July 20, 2002
Let's not deconstruct marriageElizabeth Nickson
A friend called last week to tell me of his encounter with two 25-year-old girls, half his age (or rather that together, they didn't even add up to his age) and he thought he might be feeling bad about it, but he wasn't sure. Now, this is either an unusual courtship ritual, or he was seeking the approval of a self-declared, public puritan. In neither case did I satisfy him, especially since I categorically refuse to have opinions for which I am not paid.
"Well, you're all adults," I said. "How nice for you. I guess."
"Twenty-year-olds are different these days," he explained. "There's none of that uptight religious stuff." "Uh-huh!" I said. "Right on."
Glad I'm not 25, I thought.
So, on the same day, just to confuse my tired mind further, I was speaking to another friend who said that the reason he acted as advocate for the Interfaith Alliance, against gay marriage, was that he thought that the entirely adolescent, secret agenda of the gay rights lobby was the deconstruction of the culture.
Heavens to Betsy, I thought, but did not say because he is a devout Catholic, it would seem that between the so-called celibate clergy of the Catholic Church and the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, the culture has pretty much been totally deconstructed this quarter alone. Isn't it the so-called celibate clergy who are having affairs with 14-year-old boys? So homosexuality is kind of OK with the Catholic Church as long as they don't get caught? Or is it that they are reserving the privilege of homosexuality to themselves? Forbidding it to parishioners, but rogering away like blazes in their palaces, paid for by generations of hard-working men and women who aren't allowed to practise birth control? Having love slaves behind the altar but forbidding ordinary gay men and women marriage? Got it. And homosexual activity between so-called celibate priests and children is a sin, but not a felony?
Who's deconstructed now?
Besides, I told my friend, my mother has two gay friends, retired CBC opera people who have been together for 50 years, love each other through everything with enormous sincerity, and they are an ornament to any party -- sweet, brilliant, funny and we all adore them to bits. If they wanted to get married, well it would be odd, but hardly destructive of any culture that I knew about.
But Iain is among my most brilliant new friends met in a year of meeting many astonishingly brilliant Canadians. And all right, I admit I've been shown enough hard evidence by the right to agree that there are some gay radical groups who hate Christians and suburbia, and want to punish both for sins of the past by destroying the institutions that make that life possible. And Iain can demonstrate conclusively, step-by-step, the legal challenges mounted by gay and lesbian activists, that show such intent. "First, benefits cases related to key terms such as 'spouse' [Egan, 1994] then lesbian property division cases and now marriage ... they have argued in court that 'heterosexism' is akin to racism," he says.
Despite this absurdity, it's still very hard to have an opinion on gay marriage, frankly. Most women I know think of marriage as a prickly pear, sweet on the mythic inside, but bristling with stingers and studded with Venus flytraps. So why gay men and women want to plunge in, since living together is so accepted these days, is both a puzzlement and sheer silliness. Unless there is destructive intent.
"Recent important cases such as Brockie [printer in Toronto] and Chamberlain [gay books in public school kindergarten classes] and Kempling [B.C. college of Teachers] and Trinity Western University [B.C. College of Teachers again] in which letters to the editor [Kempling] or the upholding of a conduct clause [restrictive of hetero as well as homo sex at TWU] were and are [Chamberlain v. Surrey School Board] under challenge and attack ..." says Iain.
Anyway, so, the other friend mentioned earlier and I were sitting in an outdoor café by the water on Sunday, and it was sunny, and the place was rife with tourists, including a couple with two teenaged girls so beautiful that if one were their parent, one would prefer a police dog by their side at all times; and a trio of obvious lesbians, enchained, camouflaged, pierced and hostile. These three visitors from the more rubbery, leathery parts of the world glared at everyone and acted dismissive, smoked madly on the boardwalk but were ignored by all the puffy, exhausted surburbanites and we über-tolerant residents. So they sat down and had lunch with the rest of us.
Would they like to get married, I asked my friend. Could my friend, in a flush of optimism, marry his two 25-year-olds? Could we all marry, and I could have two 35-year-olds (my sexual deviation of choice, I think) and he could have his 25-year olds, and we two adults could talk (because apparently talking to 25-year-olds is arduous), and the rest of them could just well, service us? This is called polyamory, by the way, and it is an organized movement which wants legal recognition.
Or could those parents marry their two divinely beautiful girls? In fact, let's lower the age of consent, because children are sexual beings from a very early age. Isn't it discriminatory to forbid them marriage at 10? What is this old silliness about incest anyway? Fidelity? Completely unnatural. Then, we could all swear whatever the hell the lawyers had decided constituted marriage this year, and we'd all sit down and have lunch together.
Or, as any woman, sitting in a house alone with an infant, or marooned with a houseful of her biological children, will tell you, the notion, that men have certain responsibilities, in light of her sexual vulnerability and her need for support as a mother, is one that must not be abandoned, in order to encode the vanity of certain groups.
The marriage vow, tattered as it now is, exists in order to embody a set of public standards to which the couple can be held accountable. Gay marriage is the first and irrevocable step on the way to the replacement of marriage by a series of infinitely flexible contractual arrangements.
Despite my desire to be deeply cool, a puritan I remain.
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