The right of gays to have a civil marriage in a non-religious service is once again an issue. There have been large and slightly violent protests in Paris as well as on-going judicial contortions in the US. I know my support for gay marriage appears to put me in a minority among conservatives. But perhaps I could ask a question of my opponents?
One of the things that opponents of gay civil marriage always say is that gay marriage would ‘undermine’, ‘distort’ or otherwise ‘demean’ existing marriage. Many people – continuing to mix up civil and religious marriage – claim that the ‘sanctity’ of religious heterosexual marriage will be undermined by a civil, non-religious, homosexual marriage. I cannot help thinking that this line of thought would be more persuasive if the same critics held their line when it comes to what some might argue is the non-gay ‘demeaning’ of marriage. Allow me an example.
On Good Friday the topless model Jordan, aka Katie Price, married again. It is the third or fourth time she has married. This time she has married a part-time stripper who she apparently knew for six weeks before they got engaged. It is slightly tricky counting Ms Price’s marriages because each one includes a lot of mini-‘marriages’ – restating of vows, re-marrying, doing it again for the cameras and so on. Her life is lived out in front of – and, it would seem, for – the celebrity adoring public. Specifically it is covered extensively in that extraordinary new genre of celebrity magazine which has grown in a few years from almost nothing to taking up whole shelves of supermarket space. Ms Price’s own step-father has described her weddings as being like ‘groundhog day’. This latest one – covered on the front-pages of last weekend’s tabloids – apparently had a Willy-Wonka theme with the couple on vast thrones and surrounded by giant sweets.
I have no reason to wish Ms Price anything but personal happiness, but it should not take a cynic to notice that her weddings all have certain things in common: a new love, a high degree of publicity and cash. Perhaps one of the advantages of marriage in the eyes of Ms Price can be sensed from the fact that her 'people' apparently asked a friend of hers who used to be on a television show to remove a photo from the wedding that the friend had put on Twitter. Early-bird photo-releases like this apparently risk spoiling the highly lucrative magazine deals – with OK, Hello and the like – which Jordan will have once again sold for a five or six figure sum.
If the people who object to civil gay marriage really are concerned about the undermining of the sanctity of marriage would they not be better exercised by railing against Willy Wonka themed weddings of celebrities cashing in on magazine deals for the umpteenth time? If you were concerned to imbue the next generation with the importance, significance and perhaps even the sanctity of marriage would this not be a more appropriate target than any gay couple asking for the right just once to say ‘I do’?