The case for same-sex marriage

Just because civil partnerships between same-sex couples are legal in England we tend to think that marriage has been legalised. It hasn’t. The English law states that marriage is only marriage if it is between one man and one woman. I do not see this only as an outrageous affront to same-sex couples, but as more generally sexist, and as a grave insult to the human rite of marriage. The idea that law may dictate who together enters into emotional, intellectual and physical unity pronounced and celebrated in a marriage ceremony is absurd. The only people fit to choose are those entering into this committment of love, sharing, and lifelong loyalty.

My views on marriage are humanist, that is to say that I view marriage as an expression of our humanity. I can not see marriage in a cynical way, expecting it to fail, or blame it for the church, the law, or society’s failings in its name. Marriage hasn’t had a perfect track record. Many marriages have failed. Marriage has been used as a weapon. It has been used to control and disempower. However, this history and these associations cannot taint the concept of marriage or the wholly natural impulse we have to join together under the banner of marriage.

http://www.rainbowsugarcraft.co.uk/shop/Cake_Toppers.htmI am very aware that opinion is divided on the issue, and that not all same-sex couples wish to marry – instead preferring the quite separate option to ‘wed’ in a civil partnership. My case for the term marriage to be applied to all those wishing to express their intentions to share their lives with one or more particular partners is that there is no justifiable reason not to. Objections to certain types of relationships come from societal rather than human concerns. The only concerns worth our considering are limited to the sincerity and seriousness with which the partners in question are approaching marriage and making their commitments to each other. The question is not whether marriage is good for society, but whether marriage is good for personal happiness and fulfilled lives.

Civil partnerships and marriages may differ legally but within a humanist wedding ceremony they are treated with http://www.rainbowsugarcraft.co.uk/shop/Cake_Toppers.htmexactly the same degree of respect and are looked on as having exactly the same status. What is more, I will most certainly refer to a same-sex partnership as a marriage if that is how the couple see their union. Even if the lived experience of marriage and civil partnership is the same, the symbolic distinction matters to me. Humanist wedding ceremonies are chosen for their symbolic significance, and while they can be used to mitigate the inequality of the legal situation, I would still like to see same-sex marriages given the legal status and recognition they deserve. Couples who feel unaffected by the distinction may not see this as an issue. Not everyone wants to fight to be allowed to marry, while to them marriage seems to be conforming to a repressive and outdated institution. Not everyone can see a reason for calling civil partnerships ‘marriages’, but I hope that every thinking person with a regard for human happiness can see no reason not to.

Click here to read about the British Humanist Association’s campaign for legal humanist weddings and legal same-sex marriage.

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Joy with the brakes on

Be happy, but not too happy.

Congratulations, but

That’s great, now what about...

Not to put the dampers on things but

Joy with the brakes on is a phenomenon that can plague both preparation for marriage and having a baby. You might recognise it in well-meaning warning comments designed to check you know what you’re getting yourself in for. Checking that you’ve thought it through. That you’re not rushing into something. That you’re ready and prepared for reality.What is well-meaning about these bubble bursting comments is that they are often based in care. Some people can’t help but worry on the behalf of others. Some can’t help but project their own cautiousness, regrets or misgivings onto a happy couple. Some can only express their urge to protect a happy couple from surprised disappointment by preparing them for the worst.

Entering marriage and parenthood are both, should be, life changing events. There’s the romance and magic of both. There’s also the lived experience of both which doesn’t always live up to the fuzzy disney happily-ever-after ideal. While we enter into these new beginnings full of love and hope and optimism we generally have our eyes open to the ups and downs that will no doubt come our way. Surely that is why we vow to love and support our partners in sickness and health, and for richer for poorer? In our wedding ceremonies we acknowledge the risks and increased responsibilities marriage can bring, through our vows. More importantly we call upon our guests not only to witness our joining but to pledge to support us in our marriage from that day forward.

If listening to the scare-mongers, those well-meaning warners is a rite of passage into marriage and parenthood do we feign appreciation, nodding and smiling politely or do we fight back? Clearly ‘ignorance is bliss’ would be the polar opposite view to take here, but not a very mature thing to enter a serious committment with your eyes closed. How about rose tinted glasses are nature’s way of propogating the species? What’s so bad about entering into these new life states with positivity and optimism anyway? I believe that negativity begets negativity and positivity begets positivity. Not that you can stop awful things happening by thinking happy thoughts, but that you will find whatever you are looking hardest for.

This explains why when the forewarned couple actually doesn’t complain about the baby crying, about the sleepless nights, about their kids bleeding them dry, or about being hen-pecked, under the thumb, their sex life becoming non-existent – the scare-mongers will cope with this challenge to their world view by insisting that it’s only a matter of time. That so far they’ve been lucky. That the baby must be a good baby. It can’t possibly be because the couple have worked hard to communicate well in their marriage, chosen to be completely honest with each other, are actually in love, or have chosen to parent in a way that makes them and their child happy.

Joy with the brakes on has no place within a Humanist ceremony because there is no place for a joy-sapping anti-human potential attitude in Humanism. Not all Humanist Celebrants are Humanists and so although you will find Celebrants whose natural styles embrace self-deprecating sarcasm, if you are looking for a ceremony that focuses on the harsh reality of marriage, or parenthood, sorry but I am not the Celebrant for you. I believe in unbridled passionately romantic love shining through my ceremonies above all else. If I don’t well up with at least one tear when I read your ceremony script back to myself, it’s not good enough.

We can all appreciate worriers in our circle of friends and family, but I think I can say on behalf of all engaged couples and expectant parents: Please… trust us, and let us, as adults should, learn from our own mistakes. Be happy full stop. Congratulations full stop.