Last refuge

Northern Ireland under pressure after Irish gay marriage referendum win

I’m looking forward to seeing the arguments they will use to resist the pressure. Perhaps Northern Ireland can present itself as a last refuge in Europe for the non-gay-marrying, Christian bakers and florists, antigay clerics. It will help if they can get a high profile asylum case. Maybe the straight son of two North London radical feminists fleeing an arranged marriage to another man.

In all seriousness, I doubt there is anyone who is not astonished at the rapid international progress on same-sex marriage. That includes, most especially, those of us who came of age when acceptance of same-sex relationships was the norm in our student environments and/or recognised the logical force of the argument decades ago. Logical coherence doesn’t usually carry the day in politics nor, I have to admit, should it necessarily. But here we see the power of ideology in political affairs, against those who suppose that politics is merely about balancing competing interests. It’s the ideology of marriage, which had changed enormously in the past two centuries. People like Andrew Sullivan recognised in the 1980s that people’s intuitive understanding of marriage, in Europe and its cultural confrères, had evolved to where it was actually quite hospitable to same-sex marriage. Those of us who felt little emotional attachment to marriage immediately recognised the coherence of this position, but assumed that it would take approximately forever to get over that emotional hurdle, at least everywhere but Holland.

And because I personally attached little weight to marriage, I was definitely among those who thought this an unpromising, because unnecessarily charged, ground to fight on for gay rights. I didn’t see what Sullivan saw, that marriage equality could be the linchpin of a coherent struggle that could overthrow the entire framework of homophobia.

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