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Adopting a new covenant

June 23, 2013

Dear Sir,

This vex’d issue of same-sex marriage seems to get more people’s knickers in a twist than whisperings at the time the Roman Emperor Caligula “had feelin’s for” his favourite horse, Incitatus, and maybe even wanted to marry her (imagine the wedding reception buffet!). Of course, he could have married Inci; he was Emperor, he could do what he wanted! I could marry that cute little loquat tree in my back garden (Annette, the one with the great little clusters of fruit) if only I could get a minister from the Divine Human-Loquat Church to officiate at the ceremony. I know a few people who would probably marry their dog, given half a chance.

The problem with same-sex marriage isn’t, arguably, with the individuals who want to get married (arguably, because some would say that is, in fact, the crux of the issue). The problem is getting acceptance of the union as a socially agreed covenant in law. For whatever reason — Biblical, social, biological or homophobic, among others — some people just refuse to accept the legitimacy or legality of a marriage covenant between two individuals of the same sex.

Marriage is a social convention. The problem of legitimacy arises when the union is literally unconventional. In that respect same-sex marriage says more about the conventions of the community than about the individuals who want to tie the knot. Historically such conventions have prohibited interracial marriage, marriage between people of different religions or castes or ethnic groups, and between slaves and free men. Marriage between blood relations, up to a conventionally defined kinship boundary, is still taboo in most places.

But no law (that I know of) ever seems to have proscribed a person marrying, say, a jailed mass murderer or rapist. Convention allows marriage between a free individual, and another person locked up for life or even on death row for having committed a heinous crime. And yet we have no truck with marriage between two innocent people who love each other, and who happen to be of the same sex. God forbid I should ever want to marry my rose bush (Lynette, if you must know).

Graham Faiella

London

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Published June 25, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 24, 2013 at 7:24 pm)

Adopting a new covenant

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