Apparently Australia is having a “postal survey” on gay marriage, and I thought it might be interesting to give Australians a view of the subject from a Canadian perspective, because it has had a huge effect on my life here in Canada.
I am a straight, white, educated, professional, upper-middle-class male. I’m an entrepreneur who founded and ran a successful software and scientific consulting business for many years, which I was driven to do in part because the flexible lifestyle that came with it allowed me to spend a lot of time with my kids. Family is the most important thing to me, and I have sacrificed a great deal of wealth and time for the sake of it.
In 2005, two years after I founded my company, the Canadian federal government legalized gay marriage.
The effect was immediate and profound. Quite suddenly, and with no effort on my part, my gay friends could get married and live happily together in legally recognized life partnership. They could enjoy the same benefits as other couples, and make life decisions for each other in emergencies the way spouses do, because they were spouses. They gained an opportunity for greater happiness.
It was, and is, wonderful. There is more happiness in my world. Who has ever said (outside of some early Star Trek episode) that there is too much happiness? Who is opposed to the creation of more happiness when it is created without any downside but one?
When Canada instituted marriage equality, bigots predicted dire consequences. The age of consent was supposed to drop as pedophiles took over. It went up, from 14 to 16, just three years later. Beastiality and marriage to animals was supposed to become rampant. There has been one of those weird legal cases last year indicating that Canada’s beastility law was badly worded and needs to be re-written, but thus far I’ve not noticed any of my friends or neighbours getting married to goats.
People who hate, no matter what they hate, are all of the same kind. They are unhappy people. Angry people. People who have failed in some deeply human way, who have so disappointed themselves they have nothing to fall back on but hatred of people who are not like them.
I can only presume that people who oppose happiness are people of the same kind. Puritans. Failures. Rigidly hewing to some abstract ideology while ignoring the vast ocean of humanity they are part of.
That said, there is one genuine downside of marriage equality: divorce.
I’m sure my religious readers will be aware of where I am going with this. Jesus never said a single thing about homosexuals. He was quite clear about welcoming prostitutes and tax collectors into his circle, so we might guess he never thought the odd homosexual was much to talk about.
The topic that Jesus really did get hot on was divorce. Let’s look at the whole of Matthew 19:1-12:
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
8 Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Those are pretty harsh words, and cover a lot of ground.
First, there is some business about being made male and female. That’s odd, because we know empirically that sexuality is a lot more complex than that, and by the time we had read to the end we find there are also people born as eunuchs, who clearly don’t fit this nice gender binary. So obviously Jesus is not just talking about male and female here. If he was, verses 11 and 12 would make no sense at all. It may not be totally clear what he is talking about there, but it is fairly clear that a detailed technical description of reproductive biology is probably not something we should expect from someone who didn’t know the Earth moves around the sun or that most disease is caused by animals that are too small to see.
I could say a lot here about Biblical interpretation but that would be silly. The important part is about divorce: clearly Jesus says that divorce and remarriage is a mortal sin: adultery. Anyone reading this who is on their second or later marriage, or who approves of remarriage after a divorce for any reason other than sexual infidelity, has no business talking about gay people and marriage, if they claim to be basing their beliefs on Biblical foundations.
I’m a divorced man, and as far as I can see the only issue with marriage equality is that it also entails divorce equality. Our gay friends are as likely to get divorced as we are, and that’s too bad. Hopefully we will be there to support them when it happens.
But to anyone who opposes marriage equality on religious grounds: first you have to come through me. You have nothing to say to anyone who just wants legal recognition of their actual status as spouse until you’ve properly castigated me about my status as a divorced man, clearly in violation of divine statute.
Marriage equality has been wonderful for me: it has created joy in my life as couples who would have been otherwise doomed to second-class status have been given the same rights as the rest of us. I’m even a little bit envious, because I know some of those unions will last longer than mine. But it would be churlish and wrong to deny anyone the joy of marriage. There is no value in hate. Only love.