The Dartmouth Observer

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by Listed on BlogShares

Friday, December 09, 2005
If We Are All Equal, Why Do We Need Different Names?

Do governments think that we liberals are dumb enough to believe that the second-class citizenship they are enforcing on gays (in the name of equality) is going to pass the bulls**t meter?

Congratulations to all those gay couples poised to tie the knot, as the UK's new law permitting 'civil partnerships' comes into force. For those who want to pledge their undying love, it's nice that there is now a formal way of doing so; just as it is humane and practical to permit gay couples the legal rights that civil partnership will bestow.

But from a cultural point of view, there is something distinctly odd about the Civil Partnerships Act, and the way it has been promoted by the government and greeted by society. 'This is an important piece of legislation that gives legal recognition to relationships which until now were invisible in the eyes of the law', Meg Munn, the little-known 'minister for equality', told the BBC News website. According to the Financial Times, the government has described the Civil Partnership Act as its 'most significant piece of social legislation' - a rather shocking testimony to its own low horizons. But what is a civil partnership? What does it do?

'It accords people in same-sex relationships the same sort of rights and responsibilities that are available to married couples', says Munn. 'We know there are people who have been together maybe 40 years and have been waiting for the chance to do this kind of thing, because of the important differences it makes to their lives. They have the same concerns as married couples - tenancy, ownership, pensions and inheritance.' In other words, a civil partnership between two homosexual individuals is just like marriage. But it emphatically isn't marriage, and it does not treat gay people as if they are straight. It is a different kind of institution, explicitly designed for different kind of people. VoilĂ  equality, New Labour-style.

If its marriage, call it marriage. Surely the road to perdition is paved with good intentions; it would be nice to see action once in while though.

What bothers me most, though, is why the sex lives of gay people are so important. The author suggests the government wants to regulate the bedrooms of gays--that may be true--but it seems to me that this whole fuss about marriage, pair-bonding, and true love, etc. are just more social fabrications people buy into to ameliorate the atomizing effects of society.
In boiling the essence of marriage down to property and pension rights, the civil partnerships for gays strip marriage of its mystique. In refusing to call a civil partnership a marriage, this new law is denuded of any of the progressive properties it might otherwise have. And in hyping up the whole thing beyond any impact it has upon the homosexual population, the civil partnerships scheme is fast becoming a caricature of gay naff.

On 5 December, the day the law came into force, the press made much of the way that retailers are gearing up to target the 'pink pound', with one high street supermarket selling cards celebrating 'Mr and Mr' and 'Mrs and Mrs', and one chainstore chemist flogging tea-towels sporting the legend 'Darling, Dearest, Queerest'. Well, if equality has been reduced to the mainstreaming of wedding kitsch and getting your hands on half a flat in Brighton, maybe we're there after all.
When did we liberals come to accept heteronormativity and the capitalist nuclear family? Gay sex was once radical; now it's just passe, and, at times, a bore, or, even worst, an annoyance. I definitely support people making "commitments" and "life-long promises to each other" but if the struggle for gay marriage becomes another tool for some people to tell others how to live, then I must say liberated sex soon seeks a straitjacket to replace its fetters.