lifestyle

'Karen and Nelda are about as threatening to the institution of marriage as throwing a cupcake at it might be.'

Over the weekend Opposition Leader Bill Shorten expressed his support for marriage equality at the Australian Christian Lobby conference.

“When I see people hiding behind the bible to insult and demonise people on the basis of who they love, I cannot stay silent, I do not agree,” he said. “Whatever our religious views about marriage, and whatever our social views about how best to raise and educate children, we have to change this law which discriminates against adult couples on the basis of who they love.”

The debate on marriage equality in Australia – and worldwide – is a divisive one and one that is too often tinged with religiosity. If we are going to see change, it will take more strong speeches, more support and greater political pressure.

Meet Dan Savage.

He is an American author, sex-advice columnist, podcaster and fierce advocate for same-sex marriage who has been giving love advice for more than two decades in his column “Savage Love” and more recently his podcast, Savage Lovecast.

In the latest episode Dan speaks up about gay marriage and the intersection of rights and religion. It makes a great listen, or you can read an edited version of the transcript below.

Karen Bailey and Nelda Majors have been together for 57 years, they live in Arizona which is where they met. They met in college. They have a home in Scottsdale, where they live. Fifty seven years together. They were the first same-sex couple to marry in Arizona, and so I just want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Karen and Nelda on the occasion of your marriage. And I would encourage you, if you didn’t see the picture that went out of Karen and Nelda at their wedding, to go find it.

Both women are wearing lovely red blazers and black slacks, and they look like the two sweetest grandmas you could ever hope to have, if your grandmas were dykes. They are darling, and they are about as threatening to the institution of marriage as, I don’t know, as like throwing a cupcake at it might be.

Karen and Nelda of course were just one of the same-sex couples to get married in the last few weeks after a tsunami of states were forced to recognise the constitutionality and legality of same-sex marriage in the wake of a Supreme Court non-decision where the Supreme Court refused to take up a challenge to other, lower court marriage equality decisions and let them all stand, all these appellate courts, and that has legalised marriage in Kansas and Idaho and Oklahoma and Arizona and Nevada and now, thirty plus states.

A majority of states, and a majority of Americans now, now live in marriage equality states. It’s not quite a done deal, but we’re getting close to a done deal. If there’s no conflict in any other appellate court rulings, if all the other circuit courts rule in favour of marriage equality and the Supreme Court again refuses to take it up, it’s over. Marriage equality came to Alaska last week. Sarah Palin can see gay people getting married from her house. Vladmir Putin can see gay marriage from his house too. It was a terrific month, last few weeks – a terrific month for equality, for progress.

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Meanwhile, there was this Synod, which is a thing that sometimes happens in the Catholic Church. I’m sure you probably saw the reports, particularly the initial reports, when the Catholic Church seemed to be getting religion about the way people live now, the way families are formed now.

The Pope, a few weeks ago, married people in the Vatican, and it’s a big deal if the Pope presides over your marriage. It doesn’t happen very often, I think it’s been decades since that had actually happened, and the Pope married people who had been living together before marriage, he married people who’d had children together before they married. The Catholic Church used to call this living in sin, cohabitation, and it is against the Catholic law, but the Pope married these people! Very symbolic act, the Pope saying we have to get real about the ways people live now.

And he called this synod on marriage and the family to talk about women, to talk about pre-marital sex, to talk about contraception, which 90% plus of Catholics all use, and to talk about same-sex couples, to talk about homosexuality. And there was an initial draft of the report from the Vatican synod.

It came in as a thunderclap, because the report said that the Church was ready to recognise that homosexuals had gifts to offer the Church. Which is hilarious, because these motherfuckers have been electing popes in the Sistene Chapel for five hundred years, and if they wanted to see a ‘gift’ that a homosexual person had to offer the Church, all they had to do was look up – at the ceiling of the Sistene Chapel, painted by Michelangelo, cock sucker.

The extraordinary Synod of Bishops. Experts on family life. 

But it didn’t occur to all these assholes over the last five hundred years to look the fuck up and see, hey, maybe homosexuals have something to offer the Church.

