Same-sex marriage discussions in the US, Australia and the UK are on the rise. Only a few weeks ago our Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was forced to backpedal on a remark that appeared in a speech he was due to deliver, referring to those who oppose the Coalition Government's Equalities Agenda as "bigots". Poor Nick, having to shy away from his own truth in order to protect his political career, and to please a group of people who do not believe in equality, and who think of themselves as a righteous bunch who hold the universal truth.
The only truth here is that we are at a historical junction where some religious leaders are endeavouring to influence policy making, trying to keep our societies ruled by commandments and stuff allegedly passed onto our ancestors thousands of years ago by a God we may or may not believe in. We have seen debates in the Australian press over the past few months, with politicians and religious leaders exchanging broadside shots, and more recently in the United States where four States of the Union voted to allow same-sex marriage earlier this month.
In the UK things are not much different. Backed by the likes of the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Sun, a number of conservative politicians and religious leaders have led the charge spreading their homophobic vile among their flock and whenever possible, among all of us as well.
Their problem is that science has evolved, human knowledge about our surrounding universe has evolved, and a number of social attitudes towards sex, race, the elderly, children, etc., have evolved too. Hell, even the earth went from being flat to round, and from being the centre of the universe to a small planet, in a small solar system, in a corner of one among billions of galaxies. That has to be hard to swallow, especially for those who believe the teachings of their religious texts word by word.
What I cannot understand is why this same-sex marriage issue arouses conservative religious leaders and people who share their Palaeolithic ideas so much. I mean, if they are going to forbid gay marriage because God told them to do so -which by the way he didn't-, they should also forbid quite a few other bits banned by the Almighty, say eating shellfish (Lev 11:10), divorcing (Mark 10:9), wearing clothes made of two different kinds of fabric (Lev 19:19) or sporting tattoos (Lev 19:28). And yet, I see neither Christians, nor Jews or Muslims carrying out public campaigns against any of these "aberrations", at least not with the same energy they do when it comes to same-sex marriage.
I am not sure why same-sex marriage disturbs them so much. After all, as far as I know God never, never, prohibited the marriage between human beings of the same sex. He did say in Leviticus 18:22, "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it's an abomination", a prohibition obviously addressed to men only. So, basically even if we were to accept this rule in our secular societies, still same-sex unions between women would, at least in theory, be okay, since God said nothing about women having sex with other women. God does indeed work in mysterious ways sometimes, isn't it?
Still, I am quite confused. Why all the fuss about the specifics of marriage, when the instructions are crystal clear. For the God of the Old Testament, it is homosexuality and not homosexual marriage what is an abomination. Why, then, aren't the Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinals Murphy-O'Connor and O'Brien, and other religious and political leaders lobbying the government and their followers to outlaw homosexuality altogether instead of same-sex marriage? Do you see the same flaw that I see here?
If we were to let these 21st century religious zealots dictate what is right or wrong according to their scriptures, we would also be looking at reinstating slavery (God is quite fine with people enslaving other people, even in the New Testament - see Ephesians 6:5), and at applying the death penalty for a number of offenses that may go from worshipping false idols to blasphemy and working on Sundays.
The truth is that all those conservative minds that oppose same-sex marriage are more than okay with cherry picking what is convenient to them from their sacred books. They have tuned their "understanding" of the sacred texts so that they fit within more secular and free societies where their bigotry is not generally accepted any longer. That's why getting a tattoo today doesn't get you thrown out of your town, or why divining the future on TV or the Daily Mail doesn't get you executed in cold blood.
I hate quoting celebrities, but a couple of months ago Brad Pitt came out in support of same-sex marriage again and said something like: in a few years we will look back and will be ashamed that homosexuals, be man or women, didn't have the same right heterosexuals had to marry the person they love. The man is spot on. This happened before, time and again. It is called Progress.
Conservative religious zealots opposed the end of slavery and the slave trade (which they justified by equating Civilisation to Christianisation of the "African savages"). They opposed interracial marriage (even though Moses himself wed an Ethiopian woman), universal suffrage, and the 40-hours working week. And we are only talking about the Western World here. If we delve into some parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia some of these prohibitions are still very much alive and kicking.
Fighting for the recognition of a human right long denied to a large part of humanity is not too much to ask and certainly is not an imposition. We have no intention of imposing our beliefs upon society, which is the most repeated fallacy mouthed by those who criticise the need for legalising same-sex marriage. No, we do not want them to celebrate these weddings in their temples, and neither we want them to participate of them, not at all. The only thing we want is that homosexuals and heterosexuals share the same rights and responsibilities in the world of tomorrow. After all we are all the same, human beings, and everything else is insubstantial junk.
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