Just sent this letter to the Hebden Bridge Times in response to their reporting on his blog entry the other week. Don’t know what it’ll look like if published so here is unedited version.
I was dismayed to see the views of Mr Whittaker re-printed in the Hebden Bridge Times (and supported in a letter last week) – although I suppose it gives the opportunity to comment, which his original blog did not.
It saddens me that Mr Whittaker feels that this how he should represent his constituents – which he cannot be unaware include the higher than average proportion of people defining as gay or bisexual in the area in and around Hebden Bridge.
Marriage – the recognition of a union between two people, has been around longer than the state, longer than the church, longer than the law. It comes from a desire to bond with someone, to seek to pair with them for life. Only later has it been deemed necessary to have the union blessed by God, or recognised by the state. Much of this control coming out of the concept of a transfer of property (the woman) from old to new owner (father to groom).
This is not how we view marriage today. Times have changed and in this respect many of us have reformed to an earlier consideration of marriage. The desire to have our union recognised and celebrated by family, friends, and the society / state in which we live.
The rights and recognition extended to one citizen by the state must be extended to all. Next year, I marry my current partner (a man). But had I remained with one of my previous partners ( a woman) this right would have been denied. It is absurd and unequal. The fudge of Civil Partnership was a cowardly complication of the issue – a welcome step – but if it is not marriage, then it is not equal to marriage. Now we have two unequal institutions, one closed to same-sex partners, one closed to mixed-sex couples.
To say marriage is about children, (as he does in his blog) in this day and age, is nonsense. Not to say that I don’t believe that a preparedness to enter into a commitment with your children’s mother / father is not an admirable thing – but what then of those later in life, past the menopause, or infertile? No marriage for them? Or same sex partners with children (adopted, or conceived) – why do their children not deserve married parents?
Perhaps, there should be a legal compact between parents and children that is separate from marriage / civil partnership, which also constitutes a contract with the child and the state, promising to care for, feed, educate and respect the child to accepted standards. We should recognise there are many kinds of parent – biological, adoptive, familial – people who have a responsibility in bringing a child into the world and / or bringing them safely up into adulthood regardless of whether their own romantic and sexual unions are successful.
The consensus in much of society is that marriage is about two people, these two people should love one another and want to try and stay together as long as they live. Whether they can or do have children together is irrelevant to those vows. They don’t cease to be binding if the woman fails to conceive, or an adoption application falls through.
The bottom line is, Mr Whittaker, if you fail to extend to another person a right that you enjoy yourself, on the basis of some characteristic of theirs that you do not share, that is discriminatory, and it very much is a civil rights issue. If in 50 or a hundred years time, society changes, and other definitions of marriage are proposed, it is up to them to decide what they believe is right. Times change. Slaves are not 3/5th of a free man, women are not property, homosexuals are not outlaws. Be a man and treat others with the respect you hope to be afforded yourself.