Tonight I hosted a little soiree with a few intimate friends and during the conversation I listened as a fine young man described his fears of a No vote in the coming Same Sex Marriage Referendum in Ireland. As a gay man he does not want to live in an Ireland where the majority of his peers have expressed their unwillingness to accept his right to marry whomsoever he chooses, and to have the same constitutional rights as other married people. My own mind has been made up on this question for a long time, and now I have made the decision to come out. The churches and the religious right have spoken of the right of the child to a traditional family of one mother and one father, and as a devout and conscientious Christian I agree wholeheartedly – each child has the right to a traditional family of a mother and a father. I do not accept the validity of gay marriage every bit as much as I reject the notion of straight marriage. As a religious Christian I hold to the sanctity of the contract of marriage – without qualification; just marriage, and so the interpretation begins.
When it comes to human history and the reality (from which traditions spring) there is but one tradition, and that is that children are born. Everything else is commentary. Society and economics have done everything in their power to weaken the strength of the family, so much so that in the most vulnerable sections of the community single-parenthood has become the norm – yet the tradition of children being born continues. What great institutional concern has been shown these families? Other than condemnation and scapegoating nothing has been done to protect the tradition of children being born. As for maternal and paternal nurture, well who can define these things? A man unrelated to me by blood has always been my father, and never have I considered calling him my step-father. Our ideas of the family are forever being redefined by the many and complex exemptions – and yet the tradition of children being born and nurtured continues within all of this complexity. Our desire to define the family is an absurdity, and voices nothing more than our irrational prejudices.
Homosexuality is a reality. It’s obviously part of nature wider than human beings; animals – according to Christian theology – are incapable of sin, and the religious must conclude that this spectrum of sexuality is part of God’s plan. I do. Heterosexual women are fathers to children all the time, and straight men have been known for their mothering qualities. Life is that weird. I will not be alone as a Christian voting for the right of people to marry irrespective of gender, but how will we justify this with our consciences and faith? More easily than the outsider-looking-in might imagine. Our churches have their hierarchs, and the churches have and have had their own traditional standpoints, but these hierarchs and authorities are not the Church. We are the Church corporately – and the Spirit of God speaks through the whole Church; from the newly baptised to the bishop. The truth is that the will of God is expressed through history in the lived lives of his people, and the wheels of history are turning and the Spirit is moving. We must not be in the business of reducing people to their sexualities, but must see the fullness of humanity in each unique person. Gay rights are human rights.