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Comments to 'Here Come the Brides?'

Anna Edgar comments on Marilyn Deegan's article: Here Come the Brides?

The debate on equality before the law, and the issue of same-sex marriage

As a divorced woman, does it sound like a paradox that I am in support of same-sex marriage?  I lived with my ex-partner for 20 years, eventually we married, in a registry office, and so, several years later, we were protected by law in terms of our rights and assets when we separated and divorced. Indeed if we choose to marry, the legal status of “married”, “divorced” or “widowed” automatically defines and protects our rights.   It is an important point to remember, in the debate on same-sex marriage, that this is not actually a debate on whether or not we personally approve of same sex relationships, or even a debate on what causes same sex attraction, but rather an issue of equal rights and protection before the law.

The debate is really about determining whether we believe that all legal citizens of a civilized liberal democracy have the same legal rights, or whether we accept a sort of apartheid based on prejudice or personal opinion.  In this case, if we segregate British citizens on terms of sexuality, does this not weaken the rights we ALL have to live within the law as individuals free to choose our own identity, religion and lifestyle?

We all know what it is like to struggle for equality against prejudice and establishment.  Think here of women’s rights and the “un-natural” idea of women having equal access to education, the franchise, equal pay, equal rights as citizens. In 1912, or even 1972, a woman of Britain could only dream about the rights we enjoy today.  Think of Martin Luther King standing before a crowd of tens of thousands in Washington DC sharing his Dream, not far, indeed from where Barack Obama now sits in office, and yet in 1963 the concept of racial equality before the law was so “un-natural” it provoked riots and indeed the assassination of King himself.

Whatever humanity strives for, there will always be arguments against, but what if that opposition is based on faulty thinking?  In 1642 Galileo was executed for challenging the religious establishment on the structure of the solar system.  If indeed the earth was not central to the universe, then this challenged the very existence of god, heaven and hell.  And yet, today on this 3rd planet from the sun, in this huge and disparate universe, the existence of God, as a concept, as a belief, across all major world religions, is still central. In the case of women’s rights, civil rights, scientific progress, or same-sex marriage our civilization is not weakened, but actually strengthened by challenging faulty thinking and by supporting diversity and tolerance, for through our differences we are enriched.

The UK is not the first to debate same-sex marriage.  In June 2010 California, USA, Federal Judge Vaughn Walker ruled the “Prop 8” Ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional.  In the words of Walker "Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians…Prop 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license”. California attorney General Jerry Brown agreed “prop 8 “violates the equal protection guarantee of the fourteenth amendment of the united states constitution by taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry”.

This debate on same-sex marriage is actually a deep and fundamental issue of human rights, rational progress, and of supporting the rights of all legally recognized citizens to equality before the law.

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