Over the Threshold

same sex marriage

As gay marriage finally looks set to become a reality Mark O’Connell wonders what happens once we’re carried over the threshold.

The history of gay life and culture has been borne out of resistance. Queer fashion, literature, language, music and social patterns have all been influenced by the notion of struggle. The timeline of the world’s LGBT communities has been both revolution and evolution. But when the British Government and the Lords pass a Same Sex Marriage Bill is that it for the gay fight – buried under a tsunami of confetti and online wedding lists?

In Britain, ‘marriage’ was not always so high on our or the legislators’ agenda. It was a fantasy. Sixty years ago, British men were more concerned about the law deeming them perverts if they played a Maria Callas album in their front room to six single guys and a bottle of sweet sherry. Of course many years of protest from various LGBT communities has valiantly gained what all sorts of bigotry would deny us. And a few decent politicians (on all sides). Oh, and time. Because it is time that sees David Cameron very pro-gay marriage. Time because the global tide cannot be reversed (it is not politically wise to let the likes of France, New Zealand and Canada lap us on such headlining legislation). Time because it is ridiculous for the Tories to assume the views of its older clientele will secure a future with its younger one. And possibly time – and I will swap my wedding fascinator for a cynic’s hat here – because gay marriage is a government spade burying bad news, a liberal Trojan Horse diverting attention from the country’s economic crisis, illegal wars and failing standards.

Of course the phrase “same” is all about gender. Yet wider connotations suggest assimilation with everyone else’s marriages. The very reason my partner and I didn’t rush to have some registrar with her council-funded fringe declare our partnership to be civil was partly because a gay bridal shower in Uganda seemed preferable to aping Elton John and David Furnish’s matching suits and smugness. We are not entirely sure we wanted what straight couples have. It’s like putting a smoothie maker on a John Lewis wedding list. The idea is great, but will we really use it? Civil Partnerships go great moral and legislative strides to achieving vital next-of-kin and will status. The very reason they happened at all has progress written all over it and the thousands of couples enjoying life in a civil partnership will rightly claim love as their reason for getting wed. Quite right. That has been forgotten amidst the toxic opinions of Gerald “aggressive homosexuals” Howarth MP and Nadine “gay marriage takes the sex out of marriage” Dorries (who did exactly that when she got more than one bunk up with her best mate’s husband and uses the late Stephen Gately’s name to attack other homophobic columnists whilst comically ignoring her own). Just as we have too many myopic pedants (what “MP” actually stands for) defending straight marriage for fear of scaring horses they don’t own, we have a great many hate laws in this country compared to any tackling love.

We shouldn’t and won’t get into thinking being gay married is the ultimate. Equal marriage has never been about weddings for all. It is the option for some. Not every black kid in 1950s America wanted to get on the bus with Rosa Parks. But they expected the option.

The irony is that just as high street culture now has room for the gays (albeit still “once a month and on a Tuesday” in certain towns), some straight married couples are behaving like those closeted 1950s queens under the inauspicious auspices of dogging, swinging and any place where horny Fitness First members clock a disabled loo going spare. Just as not being married is the new norm for male/female couples, we are taking the deadlock out of wedlock with a very old-fashioned ideal of citizenship through marriage. It is this which has been the most striking aspect to emerge from the House of Lords and Commons debates – where sensible MPs and Peers are referencing the gay kids and neighbours that have changed their mind towards Equal Marriage. Meanwhile the likes of Wiltshire Councillor Mary Douglas are gift-wrapping their homophobia with pages from Peter & Jane. These “grass root objectors” want to glibly AstroTurf the country into some plastic and Edwardian Garden of Eden, completely overlooking how LGBT folk getting wed are honouring that “institution of marriage”. Somehow there is something more Christian about those MPs gay friends and family setting an example than others very “aggressive” hell and damnation.

Gay marriage is not going to buffer us like the marzipan on a Him & Him wedding cake. We will still be prone to jibes, administrative zealots, unprovoked attacks and irritating token casting in Hollyoaks. And if Russia doesn’t sort its act out soon I am singlehandedly staging a big ol’ gay government coup for the sake of my inbox buckling under the weight of anti-homophobic petitions. Maybe the new fight will have to be for Equal Divorce? Or Equal Seven Year Itch? Or Equal Being A Miserable Couple Sat Silently in the Same Seats Every Other Thursday in Prezzos? The breaking up bit is where it could get tricky. Will those in unhappy [gay] marriages feel coerced to stick it out, for fear a failing marriage plays right into the pitchfork-clutching hands of our detractors? But that is up to us to get it wrong. Maybe that is what is now at stake? If we cannot be defined by the struggle, we may have to be defined by being just the same as all the other people who take that plunge. No-one has to be good or bad at marriage. There is more to it than one day’s photo ops and gay wedding cake figurines stood like a very reformist episode of Trumpton. The banking crisis, “we are all in this together” nonsense, a breakdown of simple privacies and increasing costs for less quality – these are all our concerns now. Oh blimey. Everything we have left to fight against is exactly what everyone else has left to fight against. Suddenly a bottle of sweet sherry and a Maria Callas album is much more preferable.

Words: Mark O’Connell

Mark O’Connell is an award winning comedy writer, pundit and author of Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan. www.markoconnell.co.uk

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