So the big story on gay acceptance is that it progresses globally, as we reported last June. The hot story, however, is the vexed issue of gay marriage.
Credits: models Chad White, Brian Shimansky for Flaunt magazine, photographed by Ruvan Wijesooriya and styled by Long Nguyen.
The temperature has soared in the last few weeks as debate on this topic went global, if not quite viral. Cardinal Keith O'Brien, top Catholic prelate in the UK, launched a scathing attack on David Cameron’s pledge to legalise homosexual marriage, branding it ‘madness’ and ‘grotesque’. He also claimed that legalising same sex unions was akin to the legalisation of slavery, the 'thin end of the wedge' and would lead to the 'further degeneration of society into immorality.' OMG, here comes the Apocalypse.
The modern faces of Catholicism. Help!
Next up, the Pope joined in the fracas telling a delegation of American Bishops, that they must stand against "political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage" that needed to be "defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature".The 84-year-old Pope acknowledged his comments might sound anachronistic or "countercultural," particularly to the young. Too right, matey. Yet, today, in pulpits across the UK, priests will read out a letter to churchgoers from the office of the Archbishop of Westminster telling them that it's their duty to resist the governments plans. Did anyone ever wonder why these same churches are virtually empty of the young mentioned in the previous sentence?
On the other hand, Tony Blair, a convert to Catholicism, might be regretting this conversion as he came out as "strongly supporting the P.M's proposals." Agreeing with him, in his first interview since being appointed as new Dean of St Paul’s by the Queen, Dr David Ison said marriage should be available to same-sex couples. He added it was better to refer to “Christian marriage” than to homosexual or heterosexual unions, and claimed the Church of England is “obsessed with sex”. He could easily have embraced the Cathoic Church in that generalisation. Choirboys across the nation would surely concur.
Just two weeks earlier, Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister, had put the boot in on Lord Carey, ex- Archbishop of Canterbury. In attempting to rouse public ire towards the concept, he had caused uproar by announcing “not even the Church” owns marriage.
Lynne, writing in The Daily Telegraph, said the Government has a right to change the definition of marriage and pledges to challenge those who “want to leave tradition alone”. Citing Lord Carey’s own words, she insisted that how marriage is defined is up to “the people”.
Directly addressing Christian opponents of the proposed changes, she said: “We understand how strongly some religious groups feel about the issue, which is why we are listening and we want to work with them. But there is a range of other views we need to listen to as well. I want to urge people not to polarise this debate. This is not a battle between gay rights and religious beliefs. This is about the underlying principles of family, society and personal freedoms.”
In her article, Lynne insists the Coalition has a duty to push ahead with the changes. “The fierce debate over the past few weeks has shown people feel very strongly about marriage,” she says. “Some believe the Government has no right to change it at all; they want to leave tradition alone. I want to challenge that view — it is the Government’s fundamental job to reflect society and to shape the future, not stay silent where it has the power to act and change things for the better. Ultimately it’s about the freedom of a small group of people to be treated in exactly the same way as everyone else.”
The latest salvoes from the ranting Cardinal gave her a second wind, enabling her to characterise his language as homophobic and vituperative. Well put, Lynne.
Her viewpoint coincides with the recent developments across the Atlantic where, this week, Maryland became the eighth state in the US to make gay marriage legal. The permit was passed by and supported by the Governor Martin O’Malley. O’Malley said in a public statement, “The common thread running through our efforts together in Maryland is the thread of human dignity. Maryland will now be able to protect individual civil marriage rights and religious freedom equally.”
With this law, Maryland would join New York, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont – the seven states where same-sex marriages are legal.
The issue remains a contentious topic of debate and the source of many political and courtroom clashes where the two warring parties either see the marriage as a threat to traditional families and values or as a legitimate demand for equal civil rights. Even as the tussle between the two factions intensifies, it will remain a red-hot issue on the plate of President Obama. Though he has been assiduously wooing the gay community for donations and votes, he is yet to embrace full marriage rights. Playing safe at this stage, he has said that his views are still ‘evolving’. While some see this as his reluctance to commit, others see it as a hint that he will soon endorse the cause.
As these quotes demonstrate, it’s a story that will run and run, tradition versus change, prejudice versus campaigning, religious versus secular.
“I see the policy of opposing same-sex marriages or unions, whatever you call it, as bigotry or discrimination. “
Patrick J. Kennedy
“We will see a breakdown of the family and family values if we decide to approve same-sex marriage, and if we decide to establish homosexuality as an acceptable alternative lifestyle with all the benefits that go with equating it with the heterosexual lifestyle.”
There are those, even within the gay community for whom it is no big deal. They take the view that the strides to equality have already been many and adequate. They perhaps forget the many nations where gay repression is still rife. And if they do, recent events in democratic India are a salutary reminder that, while progress may have made its mark locally on the planet, globally there’s still a way to go.
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