Im not sure at what age I would have told L about gay marriage, but I had not planned to when she was only five. A month or so ago, however, the decision got taken out of my hands, thanks to a trip out with one of her friends. She is a couple of weeks younger than L and theyve been friends all their lives: call her L2. As we drove out on our trip, L remarked that she wished she was a boy, so that when she grew up she and L2 could get married. L2 replied to the effect that it wasnt just a man and a woman who could marry: men could marry men and women could marry women. She added something about having been to the wedding of two men. L at this point asked me for confirmation on the question. Could two men get married?
I had three choices. I could have lied and said L2 was wrong. I could have tried to explain the difference between marriage and a civil partnership, which would have got us into legal distinctions that wouldnt really make sense to children that age. Instead, I gave what seemed to me the most honest answer: I said, yes, a man could marry a man or a woman a woman.
It was now revealed, however, that L2 had a slight dilemma. In her class at school there was a girl she wanted to marry when she grew up. There was also a boy who wanted to marry her. Which should she do? I said that she would have to make her mind up when she was grown up as you could only marry one person at a time. The conversation then moved onto other topics.
So thats how L learned about gay marriage: with no mention of the word gay or homosexual or sex. And I thought afterwards that those two small girls had the right idea about marriage. For them, what it was about was loving someone and wanting to spend the rest of their lives with them. That seems to me a pretty good basic assumption to build ones moral thought on.