July 01, 2005

The Netherlands, Belgium, now Spain and Canada

Gay marriage is on the march, it seems, even in formerly rabid dictatorial and Inquisitorial lands.
Belgium and The Netherlands are always considered the usual suspects in matters of tolerance, so nothing surprising there (though Belgium less so than Holland, since it's not long since even pornography and abortion have been made legal there).
Canada rightly considers itself the Scandinavia of North America, anything really not to be considered American!
Spain may seem the surprise package to go all gooey-lovey-dovey-gay, but I think you can place it within the general liberalisation trend there since the end of Franco's fascism.
When you're really far behind it's easier to make big strides - New Zealand did something similar when it legalised gay sex in the 1980s and instead of doing it piecemeal, like the UK with its ridiculous age of consent law and restrictions on where you could actually do "it", NZ went almost the whole hog with sex allowed at 16 for everybody and gay partners allowed to immigrate as spouse (me!). It also made remarkable progress with anti-discrimination legislation benefitting not only gay people but people with HIV too. Last year's debate on the rather timid Civil Unions Bill was needlessly rancorous, and it's far from certain there will be gay marriage and adoption rights any time soon. Not that dissimilar from the general situation in Scandinavia where civil unions are common but church weddings are verboten.
But all this really still begs the underlying question: why would gay people want to choose to enter a social institution most commonly associated with inequality, repression and, judging by the statistics on divorce and spousal abuse, sheer hell?
Some sections of the gay community positively welcome the marriage thing as a step forward for conservatism (Andrew Sullivan has been tirelessly plugging marriage for gays as a dyke against that damn promiscuous party lifestyle).
If it's for societal approval of their relationship status, the tax and legal advantages then I would say: a pox on your house. The real issue should be why there are legal and tax advantages attached to your relationship status and how they should be abolished. Choosing to live together, or even to breed/adopt, should not have to be financed by single people and childless couples. I would welcome any legislation that did away with discrimination on the basis of your relationship status - and no, I'm not talking about your favourite sheep, All Black fans - as single people and childless couples are increasingly targeted to pay for the chosen lifestyle of "breeders" (single or coupled). I can't understand why you get tax and social benefits just because you are lucky enough to have somebody in your life who still wants to be with you after the first date.
Some good news from the third world.

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