Thursday, 28 March 2013

Why I support same sex marriage!

This afternoon, I was asked a very simple question and I gave a very simple answer. I was asked if I support equal marriage and I replied ‘Hell Yes!’ I meant what I said and I said what I meant. The question and answer came against the background of two events, one recent, the other remote. The recent event is very obvious; the debate and voting this night that led to the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill which will become law as soon as Her Majesty gives her assent to the bill. The voting itself was remarkable and a resounding victory for common sense; 400-175! I am very happy with that development and it is indeed a giant step for mankind!

However the other event I wish to comment on was the recent statement made by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow. In a rhetoric directed to the British Prime Minister, the Archbishop, Philip Tartaglia said: “You and your government need to be aware from the outset that the Catholic Church will not register civil partnerships nor celebrate same-sex unions: not now, not in the future, not ever, no matter what legislation or regulations your government enacts or endorses.”

I find this intervention very upsetting because am not quite sure the church is in a better position to tell the state how to conduct its affairs neither is it within her power to tell people who to love and live the rest of their lives with. This is purely a state and personal decision and has nothing to do with the church. We do not need the support or the endorsement of the church to fall in love or the sanction of the church to make that everlasting commitment. Two people who love themselves regardless of their sexual orientation have as matter of right to give a contractual character to that love and that is what marriage is all about. Marriage has nothing to do with the church. Philip Tartaglia will be my witness that of the entire sacraments only one does not demand the presence of a priest or the church; matrimony. The teaching of the church has been that the sacrament of matrimony is a covenant between two people; the couples. Priests are only there to solemnize it and that is not really necessary. The sacrament of matrimony cannot be voided if a priest was not there to officiate over it and that is in line with the teaching that it is a sacrament that revolves only around two people; the couples.

The church therefore has not right to question the state or dictate to two lovers how to live their lives. They are not being forced to marry these people but then they should not stop those who want to marry them. Live and let live and that is exactly the meaning of tolerance and common sense. If you do not want to move on, you must allow others. You cannot have it both ways! We have come a long way before arriving at where we are today and the church must stop being a cog in the wheel of progress. If the church is happy being in 13th century, I am quite sure I speak the mind of all when I say that we are happy being in the 21st century!

Once upon a time, it was a taboo for anyone to marry in any church in this country except in the Church of England but with time that became a history and the Roman Catholics, the Quakers and other denominations were allowed to marry in their own churches. The reason for that was because these other churches were being discriminated against and the dominant Church of England cannot imagine the popish Roman Catholics and others enjoying same right. There was also a time when it was unthinkable for black man to marry a white woman. For those who hold this view, a black man is dirty, smells and would pollute and corrupt what it means to be white; a blonde hair and blue eyes. The good news is that we are completely over that period though there are still pockets of diehards who still share this opinion. If you doubt me, ask of what becomes of the fate of children born to black and white parents in Eastern European countries like Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania. They are simply being treated as second class citizens and nobodies for a fault that is not theirs. This type of illogical and irrational hatred and prejudice cannot be justified. It is very common amongst the less educated but I can also assure you that it is also very prevalent amongst the educated even in highly advanced western states like the United Kingdom.

Baroness Hale of Richmond could not have put it in better way in Ghaidan v Godin-Mendoza [2004] when she said; "My Lords, it is not so very long ago in this country that people might be refused access to a so-called "public" bar because of their sex or the colour of their skin; that a woman might automatically be paid three quarters of what a man was paid for doing exactly the same job; that a landlady offering rooms to let might lawfully put a "no blacks" notice in her window. We now realize that this was wrong. It was wrong because the sex or colour of the person was simply irrelevant to the choice which was being made: to whether he or she would be a fit and proper person to have a drink with others in a bar, to how well she might do the job, to how good a tenant or lodger he might be. It was wrong because it depended on stereotypical assumptions about what a woman or a black person might be like, assumptions which had nothing to do with the qualities of the individual involved: even if there were any reason to believe that more women than men made bad customers this was no justification for discriminating against all women. It was wrong because it was based on an irrelevant characteristic which the woman or the black did not choose and could do nothing about"

