Entering the discussion over gay marriage, especially when one has misgivings, as I do, is a dangerous endeavour. The level of hysteria surrounding the subject is indeed frightening; the virulence of attacks dispensed by opponents prohibiting. Nevertheless, and after tortured deliberation, I have decided to enter the fray and risk vilification.
As a school teacher I witness, on a daily basis, the malign consequences of family breakdown caused, in large part, by the erosion of marriage and the loss of respect for its historic role as benign cultivator of the next generation. For a vast array of reasons, too numerous to discuss here, marriage has become a rather quaint, old-fashioned commodity to be coveted, and then casually discarded once the initial impulse wears off. For many couples, moreover, it is an anachronism to be completely rejected, even though to do so makes a break-up - with all its harmful consequences for the innocent children involved - statistically more likely.
The innumerable, irrefutable societal benefits accrued as a result of traditional marriage are therefore being lost to modernity. Its demise should indeed be a cause for great concern.
It is against this backdrop, in my view, that the debate over gay marriage should be conducted; yet in its current manifestation, the intimidation suffered by those of us brave enough to stick our heads above the parapet and loudly, unapologetically, venerate traditional marriage does not only coarsen the quality of public discourse, it also retards it as most traditionalists, or neo-heretics, demur from taking part lest they're publicly branded homophobes. Sadly, as a result, we are in danger of enacting a profound, irreversible change without having had a mature, intelligent national conversation about its effects on an institution responsible for the stability of community life over the last two millennia.
As the law currently stands, a marriage is consummated through sexual intercourse as an expression of love and the primordial human desire to procreate. Its absence is indeed a reason for annulment. But if constituted, gay marriage will effectively rescind this essential marital rite thus altering the very meaning of the term. Sexual intercourse will no longer be seen as an important aspect of married life. Yet if the sexual imperative no longer exists, and marriage simply becomes a legal union, devoid of any meaning beyond the arrangement of one's tax affairs, why not allow two sisters to marry or, perhaps, and rather alarmingly, even a mother and son?
Surely extending the right to marry erodes its sanctity and fails to recognise its unique contribution, in its current form, to the health of society. It will thus be derogated, debased and, as a consequence, devalued.
This is not to belittle the laudable aims of gay couples to celebrate their relationships, aims that have been rightly recognised through civil partnerships. But what's the purpose of getting married and, just as importantly, staying married if it has no greater meaning than any other legally binding contract? Stripped of its essence, people, especially the young, even more so than now, will view marriage as nothing more than an agreement between two consenting adults - an agreement to be frivolously entered into and whimsically broken. In short, my objections to gay marriage are not based upon some atavistic, deep-rooted, antediluvian antipathy towards homosexuals; they are based upon a teacher's concern for the survival of an already beleaguered national institution that appears to be in its death throes and the malign social consequences of its demise, consequences that I see every day.
So why are so many commentators, lobbyists and activists so keen to see the destruction of marriage, to the obvious detriment of society, to satisfy some bogus vision of equality? After all, for all intents and purposes, homosexual couples already enjoy equal rights through the imposition of civil partnerships. Why do some so-called libertarians now feel the need to eviscerate marriage as well? What is so wrong with recognizing the special, unique place in society of traditional marriage as an institution that conceives and nurtures the young? Is that not possible whilst also recognizing the unique, but ultimately different, benefits conferred upon society by civil partnerships, too?
Alas, many believe that it isn't. But I suspect a more sinister force at work. An unholy alliance of cunning Gramsci-inspired cultural Marxists, genuine - though inane - equality campaigners and an indifferent, unsuspecting public are conspiring to realise Marxist aims - a conspiracy orchestrated, of course, by the Marxists themselves. The petit-bourgeois family unit, spawned, accreted and supported by marriage, is anathema to the extreme Left; not only have these Leftists encouraged promiscuity, as their even more extreme brethren did in Soviet Russia during the twenties, and discouraged marriage through the tax system - an astonishing act that the Tories were, and still are, happy to acquiesce to - but now they see the opportunity, through the veneer of bravely fighting inequality, to destroy marriage once and for all.
The naivety of our political masters is truly breath-taking. This debate is not just about equal rights; it is about the preservation of an institution that bestows an incalculable number of benefits upon society, benefits that I am, in my profession, due to their conspicuous absence, all too aware of. It should therefore be protected and celebrated, not assaulted as a result of specious reasoning and misguided sentimentality.