So, last week, I went out to dinner with my Mum and my step-Dad. They invited H and me to a nice restaurant in a bit of a surprise! Last minute! way (H and I had made other plans, but hey, nice restaurant won). It’s how my Mum rolls. Anyhoodle, I particularly wanted to see step-Dad as he had been very unwell and I hadn’t seen him since he was unwell and so the last time we met he wasn’t feeling at all sociable, poor man.
By and large, the dinner was very nice. I was feeling a tad gastrointestinally fragile, so I ate things like grilled chicken and salad while H fell gleefully face-first into something involving cream, more cream, truffles, and gorgonzola cheese, but it was nice grilled chicken *sigh* and yes, well, anyway, I wasn’t there for the food *sigh*. We all chatted amusingly about art and opera and travel and plans for the summer and how Thingamajig was these days and had anyone seen Whosis lately? It was all going so well.
And then, apropos of absolutely nothing at all that I can think of in retrospect, step-Dad leaned back in his chair and said ‘what do you think of all this about letting gay people marry?’
Now what he meant was, what did I think of the current Government consultation on whether to extend the right to have an actual (non-religious) marriage to gay couples, rather than only a ‘civil partnership’? And what I think is, yes, unequivocally, absolutely, gay couples should have the right to marry, to marry in town halls, and to marry in any church or synagogue or temple that is happy to marry them, and I think all this fudging about with ‘civil partnerships’ and pretending they’re ‘equal but different’ (they’re not entirely equal, and what is this, anyway? Separate but equal water-fountains and toilets for whites and coloureds? No. Just, no) and that it’s only ‘a matter of semantics’ is bullshit.
I didn’t put it quite like that, but I said that if the consultation came down on the side of ‘yes, let’s do this’, I for one would be pleased.
Step-Dad looked baffled at this. But surely, marriage is a traditional, centuries old tradition that needs protecting?
Protecting from what? It’s spent centurites being about power and property and legal ownership of assets and children and treating one half of the human race as a chattel and breeding stock. How is that worth protecting?
He changed tack. He said, ‘well, I think marriage should be about having children, so it’s not appropriate for gay people.’
There are so many things I could have said to him at this point, starting with ‘BULLSHIT’!, progressing through ‘And this from a divorced childless man’, veering back for another round of ‘BULL. SHIT.’, segueing into a rant on bigotry and intolerance and human rights and equal rights, passing through next-of-kin recognition problems in hospitals and old age and so on, thumping right down into ‘and gay people do TOO have children!’ But what I went for, in the end, I hope calmly and evenly and without a wobble in my voice, was: ‘Well, in that case, H and I should never have got married.’
My mother leapt in on my side of the debate with a light remark about it being so lovely when old people get married, and they’re hardly going to have children.
‘Well, why do they need to marry?’ said step-Dad (disclaimer – I call him step-Dad, and he and my mother have been living together for about 15 years now, but they aren’t married. But he was married once, for a few years, in his youth, and that went… well, it went).
‘Because people want to make sure that the person they care for most in the world can be legally part of their family,’ I think I said. I’m not sure. I was getting a little rattled now. And my mother nobly dragged the conversation off course into shallower, less murky channels and dinner sailed smoothly on.
And I am still utterly bloody livid about it. I knew step-Dad was a bit of an old-fashioned Conservative with a small ‘c’ as well. I knew he had been well-off all his life and had a tendency to a ‘let them eat cake!’ attitude due almost entirely to ignorance and slightly sclerotic empathy skills (I blame boarding-school from toddler-hood). I knew he had a knee-jerk tendency to think of non-white people as ‘foreigners’, but he’d always been so very pleased to meet them all, if occasionally bemused to discover they’d actually been born in Birmingham. And we know gay couples. We have gay family. He’s got gay friends, no, really, he really has. He’s not particularly religious, he’s, I mentioned, childless and divorced, he’s watched his nearest and dearest make 87 kinds of screw-ups out of their own relationships (infidelity multiple and serial, divorce, remarriage, re-divorce, children legitimate and illegitimate and even unacknowledged, runnings-away with the pool-boy, shacking up with a cousin). And yet, here, in 2012, he dares, he dares, not only discriminate and belittle the love and commitment of gay people, but to assume I would share this, this, this nonsense of an attitude. And for such colossally, hugely, hypocritically cretinous reasons. Tradition. Child-rearing. Feh.
And, yes, the ‘marriage is for having children’ comment stung like a mofo. I admit it.