It is a frame of mind like this that is at the back of the opposition to same sex marriage.  Before I go into that, I will like to narrate two incidents that I witnessed in the last of couple of days. One was a cartoon I posted on my Facebook page. There was a man and a woman on a bed who had just finished having sex. As the man was reading a newspaper, he came across a story on a plan to legalize same sex marriage by the government and he shouted that it would make an absolute mockery of the traditional marriage and the woman replied that it is exactly what the husband will say. The meaning is that these two folks who finished committing the sin of adultery see everything wrong in same sex marriage and of course homosexuality but obviously not in adultery.

The next incident concerns a friend who is a product of a mixed marriage. The mother is English while the father is Ugandan. As we were lunching together he saw a story on same sex marriage in a newspaper and he shouted that the world is certainly coming to an end. I did not disagree with him; however I reminded him that there are still millions of people in the world who still think that it is an abomination for a black man to marry a white woman even as children of such mixed marriages are treated with scorn in many parts of Eastern Europe.

In a nutshell, the summary of my story is that there is nothing to fear about same sex marriage and the good news is that you can keep quiet because it is not your business! The fear, hatred and opposition are completely unfounded, irrational, illogical and bigoted. Let those who want to marry, marry and let others keep quiet for that is not their business. Let me once again put in context the outburst of the Archbishop I mentioned at the outset; What would have been your reaction if a Afrikaan in apartheid South Africa had said..."You and your fellow black people need to be aware from the outset that the Apartheid government of South Africa will not recognize that a white man is equal to a black man nor do we have intention of thinking of that: not now, not in the future, not ever, no matter what argument or reasoning you black people and your supporters endorses".

If you are a black person, I can read your mind. In the same way you cannot tolerate this statement so do men and women of goodwill must not tolerate Philip Tartaglia’s rhetoric. I am convinced that sometimes, it is good to reason from the both sides of the Atlantic. What this guy said is unbecoming of a cleric. It is tantamount to hatred and clearly against the gospel of love he was called to preach. Denying others their right while asserting yours is not godly; It is only godly when we live and let others live too. I have always asked myself, If it is all right to take tithe from these homosexuals why is it all right to ostracize them and refuse them that single moment to prove to the world that they can love and cherish each other? I am not a great fan of religion but am not oblivious of the fact that religion should stand for what Jesus Christ stood for; love and compassion and not hatred.

And since nobody or no religion is going to be compelled to perform such marriages, what is this hullabaloo all about? Religion should not be allowed to be a setback in this giant leap to human rights being championed by the state. If anything, religion should be in the forefront of the human rights advancement. That is my stand and it is not too difficult to understand it. It is very clear; there is a big difference between religion and state and that gap should be minded. Religion should mind her business-though of course they have right to give a reasonable advice-and avoid meddling with the state affairs. Since homosexuality is a bio-genetic issue, I still have doubt that religion is competent to speak about it. That is a privilege that should be left with science. When it comes to how many of us will inherit the kingdom of God or perish in hell, then religion should be invited to throw more light on it.

It is therefore absolutely ridiculous to hide under the cloak of religion to infringe on the right of others. I find it utterly despicable when theologians begin to pontificate on an issue that is the birthright of scientists. I find it also very uncomfortable listening to these beliefs and arguments that cannot be backed by science. It is not enough to believe it just because the holy book said it, it must also make sense and stand the test and demands of 21st century. You cannot use over 2000 years old theology to explain the 21st century science. We are enlightened enough to know our left from our right. It will therefore be ridiculous to tell our children in this 21st century to ascribe their ignorance to divinity. Hell no! We cannot allow that to happen. They have brains and should be encouraged to make better use of it. My argument does not in any way deny the existence of God but am quite sure no one has ever seen Him and if no one has ever seen Him, on whose authority then can someone begin to tell others who to love and live with?

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