"The personal is political" - that's what we heard in the '60s. Now it seems the political has become personal with the very heated controversy over the same sex marriage bill. It's suddenly no longer just the 'live and let live and love' argument. It's an emotive subject as it forces us to question our religious, moral and ethical views.
For many, the controversy is in the interpretation and the definition of marriage on one side of the argument, and of what religious teachings say on the other. For some, however, marriage is quite simply all about love.
We cannot help it if we love a man or a woman, nor can we choose who we fall in love with or when. It could be argued that the ideal for society is that one man and one woman fall in love, marry early and have children, never fall out of love and live happily ever after. That is just not real life though. Real life is a melting pot of sexualities and beliefs and for most, love is the central theme.
Planning a wedding
Anyone planning a wedding with a religious or civil ceremony, or currently a civil partnership if you are a same-sex couple, is essentially celebrating their love and commitment to each other with friends and family. Loving relationships are personal until we choose to make them public through marriage.
The personal-political issue with gay marriage is that many religious groups feel very strongly that same-sex relationships and parenting are not right for society as a whole. The idea of legalising 'gay marriage' and making it equal to 'straight marriage' - creating no differentiation between the two undermines the sanctity of the union of marriage as it exists now. Yet for same-sex couples and anyone who is pro-choice, this argument seems narrow-minded, outdated and offensive.
Alfred Kinsey founded the Institute for Sex Research in 1947. In his book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, he said:
"Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior, the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex."
Kinsey, the American biologist and newly termed 'sexologist' was ahead of his time when most were still too afraid to so much as discuss sexuality let alone publish theories on the subject. Does he have a point with this statement or was he missing the broader spiritual and societal viewpoints altogether?
Since 2005, gay couples have been allowed to enter into civil partnerships which are a separate union to marriage. A civil partnership provides the legal consequences of marriage but has no religious or spiritual association. A couple could choose to have their own religious or humanist blessing as a separate ceremony but the legal wedding was not seen under the law as being the same as marriage between a man and a woman.
The background to the Same-Sex Marriage Bill
The Marriage Act of 1949 did not actually stipulate that marriage partners have to be one male and the other female so technically same-sex marriage was not illegal back then. Same-sex marriage is, however outlawed under the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1973 as a direct political response to the emergence of the gay liberation movement.
The House of Commons recently voted to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales, despite massive opposition to the government's plans. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill now goes before the House of Lords and David Cameron hopes we will see the first ceremonies taking place by the summer of 2014.
Live and Let Love
Same-sex love is a deeply personal issue for many couples that has become political. Relationships are personal; they are fundamentally about love and companionship, so let's live and let live and love.