I have been married for 4 years now. 5 years ago, when we broke the news that we were going to get hitched, we received mixed reactions. Most were surprised: neither of us seemed like the religious type, so people I guess expected us to play it cool, live together and maybe at some point start a family. Even my grandma said “well, you already live together, so what’s the point?”. Some friends saw it as a dangerous attack to their Peter-Pan syndrome years (joking: “ok, get married… but wait to get knocked up! *I* am still young” – You? When did this start being about *you*?). Some were concerned, and thought maybe we were rushing into things. Some tactfully asked if I wasn’t pregnant already. I guess it was nice to see everyone’s (unrequested) point of view and their collection of views for reasons why one should or should not get married, although they had nothing to do with the real reason why we got married.
Also, a recurrent joke was that the homosexual couple (some friends of ours) had gotten married first, then follow the atheist heterosexual couple, but so far no Catholics had married. I guess none of us needed a god to tell us what family is. But did we need the law to tell us so? No, rather we needed to tell the law “Please acknowledge that we are a family. He is allowed to see me at the hospital if something happens. If he loses his job, I can support him and Schengen doesn’t need to kick him out. We want to file our taxes together. We want one of us to be eligible for the spouse Bahncard. We want to get one travel insurance for the both of us. We want the law to acknowledge that we are a family”. Many people who feel like this simply sign the paperwork and are done with it. We had a party too (also thanks to our family’s support), because that’s one of the best reasons to celebrate.
What are the Catholics doing in the meanwhile, say in Italy? Few are getting married. Some are waiting to be able to afford the unrealistically high standard that our culture has set for wedding celebrations and for the stage in your life when you finally *can* get married (diamond ring, steady job, own house, expensive dress, American-style bridesmaids, Carribean honeymoon, etc.), and probably are suffering from frustration from not being able to reach those standards. It’s hard to be all counter-culture if you have played with Barbie Royal Bride all your childhood (although that’s probably mostly the girls. The boys are surrounded by a culture that promotes the whole “ball and chain” story, which doesn’t help anyone commit). I doubt most of them are putting off sex until they want to procreate (with an often approximate grasp on contraception). They are living this Kafkian situation where on the one hand the economic crisis and changes in society (and also in their own mentality) are imposing a change in the cultural standard, and on the other hand traditional models and values push harder, forcing them to live in open contradiction with them and to be unhappy.
(The schizophrenia is not limited to Italy. Same-sex partnerships are recognized in Germany, although without full adoption rights so far, but the schizophrenia concerns the role of women in society. As the Bundesfamilienministerin Manuela Schwesig put it, no kids = egoistic; at home with kids = merely a housewife; kids and work = uncaring mother. Guess how German birth rates are doing? )
Some Italians, in the meanwhile, are claiming intellectual property rights on the concept of “family”. As if the chromosomes could determine the quality of your love. Regardless of any scientific evidence against LGBT parenting, I see every day journalists and bloggers presenting themselves as heroes of free speech for publishing the revolutionary idea that the term family should only apply to the union of a man and a woman aimed at procreation. As now more and more Italians are calling them out for being homophobic, they turn this around to say “they are not afraid of going against the mainstream ideas” and that “their freedom of speech is endangered”. Speaking of mainstream ideas, this is where Italy stands on same-sex partnerships:
If you need a god, or a religion, to tell you what a family is, and if you feel your idea of family is threatened by another set of people (for example, same sex couples) asking for their right to be considered a family, well maybe your idea of family was not so great to begin with.