HAI Summer School 2014 Speaker Resume: Peter Tatchell

Gay Marriage as a Human Right — Peter Tatchell

Peter Tatchell is an international campaigner for human rights, co-founder of Outrage! and the Green Party’s (UK) spokesperson on human rights.

Marriage, and in particular same-sex marriage is a human right. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone is entitled to get married and found a family. Civil partnership as in Ireland resolves inheritance issues but does not provide the same rights at law as marriage. They are a separate system, a segregated system: separate is not equal.

Heterosexual couples are banned from civil partnerships in England and Wales but they are allowed them in the Netherlands (and they are chosen by 10-15% of Dutch couples.) The only true equality before the law is to have the same marriage for everyone. Civil partnerships are not recognised in other countries, whereas marriages are internationally recognized.

An objection to marriage equality is to say that marriage is about children. However, childless couples have valid marriages. The children of same-sex relationships do not have the stability of having legally married parents. There is no evidence from countries which have tried gay marriage of any malign influence on heterosexual marriage.

Marriage law was largely to do with power and property, not to do with love. It was about guaranteeing paternity, especially for the ruling classes, largely for ensuring inheritance of property. In addition, women have been regarded as a man’s property, first the father’s and then the husband’s.

Religious institutions have with a few notable exceptions, been opposed to every advance in women’s rights and marriage equality. (In Great Britain the law prevents gay marriages in Church of England premises. this means that other religious groups can be prevented from using those premises, even if they share them for other functions.

A new approach to legal recognition of their relationships. Perhaps rather than marriage, it would be preferable to have a civil commitment pact which selects from some aspects which we associate with marriage: next of kin, romantic love, beneficiary from a will, desire to share a house, raising children, sharing finances. The selection from these choices would lead to more thoughtful decisions, before saying “I do”.
Discussion after talk:
The discussion ranged over many points including the definition of marriage (why should religions have a monopoly of the language and definitions); whether marriage can involve more than two people; and the influences on children.

In fact, definitions of relationships within marriage have changed: rape and violence within marriage are now recognised as crimes (at least in the West). Early views, stemming from Freud, are that children need parents of both sexes in order to develop ‘normally’. While there is evidence that good loving parents are a valuable example in forming relationships, there is no evidence that the children of same-sex couples are less able to form relationship. Indeed, studies show the children raised in same-sex couples have the same outcomes and abilities as children raised in mixed gender families, except that the children are more liberal, less racist and less prejudiced.