I’m not going back to full-time posting just yet, but I had something to say – something just clicked in my head, and the right wording for something I’ve always thought arrived, so I’m just going to say it.
Many people argue that gay marriage would, if legalised, destroy or harm the institution of marriage. Now, I find it hard to see how other people getting married could destroy or harm my marriage, but OK.
But the real threat to marriage is *not* letting gay people marry.
At the moment, marriage is not a universal right. It is, rather, a privilege (literally – it means the same as private law). And privleges, unlike rights, are much easier to erode.
As an example, imagine the uproar were the vote to be removed from, say, poor people, or people on the dole. That uproar would be because voting is considered a right, which applies to everyone.
Now imagine instead that one group of benefit claimants that could previously get free dental care now had to pay, as a result of some change in regulations. No-one would kick up any particular fuss, because free dental care is a privilege accorded to some, not a right of us all.
Not allowing same-gender couples to marry creates a precedent for ‘not allowing [X]-couples to marry’. I can think of several other groups that could fit into X there without causing too much uproar (couples where one is an immigrant, couples who have severe learning difficulties, as two examples).
I don’t care much myself about ‘the institution of marriage’ – my feelings for my wife are unaffected by a piece of paper signed by someone I never met before or since – but if you *do* care about that institution, then supporting gay marriage – turning it from a privilege into a right – is the best possible way to protect it.