By the time the official report came out – the final draft – ‘Welcoming Homosexual Persons’ changed to ‘Providing for Homosexual Persons’, and the reference to people in same-sex unions as ‘partners’ had been changed to ‘these people’. Not same-sex couples in partnerships, but these people. Which is what bigots say, right? You know, when somebody describes African-Americans as ‘these people’, or when someone describes immigrants as ‘these people’, when somebody calls gay people ‘these people’, it’s kind of a hate term. It’s not a hate term but it’s used hatefully.

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Somebody holding something disgusting with tongs. ‘Ew! These people! Ew! Ew!’ That’s what the language got changed to to appease Roman Catholic conservatives at the synod who were freaking out. Mostly American bishops were freaking out about this inclusive language. And then, this shitty language, ‘providing for homosexual persons’ and ‘these people’, couldn’t even muster the two-thirds majority to make it into the final statement. So there was this thunderclap of reporting, all these reporters running around, ‘oh my god the Church has recognised that these people like Karen and Nelda, together 57 years, might actually not be shit-bags, might actually be decent ladies!’ But they couldn’t bring themselves to do it.

Karen and Nelda, most definitely decent ladies. Picture by @MarkJRemillard.

It’s like, the Catholic Church now acknowledging, five hundred years after torturing or threatening to torture Galileo, acknowledging that yeah, he was right about the movement of the planets. Took them five hundred fucking years to apologise to Galileo for making him take it back when he suggested that the earth rotated around the sun and not the other way around. And here we have the Church taking its first little baby steps, and there will be more baby steps in the future, to recognising that same-sex couples like Karen and Nelda, and Catholics who use birth control, and people who have premarital sex are okay.

And they’re not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re not doing this because it’s the right thing to do. They’re doing this because, at this point, they really have no choice. They’re tiptoeing up to this because we’ve dragged them to this. Because it’s hurting their market share. Because overwhelming majorities of young Catholics support LGBT civil equality. The denomination in the United States most likely to be supportive, the denomination with the biggest, broadest support for LGBT equality, the majority for LGBT equality? Catholics.

The Church is so out of step with the laity that the Church is having to go through this crazy, probably two, three hundred year dance to come around to where the laity is already at, which is that fucking with people because they’re queer, or because they’re using birth control, or because they have pre-martial sex, is offensive. And judgmental. And not really Christ-like.

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They’re really not really coming around. They’re just saying pre-marital sex is still wrong, birth control is still wrong, all non-procreative sex is still wrong, gay partnerships are still wrong, but let’s be friends. You can give us your gifts, gay people! Welcome to the Church! Please tithe! Please give us your gifts! And, we’re still going to tell you that you’re going to hell for having non-procreative sex.

What the Church needs to do, and what they aren’t doing as they are victims of their illness, is that they need to recognise that they have been wrong about sex, and human sexuality, forever. For two thousand fucking years. This obsession with all sex being open to contraception isn’t shared by our intelligent designer, isn’t shared by our creator if we were created, because everything about human sexuality tacks towards recreational sex. So we have a lot of sex. We are designed to have a lot of sex. We are wired to want a lot of sex. Shout out to the asexuals, not you guys of course.

And there’s a reason we have a lot more sex than we do babies, because sex plays some other role in human life and human societies and our cultures. And what is that role? Release, intimacy, it creates bonds, friendships, oxytocin, it does other stuff. Makes babies too! Infants, the original sexually transmitted infection. It does that! But it does so much more.

And that’s what the Catholic Church can’t bring itself to accept.

And so long as, in the post-sexual revolution world, so long as the Catholic Church is in opposition to human sexuality as lived and experienced, it will continue to lose market share. And eventually, because that’s what it is as a bottom line, it’s a business, it’s a racket, it’s a numbers game, that’s why everyone’s always boasting about being the fastest-growing religion – Google ‘fastest growing religion’ and just see Islam and Mormons and Scientologists, everybody claims to be the fastest-growing religion because it’s a numbers game. And it’s gonna hurt their racket to be in opposition to human sexuality, as its now lived and experienced and understood. They can’t rely on people’s ignorance and fear anymore, and they can’t control us anymore, which is why they’re coming around.

The Catholic Church, last week, tiptoed up to recognising that Karen Bailey and Nelda Majors’ relationship is a good and decent and loving thing. And then backed away from it. They tiptoed up to that realisation and that acknowledgement because they know, in their guts, they have no choice anymore.

Watch Karen and Nelda tell their story in the video below.

Or listen to the full podcast here.

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