The Trouble with Gay Marriage
Spiked 27 May 2015
What Ireland crystallises is that gay marriage has nothing to do with liberty. The presentation of this as a liberal, or even libertarian, issue is highly disingenuous. For in truth, gay marriage massively expands the authority of the state in our everyday lives, in our most intimate relationships and even over our consciences. It simultaneously makes the state the sanctioner of acceptable intimate relationships, the ultimate provider of validation to our lifestyle choices, while empowering it to police the cultural attitudes and consciences of those of a more religious or old-fashioned persuasion. This is bad for gays, because it reduces them, in Enda Kenny’s words, to ‘fragile’ creatures who require constant recognition from others; and it is bad for those uncomfortable with gay marriage, since their ability to act in accordance with their conscience is limited. Making the state the validator of our intimacies and the policer of our moral outlooks is a very dangerous game.
This goes some way to explaining why every single wing of the Irish state supported gay marriage, from the police, who proudly waved the rainbow flag, to all the political parties, the public sector, the health establishment and the cultural establishment. It’s because they recognise, at a gut level, that unlike pretty much every other demand for liberty or equality in modern times, the campaign for gay marriage does nothing to threaten their authority — on the contrary, it extends it, in a way that the most authoritarian among them could only have dreamt of.