It was a sign of the times when Ian Paisley jnr was almost ridiculed on last week’s Question Time for his staunch opposition to gay marriage. However, he is not alone. Tory MP’s did their best to block the bill they detest so much by tabling an amendment because of the ‘injustice’ of civil partnerships not being available to heterosexual couples as well. It was mere coincidence that this amendment would delay the bill by years and possibly destabilise it altogether. Even in politics, such a blatantly disingenuous manoeuvre leaves a sour taste, but let’s just take it at face value. Would any couple actually want a civil partnership over a marriage? Of course not, utter nonsense. Only if there was a definitive difference between registry office weddings and church weddings in the terms would this be the case but it isn’t. Civil partnerships were an important step on the road to gay marriage in the battle for gay rights, but what they are is essentially a tesco-value marriage just for gays thus underlining the idea still held by particularly the church that gays just aren’t quite as ‘ok’ as heterosexuals. So even if the amendment was genuinely put forward for the reasons claimed, which it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be based in fact.
The truth that it was clearly because many MP’s still refuse to admit defeat to gay marriage is sadly not all that surprising. The arguments against gay marriage are generally twofold – the supposed danger of redefining marriage and the apparent sin of going against what has been the case for years. Again, it’s worth tackling the face value of the arguments and the truth of the arguments. The latter argument is particularly tiresome – as if it’s always such a terrible idea not to leave something the way it is. How exactly would women getting the vote, the abolition of slavery or the end of racial segregation on American buses ever have happened if we took this attitude? The blunt reaction to the statement ‘marriage has always meant a union of a man and a woman’ ought to be ‘so what?’. The vote used to mean just for men, should that have stayed the same? Things change and the world evolves, sometimes for worse and sometimes for better admittedly, but to suggest that change must always be dangerous is preposterous.
As for the argument of redefining marriage, it’s difficult to fathom what danger another section of the population being able to get married poses to those already married or planning marriage. Frankly, it’s rather difficult to figure out how any marriage other than one’s own affects people. Is opening up the legal institution that allows two people to declare a lifetime commitment to one another to gay people really so terrible? If it were not open to black people would that be ok? Sexuality is an inherrent as race or gender and in itself does no harm to anyone so why disallow homosexuals the right to marry? This is where the subtext comes in – it’s called being scared of homosexuality or worse actively disliking it. Whether it be out of fear or hate, it’s bigotry. Thinking that gay people shouldn’t get married is effectively saying they’re not quite good enough for it. It would be more believable that these opponents were genuinely concerned about the institution of marriage if they hadn’t also opposed civil partnerships, the repeal of section 28 and indeed virtually any other breakthrough for gay rights. Phillip Hammond is a rather good example of this.
Anthony Ozimic’s views on This Morning were shockingly homophobic, but at least he made a slightly different claim which is that homosexuality isn’t actually real but a temporary imbalance that shouldn’t be encouraged. His view is of course rendered rather daft by the fact that homosexuality is highly prevalent. His argument that the homosexual lifestyle is forever promiscuous and therefore education should eliminate mentioning homosexuality seems to miss a blatant point – perhaps if someone’s inherrent sexuality wasn’t denied by default, suppressed and therefore released in adulthood perhaps it wouldn’t take the form of promiscuity. And I assume he thinks all heterosexuals are staunchly committed ‘one partner’ types as well…
A commonly held view is ‘they’ve got civil partnerships what more do they want, it’s the same anyway’. Well it’s difficult to know where to start in taking this view apart. For one thing, it isn’t the same. Tax breaks and entitlements are not the same for one thing but the name is if anything even more of a problem. As mentioned earlier, it is divisive. It breeds the idea that gays don’t quite deserve to be looked at as equals but they can be content with their version of marriage. It’s interesting that many say ‘soon we’ll reach a stage where I’m branded homophobic if I think that homosexuality is wrong’. What these people fail to realise is the correct response to this is ‘quite right’. People aren’t allowed to say white people shouldn’t marry black people’ without being castigated and branded racist so why should homophobia be any different? They think they have a point when they say this hence Paisley’s obviously tetchy remarks at an audience member after being so widely ridiculed and realising that he doesn’t. People can hold whatever view they like but homophobia is beginning to be thought of as on an equal footing with other forms of discrimination and rightly so. Many Christians (and it’s important to note certainly not all of them) are outraged that marriage is about to become open to all and are equally indignant that they can no longer celebrate their beliefs. Let’s decipher that and translate the subtext – what they really mean is they’re upset that the whole county doesn’t agree with them anymore and that therefore their belief system does not dictate the law. And they can celebrate their beliefs – what do they think churches are for? And the bill even allows churches not to perform the ceremonies so where’s the problem? Again, what they really mean is they can’t accept that the world is moving on and homosexuality is not wrong, it is very real and is about to move a big step further to being accepted. There’s only one thing to be said to opponents of homosexuality and gay marriage – get over it.