At the stroke of midnight last night in the UK, our laws were irrevocably changed forever, as "same sex" marriages became a legal entity in their own right, marking an end to a change in the law, which may or may not put an end to the premiership of David Cameron, who felt so passionately about the issue that he didn't even think to mention it as part of the Conservative Party's election manifesto in 2010.
As a result of the legal change we've had a full day of television pictures, radio broadcasts and newspaper headlines, complete with lots of celebrating couples, who are keen to tell the world just how much it means to them; and the difference it will make to their lives, as a happily married couple. Will it really? Hmm? Not so sure about that?
What is particularly striking about this whole gay marriage debate, are the extreme responses that have emanated from a subject that the vast majority of people in this country don't really know enough about, or even actually care about. Woohoo! Two guys want to get married, so what? Yippee! Two women want to live together as man and wife, yeah and? Just who really cares what members of a minority grouping want to do with their lives; and is it really worth all the time, trouble and upset that it's caused? Is it really worth all the newspaper headlines, just because Jane wants a piece of paper that says that Joanne is her spouse, that tells their family and friends, the local hospital, or the local council that one of them is their next of kin?
Judging by the amount of news coverage devoted to the subject today, one could be forgiven for thinking that marriage itself had been invented for the first time, rather than it having been amended to allow a small but vociferous minority community to pretend that society now regards them in exactly the same way as a traditional married couple, as in a man and a woman, because despite what the law says, in terms of our wider society absolutely nothing has changed since yesterday, when same marriages were not enshrined in law. Having that bit of paper, or the law courts saying that they're legally married, or even our parliament having passed a statute to guarantee to their mutually shared rights, will not make a damned bit of difference to how people choose to regard a gay couple, newly married or not, because you cannot legislate for an individual person's views on the matter.
Considering the amount of fuss that the LGBT community have caused over the past decade or so, it would be easy to imagine that heterosexuals were fast becoming an endangered breed within our society, simply because you rarely hear them whingeing on about their rights, or the level of discrimination they suffer. But surprisingly enough, the heterosexual Brit is still alive and well apparently and still making up around anything between 95-97% of the adult population, which might come as a bit of a shock to members of the LGBT community who clearly believe that they're the only community that matters, when it comes to legal rights over their general treatment, adoption rights, or even their actual marital status.
It's interesting to note that out of four significant studies undertaken on people's sexuality in the UK, on average anything between 1-3% of those polled have identified themselves as being either gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual, which gives a ballpark figure of around one million people, from returns gleaned from the last census in 2011. Although other surveys have shown moderately higher rates of LGBT identification by individual respondents when they've been polled, these averages do tend to be mirrored in other such surveys that have been carried in other westernised countries. In the case of the 2011 survey, when asked, around 1.1% of respondents described themselves as being either gay or lesbian, which equated to around 545,000 people, whilst a further 0.4% identified themselves as bi-sexual, 0.3% as "other"; and 3.6% didn't know, or refused to identify themselves to the pollster. And before anyone might try and claim that the 3.6% of people who refused to disclose their sexuality were most probably reluctant to disclose their preferences for fear of being "outed" in front of their family and friends, in any legitimate poll only a representative percentage of the group would be used to calculate their preference (in this case 1.1% of the missing 3.6% for gays or lesbians), so the approximate calculation of one million people being in the LGBT community would still hold true. Whilst admitting that one million people or thereabouts is not an inconsiderable number, it has to be seen in the wider context of 55 million adults in the UK, several million trade union members, over a million NHS workers, or even the million plus people who rallied in London to oppose the invasion of Iraq.
Were a million strong group of workers, or loudly protesting citizens to attempt to influence government, let alone change the laws of the land, or force change on our historic religious institutions, then in all likelihood they would either be ignored, or would incur the general wrath of the wider population. Neither of things have happened as regards the campaigns that have been fought by Britain's LGBT movement, which makes one wonder why? Is it perhaps because a number of our democratically elected representatives are themselves openly gay and they have helped facilitate access to ministers and government circles? Is it perhaps because as with everything else that the general public have become more ambivalent about the sorts of changes that successive governments have introduced with regard to people's individual sexuality? Is it because, as with racism, homophobia, islamphobia and all of the other "isms" and "phobias" that are deemed to be bad for our society, statutes have been enacted and applied to enforce the British people's lawful but largely unwilling compliance?
The concept of same sex marriages seems to have become something of a "holy grail" ever since the turn of the 21st century, with at least 15 countries following each other's lead in first drafting and then legally enacting this completely unnatural and unnecessary legal status. Not content with Civil Partnerships, which were widely introduced by most of the same 15 countries who were subsequently convinced to upgrade to a full marital status, clearly for some LGBT activists the principle was far more important than the legal status of the relationship itself, a case of being legally "married" as nothing else would do! Fortunately, for those who still cling to the traditional ideals of a marriage being between a man and a woman, the LGBT movement has yet to compel the major religions of the world into servile compliance, with the Catholic Church, the mainstream Christian religion and the Islamic faiths all thus far refusing to participate in solemnising same sex marriages, although their refusal to celebrate such unions is almost certain to be tested before the courts at some point in time.
As to the main reason why such progress has been made on the issue of gay marriages thus far by the LGBT community? Although one suspects that having a sympathetic Prime Minister and his sympathetic wife has helped bring gay marriage to a legal fulfilment, as has the presence of a number of high profile gay representatives and supporters in Parliament, one suspects that it is both the apathy and the ambivalence of the British electorate to the issue that has played the biggest part in seeing such statutes become law. Most people are far too busy getting on with their own lives than bothering about whether Bill marries Ben, or whether Jill wants to make Jacqueline her legal husband, after all, who really cares? The thing is though, if all any of those gay couples who got married today wanted was the marriage certificate, then they got what they wanted and good luck to them. If all they wanted was a nice day out and a reason to celebrate with their family and friends; and the right to call themselves husband and wife, then they got what they wanted and good luck to them. However, if what they wanted to do was reshape society and change people's attitudes to the idea of two people of the same sex living together as a traditional man and wife, then they're likely to be in for a severe disappointment, because like it not most people still regard a mummy and a daddy, a husband and wife, a mister and a missus, as a man and a woman; and anything other than that is just strange.