Boy is now in Year One at Infants School. When I was his age Brighton and Hove was a lot more white and a lot more working class than it is today. In our year we had one kid who did not have white skin. He was my friend Jamie and he lived round the corner from us. I didn’t think of him as the only kid in the year who didn’t have white skin though, I just thought of him as my friend Jamie. Thirty five years of exposure to writing and speaking on race, debates about multiculturalism, epithets from the right and politically correct labelling from the left is what made me consider his skin colour in context.
Around the same time I asked my parents if a man could marry another man. Obviously they laughed nervously (this was the mid 1970s) before saying that no, they couldn’t as ‘it wasn’t allowed’. Boys marry girls I was told. I considered this profoundly unfair. Why on earth was this the rule? After a vote in the Commons yesterday it may not be for very much longer.
Is it right to look at this with the simplistic eyes of a 6 year old? Obviously there are all sorts of people who cannot marry for perfectly legitimate reasons that a 6 year old wouldn’t understand. Close relatives. Children. People who are already married. It isn’t quite as simple as ‘it’s not fair’. And anyway, while I am certainly in favour of what I see as fairness, equality for the sake of it can be pointless and stifling. We are not all created equally and, frankly, we never will be. So fairness to me is about treating people as people, as individuals rather than a label.
On this basis you should be able to praise the efforts of an outstanding white male middle class citizen and be able to point out a scumbag regardless of their creed or colour. And vice versa (Chris Huhne is springing to mind right about now).
On this basis you should also be able to see that if two men, or two women or a man and a woman love each other enough to get married then they should be able to so long they are not close relatives or minors or already married. Not because of their sexuality but because, when you strip away all the bullshit, that’s the right and proper way for society to treat them.
For once forget gay rights, forget religion and think for a moment like a six year old. Yesterday we took a step towards a genuinely better society, one that is more fair to all its members.
Hopefully in 10 years time, mums and dads will be able to answer their six year olds that yes, a male can marry another male, without any embarrassment whatsoever. Hopefully by then we’ll also be back to just referring to marriage instead of ‘marriage’ and ‘gay marriage’.