With the marriage amendment bill by Labour MP and former SPASIFIK columnist Louisa Wall pulled from the parliamentary ballot last week, the issue of gay marriage is about to be thrust into the political spotlight. JARED MACKLEY-CRUMP looks at the issue of opposition based on ‘cultural’ or ‘religious’ grounds, and finds the reasoning somewhat lacking.
As with any of the big social issues, the debate around marriage equality is a complex web of opinions and viewpoints. Some are ridiculous, many of them completely unrelated, but yet still try to create tenuous links, while others try to chart a reasonable course through rough waters.
I should state up front that I do sit on the fence on this issue, and no amount of lobbying either way will change my perspective: the ‘institution’ of marriage is in no way threatened by marriage equality.
The huge number of marriages that end in divorce; the ridiculous, non-stop parade of celebrity marriages lasting for as long as it takes to say “gay marriage,” of radio stations and reality television shows that debase the very notion of marriage in their eternal search for sensationalism; the many examples of broken homes, broken lives, and adultery from within our own communities.
They’ve all contributed in destroying the notion that marriage is somehow this eternal, sacred and holier-than-thou union that should be restricted to those deemed more morally entitled.
I know that for many within our Maori and Pacific communities, opposition is based around two heated points of debate – religion and culture (or tradition) – so these seem like good concepts to centre this blog around.
Well first and foremost, marriage has existed long before reliable recorded history. It was here way before Christianity (before organised religion itself), and it will be here long after. Christianity (religion) does not have a stronghold over marriage. It’s not a religious contract, it’s a societal construct. Societies do not equal religion; it’s just that for so much of (Western) recorded history, the two have gone hand-in-hand.
I love the idea of religion as a set of morals about how to live and treat others. I see the bible as a lovely set of stories that can be interpreted to provide guidance. This appeals to me greatly; the way religion is often played out in today’s fraught times, not so much.
Jesus was an outsider and he stood up unequivocally for the oppressed and downtrodden. If he were alive today I have no doubt that he would be hanging with the homeless, the refugees, the trannies and Queens on K Road. I don’t see him siding with congregations that choose to sit in their holy houses and throw stones.
Many people say that the bible specifically denounces gay marriage; just as many rubbish this notion.
Yes, we know that Leviticus 18:22 states, “You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, it is an abomination.”
But Leviticus also states, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD” (19:28).
So all those against marriage equality on religious grounds better get thee to a removalist and have all those pe’a, moko, etc, etc, removed. Right? Hardly.
You can’t pick and choose which bible verses you want to take literally. Christianity, as it turns out, is just as polarised by this push for equality, anyway.
But thinking about the whole “let he without sin” thing, let’s take a look at ourselves before casting that first stone.
Many things are cultural. Culture has become a great way to excuse a multitude of sins, across societies – just look at the “it’s not ok” anti-domestic violence campaign.
It’s often reflected (although very quietly) that the concept of fidelity can have quite different interpretations and plays out quite differently throughout the Pacific, and in Pacific communities here. Fidelity, surely a rather important foundation of the Christian marriage, can be a little loose in practice.
What I love is that many people simply turn the other cheek; “it’s cultural,” or “it’s just the way it has always been.” They then use their other cheek to condemn other people’s lives with their religious-driven righteousness.
As with Leviticus, you can’t use culture or tradition as an excuse to pass moral judgment unless you’re prepared to hold up those same values and concepts to your own practices.
Cultures, cultural practices and traditions change and evolve over time. We know that in respect of sexualities and sexual practices, Pacific societies were quite different beings before the missionaries came along and repressed so many indigenous constructs.
Fortunately, even the most ardent critics of marriage equality seem to recognise that time is against them. The younger generations coming through are like, “meh, it’s no big deal.” So, to me, it’s inevitable, if not now, then maybe next year.
The pictures of those foolishly racist, anti-civil rights campaigners of the 1960s show what it’s like to be on the wrong side of history.
Cultures (and religions) evolve or they die. It’s time to evolve.