Sometimes issues are quite straightforward, even if many people seem blind to the matter. The issue of gay marriage is one such issue.

Opposition to gay marriage is a form of discrimination and prejudice. Discrimination involves the failure to extend equal rights to all groups. Prejudice involves singling out particular groups for favourable treatment over others. If people believe that others should not be discriminated against and that prejudice has no rightful place in contemporary society, then they should support gay marriage, regardless of their personal views on homosexual practices.

There is no point arguing that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman. Certainly marriage could be defined this way. But then voting could be defined as only a man’s right, or freedom only a white person’s right, as they were in the past before the majority of Western countries came to accept (rather slowly it must be said) that they constituted forms of discrimination.

There is no reason why marriage should be defined as being only between a man and a woman if there are ways to define it otherwise, such as a contract between partners (not necessarily a man and woman) to enter into an exclusive relationship with one another. If there are ways to define marriage without reference to the gender of the couple, which there are, then it should not be defined in such a narrow way if society seeks not to discriminate or be prejudiced.

It is only a rampant homophobia, a distorted notion of what is ‘natural’ (for a discussion of homosexual practice among animals, see Sommer & Vasey, 2006), and a religious sensibility that has no rational basis, that views gay marriage as problematic. In the future, it is likely that opposition to gay marriage will be judged the same way as past opposition to women’s suffrage or to the freedom of slaves are today.

In future articles I will explore the reasons why people are prone to discriminating others and blind to the violation of basic rights and universal freedoms for certain groups that they otherwise support, using homosexuality as a prime example. The next article in this series, however, will look at the churches and the hypocrisy surrounding their views on homosexuality and gay marriage.