Will gay marriage diminish the standing and value of marriage? Probably. But there is a bigger question: Does it matter?
Marriage has been degraded a number of times in the past half century and I believe it is better for it. First was the decline of the authority of the church over people in general and marriages in particular; next was no-fault divorce; then cohabiting in sin came to be recognised in law and everywhere else bar the odd church as a marriage, one without the need to divorce.
The honorific Mrs was superseded by Ms and so the fact that a woman was married was of no consequence, and in the glow of inclusivity that pervaded the 90s everybody in a relationship became a partner. This extended to people living together and in time to people simply dating, regardless of the genders, and the terms husband and wife came to be regarded, at least by people who composed the forms we fill in, as offensively exclusive.
To be a wife or a husband is to be merely someone’s partner, so we who are married are not giving much away when we allow homosexuals to marry.
Homosexuals want the right to marry because they want the same rights as heterosexuals, and while I suspect they have overestimated the value of marriage I can understand their obsession with a right denied.
I can understand, too, the opposition of such as those of Wallsend Presbyterian Church, which has been in the news for its opposition to gay marriage and the subsequent vandalism of the church. I hope I'm not being too generous when I assume that they’ve removed any prejudice against homosexuality from their deliberations on the question of marriage. We are no less entitled to disapprove of homosexuality than we are to approve of it – I see it as a fact rather than as a matter for opinion – but our attitude to equality of rights should not be distorted by our prejudices. It should not, for example, be equal rights only for those we bless.
But overriding all is the fact that homosexuals have as much right as anyone else to happiness, to full participation in the community, and if they believe having the right to marry will make them happier who are we to deny them?