At a few minutes past midnight, as this new variety of the institution became officially legal, the first same-sex marriage was duly conducted in Brighton, the south coast town where homosexuality has long been not just accepted but practically compulsory.
I am not altogether supportive of this development. Let me explain. As some who spent the best part of three decades in the media, I like to think I am tolerant – to be point of being relaxed and comfortable – about sexuality in all its forms. Live and let live, each to their own, and what people get up to behind closed doors is entirely up to them, and so on.
Decades ago now, I worked closely with a chap some twenty years my senior and we kept in touch long after he retired, meeting for regular meals to gossip about the old days and people we knew. Then, one day at work, a female colleague walked into my office and said that said gent would not be attending the lunch I had arranged with him because he was going to a funeral of a friend. Ever practical, I thanked her for the information and returned to the work piled high on my desk. The colleague remained standing in my office. She then added that perhaps I had not understood her meaning, which was that my lunch date was going to the funeral of his ‘special friend’. Slowly, the penny dropped.
I’m not particularly proud of this but, the next time I had lunch with the chap, I laid into him. I said I was greatly disappointed. I had thought we were good mates, certainly close enough for him to appreciate that I wouldn’t care in the slightest if I had known he was gay. Why hadn’t he told me? He replied that – as regards work – he didn’t think it was particularly anyone’s business and anyway he wasn’t the sort to go around advertising it (this was certainly true, he hadn’t done so). I felt chastened – but still remained a tad disappointed in him, just the same.
You can pigeon-hole me as reactionary and old-fashioned, indeed maybe it’s just the fact I’m old, but in my gut I’m finding it difficult to accept the concept of same-sex marriage. Civil partnerships, i.e. giving gays similar legal rights to marrieds, yes – I’m entirely on-side about that one. But, for me, marriage (and I’m not personally religiously in the slightest) has always been about one man and one woman coming together and, if happily this follows, their biological family.
I can accept the logic going the other way. That families can consist of adopted kids, not just biological ones, and that there’s no saying that parenthood, good or bad, need necessarily depend upon gender.
Who knows, maybe I’ll get my head around same-sex marriage in time.
Let’s not forget that, down through history, enlightened campaigns – sometimes backed by legislation – have often banished discrimination in innumerable forms from our collective consciousness and brought us to the society we enjoy today.
However, I guess there’s a certain irony in the fact that – just as gays have seen their campaign for the right to enter same-sex marriages, and join the mainstream, come to fruition – the Office for National Statistics has published its latest survey, demonstrating that (in the heterosexual community) marriage is becoming increasingly unfashionable.
Apparently the cause is a combination of those in existing ‘live in’ relationships choosing not to proceed to marriage and a trend for singles to opt to remain solo for longer, or indeed permanently.