It has been said by David Ward on these pages, that marriage could ' be compared to the Olympic gold medal that we would all love to attain, but the commitment, dedication and singleness of purpose required makes it much easier to sit in the stands and settle for less'. Upon reflection, it is an unrealistic proposition that merely serves to shore up a confused understanding of either the institution of marriage or the process of elite sporting competition.
Whilst it may well be widely accepted that we all wish for a burgeoning relationship to culminate in the committed, dedicated and singular purpose Ward speaks of, the analogy begins to unravel when one considers that the two relationships being compared are not like-for-like. The goal of a successful personal relationship neither implies the failure of other's efforts, nor rewards one relationship over another based on the performance of its participants.
The Olympics also suggests a level playing field; something that some relationships are neither guaranteed, nor so much as recognised. The world's churches consistently oppose certain forms of relationship, and governments are only slowly introducing compromise legislation to afford these a 'foot in the door'. Unless it can be established that 'non-traditional' relationships have less value than 'traditional' ones, then there is no reason a representative government should not afford these equally valid rights in law. The churches are free to discriminate at will, and will no doubt continue to do so.
A touch-paper issue around the world, gay marriage, neither harms 'traditional' marriage, nor does it mean that it is a slippery slope that will lead to the moral decay of society. No one wishes to hinder the rights of heterosexual relationships, and no one is asking to marry their pets. If marriage is such a strong institution, what harm could possibly be cast by more people wishing to have access to it? Unless, of course, those that oppose equal rights for all people, feel that other's rights are not as worthy or 'right'. That is not their call, though. They are called rights for a reason. One does not get to vote on whether one person's love and commitment for another individual has more value or integrity, anymore than if we were discussing mixed race or interdenominational marriage.
But what of 'traditional' marriage? Most religious believers (and some non-believers) might say that it is 'between one man and one woman', but this certainly isn't represented in scripture. In fact, marriage remains undefined in either testament. There are numerous references to man/woman marriages, and homosexuality is largely seen as an 'abomination', but then after these Deuteronomical references we are introduced to Solomon (alleged ancestor of Jesus) who had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Is this the tradition theists want to champion?
What is the big deal about tradition anyway? If it were so important, we would be entombed in an unchanging and stagnant society without any hope for our betterment. Wallowing in our self-righteous 'knowledge' that things simply cannot get better than that we have inherited from our ancestors. We don't do that, though. We are a modern and dynamic society that has a bent towards, at least trying, to make the world we live in a better place. Quite how denying homosexuals the same rights as heterosexual couples fits in with that picture, I am sure I do not know.
So what can God do to restore the dream of marriage? Unless he runs for Parliament, not much, it would seem. For although we are the creators of our own destiny, sadly our system still means that we have yet to afford basic human rights without resorting to voting on them. Hardly seems credible, but there you have it.