The current ban on same-sex marriage is discriminatory, says Laura, but the conservative obsession with marriage is outdated nonsense

wedding cake.jpgThe new Secretary of State, Maria Miller, yesterday came out in favour of civil marriage for same-sex couples. In her piece in the Independent’s new comments section, she says:

At the moment the state does not support same-sex couples in the same way that it supports a man and woman choosing to celebrate their commitment. Many people in civil partnerships already refer to their partner as their “husband” or “wife”, but they are not technically “married” and do not have the option to become so. I see no reason to perpetuate this.

This is good news. As someone in a heterosexual relationship, I have no interest in fitting my relationship into a predefined box with lots of associations that I personally dislike, but I think everyone should have the right to get married if they want to, regardless of their sexuality. The current set-up of civil partnerships for same-sex couples and marriages for heterosexual couples sends out a clear message that heterosexuality is more valued in our society than homosexuality, and that’s wrong. Legalising same-sex marriage would also end the injustice of trans people’s marriage’s being invalidated when they change their legal gender.

However, I don’t think Miller’s piece is a “great article”, as Stonewall tweeted earlier today. The Secretary of State’s reasons for wanting to introduce civil marriage for same-sex couples are rooted in the conservative notion of marriage as the bedrock of society:

[Marriage] helps bind society together and strengthens our communities. […] My view is simple; marriage is hugely important. It makes us stronger. Vital family ties will be forged when two people choose to commit. I believe that marriage is an institution that benefits Britain and extending it will make sure it stays as important – and relevant – as ever. Love, fidelity, commitment and stability are something to celebrate.

I find it disappointing that some gay marriage campaigners have been willing to use these kind of arguments to support their cause. Being in a signed and sealed monogamous sexual relationship does not make you any more valuable to society than someone who is single or poly or prefers to have close non-sexual relationships. An individual’s ability to care for others, to contribute to their local community, to commit to their loved ones and to bring up children is not contingent on their marital status. Marriage doesn’t magically stop abusive people being abusive or turn selfish people into pillars of society.

I don’t believe that married couples – whether heterosexual, lesbian or gay – are deserving of any more social recognition than anyone else, let alone financial benefits granted through the tax system. If you feel marraige is right for you, then great, I’m happy for you. But it doesn’t make you a better or more valuable person, as Maria Miller would have us believe. It doesn’t mean that your relationship is any more important, committed or valid than any other form of relationship.

I don’t support marriage rights for same-sex couples because I want to “strengthen” the “institution of marriage”, as the Independent’s petition text puts it. I have no love for an institution founded on the abuse and exploitation of millions of women, regardless of the different forms it may take today. I support equal marriage rights because I support equal legal rights for all and an end to homophobic discrimination. Buying into the conservative fetishising of marriage is unnecessary, and ignores the many people of all sexualities who are not or never will be married.

Photo of a white wedding cake decorated with lilacs by cpastrychef, shared under a Creative Commons licence.