first act of the New Labour government but eventually passed – I can easily see why some would vehemently disagree with my point of view. I find it much harder to empathise with those who are against gay marriage.

What harm can it do? I posted a Tweet about it this morning, after seeing another Tory on the news bemoaning David Cameron’s apparently radical plan to promote its legalisation with an opt-out for any church that disagrees with the equalisation of rights for all humans, and wondering why, seriously, it would bother a heterosexual so much that a homosexual person might love someone so much that they wish to make it legal, on equal terms with their heterosexual neighbour? If they hold the institution of marriage so dear, why would they legally discourage people from entering into it, just because they are gay?

Commitment to a partner via the tradition of marriage, whether religious or secular, is no bad thing. But there are no rules. Some couples raising kids out of wedlock appear to be doing a great job; and some who are married are having a rotten time of it and may inadvertently be lighting a fuse to future anxiety in their kids. I’m sure gay parents will screw up, too. We’re all human. And that’s the point. No? Some single parents do a better job than unhappily married parents, too. Why is that hard to understand? It takes all sorts.

Homosexuality has been legal in this country for most of my lifetime and the age of consent equalised with the heterosexual equivalent; why dig your Tory heels in on this particular issue? Marriage would make adoption of children easier for gay couples, but I expect the real burst-bloodvessel Tories would be against that too.

What bothers me the most is that even the retired colonels qualify their homophobia with, “We’re not anti-gay but …”, which is always a giveaway, but in this case might even be true on a very superficial level. (I expect they don’t mind what the gays do “behind closed doors”. How tolerant of them.) So you’re not anti-gay, but you deny gays equal rights? Then you are anti-gay. My Tweet to this effect – common sense, as far as I can see – was re-Tweeted about 360 times during the day, and is still being re-Tweeting as I type. I’m glad that it struck a chord, although I wish I lived in a country where it didn’t need saying out loud.

I had one dissenting voice on Twitter – I much prefer preaching to the choir! – from a person who I’m not going to name, as I found their comment calm, honest, non-combative and, in its own way, rational. I also find it easy to sidestep. They wrote, “Why not create a new institution giving the same legal rights as marriage?” Their problem was in calling it “marriage.” I have heard this caveat before. So they weren’t even against gay marriage per se, they were just against it being called “marriage.”

Can this just be a semantic argument, after all? Is it not the institution of marriage but the word of marriage that matters to those against the gay upgrade?

The Commons vote is tomorrow. They’re saying that Cameron’s enthusiasm for the vote-winning legalisation of gay marriage – and that’s surely all it can be – will sink him, and he will be stopped by the “old guard” of the party he seems nominally to be trying to modernise while he and his baronet pals are actually driving the welfare state into the sea and forcing the poor to beg for their food, thus doing what no Tory party has achieved in our lifetimes.

There, I’ve thought about gay marriage for way longer than the subject needed to be thought about. I hope you’re happy, retired colonels on the news! (You don’t look it)