Just now the US Supreme Court is busy debating the rights and wrongs of legalizing in federal terms the joining together in sacred or civil marriage of two people, both of the male sex, or the female. Several, thirteen I believe American States have already made homosexual marriage legal, while several more are not sure, and over thirty of the remaining states have turned the idea down again and again. Meanwhile, powerful lobbies, social platforms, societies and even violently inclined bands are hard at work across the world explaining the urgent need for matrimony between members of the same sex. They will brook no argument. You are with us or against us. You are a decent, compassionate supporter of gay rights including marriage, or you are a homophobe, a queer-basher and, worst of all, ancient and old-fashioned.
In fact as ancient as being gay: people have been homosexual since there have been people. The question is whether these things were hated or respected. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed their own philosophers, who wrote again and again that the norm was love, sex included between men, especially warriors. If two soldiers in a battle were prepared to die for each other, that battle stood a good chance of being won. But all good warriors were also expected to marry, and have as many children as they could afford, because procreation is rather important in maintaining the state with a productive population. All this was considered normal.
Time has passed, including a century three hundred years before Christ when a young conquerer of the known world called Alexander had three state marriages, along with a lifelong emotional and sexual relationship with one his generals – Alexander (the Great) and Hephaestion. This was not found disgusting or anti-social, not even by sturdy heterosexuals and future kings like Ptolemy, who could be described as Alexander’s greatest adviser and fan.
Here is a list of some of the twentieth century’s fairly brainy, musical, artistic and literate chaps who managed to live together in mutual affection not unmixed with sexual matters without the marriage ceremony: W.H. Auden (poet) and Chester Kallman (wit); Christopher Isherwood (novelist) and Don Bachardy (fine artist); W. Somerset Maugham (novelist, short story writer and spy) and Gerald Haxton (American remittance man and wit); Gore Vidal (novelist, politician and essayist) and Howard Austen (wit and realist); Benjamin Britten (musician, composer and conductor of orchestras) and Peter Pears (singer).
Singer and composer Sir Elton John tied the knot in Britain, and Elton’s ‘wife’ famously calls himself ‘Lady John’ – which is probably the right attitude to such nonsense. A famous Welsh musician found it most agreeable to have a wife and several children plus a mistress with several children anda long-time boyfriend. Perhaps that is pushing the boat out a bit far but all these persons liked each other, even holidayed together when the Maestro was off on a world tour conducting a number of distinguished orchestras. Harold Nicolson (gay diplomat, MP and landowner) was married to Vita Sackville-West (lesbian aristocrat, writer and satirist) and they stayed married for ever in their beautiful house and garden, but both got on with their own sexual preferences without disturbing the marriage at all.
My point is that there have always been homosexual couples, living together and enjoying friendships, usually in a sensibly discreet manner, not throwing their inclinations like cream pies at other people’s faces. The most insane thing about the present debate over homosexual marriage is that it is totally unnecessary. Economically, I may point out, marriage means losing money, because married (of whatever sex) couples declaring their incomes together pay more tax than if they were declared separately.
Also insane is the feverous desire to get married, when ordinary hetorosexual marriages are currently out of fashion, unpopular, rare and broken up by separation and divorce in ‘civilized’ first-world countries at a rate of one in three. Why do homosexuals want to get married? To separate in quick order? To provide divorce lawyers with even more income? To show that they have civil rights too? Because civil rights exist and everyone should have them even if logic gets thrown out of the window? Can it really be true that all these lobbies fight on for homosexual marriage simply because marriage is a citizen’s right, like going on strike?
Naturally modern philosophers shake glance over their glasses and say that the world is more decadent every minute. It is the decline and fall of the Roman Empire! Where shall we head for next? Will the United States be divided again, because it is no joke that the Eastern Seaboard has voted for homosexual marriage and the Middle West and the Californian coast has declared against. Is some ceremony and a hymn or two and you may kiss the ‘bride’ more important an issue than slavery?
I do not see the world of March/April 2013 as decadent; it has been decadent since the Fall of Man. But it is certainly ‘mentally disturbed’. There are reasons: Two savage World Wars, politicians relying for an income from the State, Welfare States providing everything free (except work) from birth to death, the madness of the Cold War, the uncontrolled power of the world of communications, the continuous stress of modern life; all these and much more have engendered lunacy in all of us. If an otherwise sensible person had demanded gay marriage in 1900 he would have been laughed out of court. Now he halts city traffic with loud demonstrations.