The biggest endorsement of that cranky, centuries-old institution called marriage came this week not from the wise men who patrol the gates of the giant building with the sign ‘Moral Values’ hanging from its entrance, but from somewhere else. Homosexuals, till Monday, were allowed to join in ‘holy matrimony’ only in a handful of places. The Netherlands was the first country to legally allow same-sex marriage in April 2001 — rather ironic, considering that the Dutch marriage rate today is the lowest since 1945, the year when World War II ended and was followed by a rise in the number of marriages. Belgium allowed gay marriages in June 2003, with Canada, Spain and Britain following in 2005, South Africa in 2006 and Norway in 2007. In the United States, only the state of Massachussetts allowed gay marriages from 2004. On Monday, California joined the club with long-time partners Phyllis Lyon, 84, and Del Martin, 87, tying the knot at the San Francisco city hall.
So what is it about marriage that people denied the phenomenon are finally celebrating about? After all, the ‘till death do us part’, ‘in sickness and in health’ pati-patni quality of the edifice has been continuously chipped away, with divorce rates making marriages as permanent — and therefore infused with value — as a disposable shaving blade. It seems that the institution of marriage does retain a value, especially to those who hadn’t tasted it. How else can one explain the marriage of someone like Elton John to his partner David Furnish in 2005? The pop star — especially the pop star — is supposed to recognise and revel in the infra-digness of marriage, right? The ‘petit bourgeois’ quality of being ‘man and wife’ has been challenged by ‘man and man’ and ‘woman and woman’.
Which either makes gay people finally uncool. Or, marriage not so dreary an institution, after all. In the meantime, with Indian divorce rates on the rise, maybe it’s time to legalise homosexuality to protect family values.