Friday 12 August 2005

Petulance and human rights.

Frankly, I don't really give a damn about gay marriage. Sure, I can see why it's an important issue in all sorts of fascinating ways, but, really, any damage that's likely to be done to the institution of marriage has already been done by the bloody self-absorbed serial-divorcing heteros with which our world is littered. I have a big problem with the way modern people regard marriage as essentially disposable and promises as meaningless, and that problem has not been caused by gay people.

So I don't much care about the gay marriage issue. But I do care about the pernicious twisting of language.

Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson were married while living in Canada in 2003 and now want a legal declaration of the validity of their union in the UK.

The couple, from North Yorkshire, said a failure to recognise the legality of their vows breached their human rights.


The High Court is being asked to recognise their Canadian marriage in the same way it would recognise the overseas marriage of a heterosexual couple.

The women intend to argue that failure to do so would constitute a breach of their human rights to privacy and family life and their right to marry.

Well, there's going to be a fascinating yet dull legal argument about whether allowing a couple to marry but not recognising their marriage constitutes infringing their right to marry. It's interesting that people are now so conditioned to think in terms of state control that they genuinely think that their marriage is somehow less meaningful if the government don't officially recognise it. We saw this in the coverage of Mick Jagger's break-up with Jerry Hall: "It turns out they were never really married," people said. No it bloody didn't. They had a wedding ceremony and then lived together as a married couple, having and raising children together, for decades. Whether or not some bit of paper in some bureaucrat's filing cabinet somewhere had the right signatures on it is irrelevant: they were married. A marriage originates with the couple and all the state does is to record it. If you don't get a death certificate, you're still dead.

But hey, recording and recognising marriages uses up a tiny proportion of the state's expenditure, and if some people want it extended a bit, let them have their day in court. If they win, great. If they lose, great. Life goes on.

About time I got to the point, isn't it?


Do we really have a human right to privacy? When you have your tongue ripped out for criticising El Presidente, that's an infringement of your human rights, definitely. But what if some men from the government spy on you? It may be irritating, it may be illegal, it may be unconstitutional, but does it really breach your human rights? If a soldier peeks through a hole in a fence, is that a war crime? And, if it is, are these human rights on some sort of scale? Surely some infringements are worse than others. In which case, should we bother defending all of them, or just concentrate on the important right-not-to-have-your-arse-set-alight ones?

These women aren't even talking about the being-spied-on type of invasion of privacy, which is generally a bad thing. No, they're talking about... well, actually, what the bloody hell are they talking about? This is my problem with them. This is why they deserve to have their case chucked out of court and, come to that, be slapped round the chops with old cabbage leaves.

They are arguing that the state's failure to publicly record details of their private affairs infringes their privacy. Read that sentence a few times and see if it starts to make sense with repetition. If it does, you have a successful career in law ahead of you.

They must be intellectuals. No-one else would believe something so stupid.

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