Today, the people of Ireland are voting for love. Or, at least, that is how it has become in my mind.
I’ve never really understood the terror of equal marriage. Britain did it, and the sky did not fall. Big Ben still stands, and the Queen is still the Queen, and there is honey still for tea. The only difference is that there are now many, many people who are no longer told, by the state, that they are less than.
Because that is what it is. You, well, we’ll put up with you, with your show tunes and your comfortable shoes and your Noel Coward records, as long as you stand in the corner and don’t make a fuss. You are not quite up to cake and confetti and a list at Peter Jones, like the straights are.
It’s absurd, if one thinks about it for more than two minutes. Love is love, and should be celebrated in all its forms. There are enough natural sadnesses – droughts, disasters, earthquakes – without adding a quite unnecessary human one. It’s not as if heterosexuals are intrinsically fitted for marriage, after all. Lots of them make an absolute pig’s ear of it, having affairs and being workaholics and neglecting their children and getting into messy divorces. The odd idea that it is history that shows the way – man and woman being the superior model – is fatally flawed. I’m reading a lot of eighteenth century history at the moment, and even in the marriages where love was involved, rather than land and money, the husbands almost always had a bit of muslin on the side, or a thing with a serving wench, or a nice arrangement with an actress. The fifth Duke of Devonshire brought his illegitimate child to live with his wife, and then settled down to a curious ménage with his mistress and his wife and a further daughter born out of wedlock. All this in an age of supposed strict propriety.
If a man loves a man and a woman loves a woman, and they want to make that commitment for life in front of their best beloveds, surely that must be a matter for joy, not condemnation? Poor old marriage, which needs all the help it can get, should be delighted to be desired by a new constituency. It’s not often that lawmakers get the chance to add, directly and without hindrance, to the sum total of human happiness. Fairness in marriage is one of those delightful opportunities.
Equality is perhaps a vain pursuit. Just as nature is not a feminist, she is not a democrat. People are born with absurdly unfair advantages – wit, charm, cleverness, a musical ear, a feel for languages, ravishing cheekbones, a happy disposition. Some people merely have to walk into a room to light it up; others skulk in the shadows, shy and taciturn and self-conscious. Some people have talents, others have none. The idea of levelling the playing field may be fool’s gold, but putting up artificial inequalities where there need be none is a silliness too far.
Changing the laws of marriage is not just a discrete good, so that a long devotion may be publicly marked, it is a wider statement of intent. It is a way of society saying, to ta fearful seventeen-year-old in a lonely room, struggling with his sexuality, searching for her role models, you are all right. You are not other, or different, or below the salt. You are not, almost literally in this case, beyond the Pale. This great central societal ritual is not reserved for those who pass Go and collect £200; it is for everyone. Come in, the water’s fine.
It is an act of kindness, generosity, rightness, fairness, and, I think more and more as I get older and more auntish, simple good manners.
I hope very much for yes. Even as I write this, people are flying in from the Irish diaspora, to vote their hearts. There is a sense of hope and joy. I hope it is a mighty, resounding affirmative, a lovely, expansive thing, a cross in the box for love.
No time for pictures, as I have stupid amounts of work to do. Just my dear red girl, who was all about the love today. They say that horses mirror their humans. Perhaps she sensed that my mind was filled with love, and reflected it back at me, because she was as sweet and soft and affectionate as I’ve ever known her: