Robert Hampton

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16th March 2012

Power of 2
Posted by at 9.24pm | 2 responses | Gay, In the News

When David Cameron told the Tory Conference in October 2011 that he supported marriage rights for same-sex couples, I wonder if he expected the reaction to be as vociferous as it has been? He didn’t just open a can of worms; he put the can in a microwave, programmed it for full power, and watched the sparks fly.

I will admit that – while I wasn’t surprised by the reaction of certain religious leaders – I was surprised that their views were allowed to dominate the debate, especially on TV and radio (that politically correct liberal media at work again, I guess). I was also surprised – shocked, in fact – at how vicious some of the anti-marriage commentary has been. Some comments have been reminiscent of the nonsense that comes out of the mouths of the religious right in America. I naively hoped that Britain would be above this kind of thing.

Opponents of gay marriage were quick to mobilise. The Daily Mail – which in 2005 wished gay couples “all the best” when the first civil partnership ceremonies were held – has resumed hostilities. Back in February, they gave the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, space to criticise the proposals, complete with an approving introduction by Andrew Pierce (WARNING: link goes direct to Mail web site) – who is himself gay. Next week, Nelson Mandela argues for apartheid. The Mail has continued in this vein with some spectacular scaremongering in today’s edition.

A few weeks later Scottish Catholic leader Cardinal Keith O’Brien added his voice. In an article in the Sunday Telegraph, Cardinal O’Brien made no attempt to hide his homophobia, coming out with a spectacular rant, not just against gay marriage, but gay people in general. Same-sex relationships “are harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved” and recognising them is “a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”. Expanding on that last point, he said that same-sex marriage would breach Article 16 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (not true – look it up) before concluding his column with a grossly offensive analogy to slavery.

Not content with that, he followed it up with an angry interview on Radio 4 where he channelled Miranda’s mum and said it was time to put a stop to “what you call, progress”.

Amidst all the fear and loathing and viciousness and unthinking comments and “I’m not homophobic, but…”, there is a distinct lack of facts and reason. Nobody – nobody – has been able to answer this question: if marriage is opened up to same-sex couples, how does that affect the millions of heterosexual marriages already in effect? I look at the marriages I see all around me: my mum and dad, my brother and his wife, my older sister and her husband, all my various aunts and uncles and friends and acquaintances. I suspect that their marriages are not so fragile that my marrying another man would break them up.

Despite the negative reaction from some quarters, it’s great to see same-sex marriage being discussed and supported by the leaders of all three major parties. It’s just a shame that the proposals, as set out in the Government’s consultation document, are a bit of a mess. For example, despite all the histrionics from certain quarters, religious marriage will in fact remain banned for same-sex couples. If you’re a Quaker or a member of the MCC North London, or any other religious organisation which welcomes LGBT people: tough! You still won’t be able to hold a wedding on their premises. This means that the “separate but equal” status of LGBT people will persist, and we’ll probably have to have this argument again in a few years’ time.

If the Government holds its nerve, the new law will be enacted by 2015. I’m bracing myself for three more years of unpleasant rhetoric from opponents of equality until the law is passed. Meanwhile, the consultation is open until 12th June. Please go and register your support for same-sex marriage. You can guarantee that the haters will be out in force. We must make sure that supportive voices are heard too.

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2 Responses
  1. Comment by Ian
    17th March 2012 at 6:42 pm

    In a repeat of the Andrew Pierce scenario, Brian Sewell was given space in the Evening Standard yesterday to argue against the consultation, purely so the newspaper should say look: here’s a gay who doesn’t support gay marriage.

    But he clearly hadn’t bothered to read the details of what the government is proposing, as he devoted most of his column to the subject of *religious* marriages.

    Also, treating Sewell as representative of gay opinion is like treating Sewell as representative of art criticism. He has a personal affiliation with both, but any sane person of any persuasion can see he is evidently not reflective of the majority view of gay relationships or contemporary art.

    Or common sense, for that matter.

  2. Pingback by You wait ages for one, then 1,000 come at once… « Robert Hampton
    12th April 2012 at 11:56 pm

    […] month, when the Government launched its consultation on equal(ish) marriage, I predicted “three more years of unpleasant rhetoric from opponents of equality until the law is […]