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4 February 2002

Why we gays don’t want to get married

Homosexuals shouldn't try to conform

By Cary Gee

To mark Valentine’s Day, Mayor Ken Livingstone is throwing open the doors of Romney House in London next week and welcoming gay men and women to register their partnerships. There may be a last-minute rush on pink icing, but to date only four same-sex couples have applied to sign the mayor’s register.

My boyfriend and I won’t be among them.

Last summer, I had my first real taste of a “gay wedding” – at least, as real as the current law allows. After witnessing a touching exchange of personal vows, and hers and hers jewellery, my partner and I accompanied the newly “weds” Charlotte and Charlotte, plus all the usual wedding suspects, to a grand reception at the Groucho Club in London’s Soho. The in-laws squabbled; mother of the bride No 1 avoided ex-husband who turned up in a kilt and flirted outrageously with mother of the bride No 2. There followed speeches, toddler temper tantrums and a heart-warming rendition of “My Funny Valentine” played on the club’s upright piano. In short, it was exactly the same as any other post-nuptials being played out anywhere that Saturday night.

It is this very suburban sameness that makes me shudder at the thought of “tripping up the aisle” myself.

While research suggests that openly gay men and women are, on the whole, as happy as their straight brothers and sisters, this happiness often comes at a price: the estrangement of blood relations and, for those like myself who were brought up in the bosom of organised religion, a terminal and sometimes distressing loss of faith. However, these can be the prerequisites to independence and self-fulfilment. Little wonder, then, that we should be anxious to avoid any occasion rendered incomplete by the absence of one, if not both, of these ingredients – family and faith.

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Besides, like it or not, “queer culture” exists. As a community, we have adapted, challenged and rewritten the rules of a heterosexual culture that has increasingly come to resemble our own – as evidenced by the rise of single-person households, an increasing dependence on the “pretend” family and the continued popularity of shows such as Friends and Cold Feet. Is this really the time for queer culture to wave the white flag and beg readmittance to a heterosexual institution?

A generation of British gays have come a long way since homosexuality was decriminalised. Lord Lester’s Civil Partnership Bill would give same-sex couples many of the rights enjoyed under common law by heterosexual couples; and the government is set to repeal laws that criminalise both men kissing in public and homosexual behaviour in private homes. And, too, we have achieved visibility, an equal age of consent, a European Act outlawing discrimination in the workplace and a public acceptance that even Oscar Wilde could not have imagined. And yet . . .

To those gay men unable to contain their relief at the survival so far of Lord Lester’s bill in the Lords, and to those hopping with excitement at the news that some of us will soon be allowed to marry, I would ask: “What price assimilation?”

While equality in the eyes of the law is long overdue, marriage itself is neither desirable, necessary nor “queer”. What is a modern marriage, after all, but a public exchange of property with its roots in Roman times, now rendered almost obsolete by the introduction of “pre-nups” on the one hand and “no-fault divorce” on the other? Throw in a deity of your choice, some relations (sadly, no choice here), some alcohol – and there you have it. Imagine a queer wedding conducted along “traditional” lines: two tearful mothers of the bride(groom); two fathers of the bride(groom) speeches; and in the body-obsessed gay world, just who would eat the cake?

Thanks, but no thanks. Gay weddings are for the faint-hearted – for gays who don’t want to be gay. What have we been fighting for all these years, if not for the right to be different?

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