Robert Hampton

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12th April 2012

You wait ages for one, then 1,000 come at once…
Posted by at 11.56pm | No responses | Gay, In the News

THIS IS A BUS bag from The ApprenticeLast 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 passed.”

I’ve been proved right, but I didn’t expect it to get this unpleasant this quickly. I’ve previously mentioned Cardinal O’Brien calling gay relationships “grotesque”. We’ve also had a Kent MP claiming that Shakespeare’s plays will have to be rewritten, and the Daily Mail screaming that terms like “mother” and “father” will be replaced by “progenitor”(?!).

The campaign took a new twist on 3rd April, when gay rights group Stonewall relaunched their “some people are gay, get over it!” ad campaign on the back of the current push for equal(ish) marriage rights. The advert is on 1,000 of the capital’s buses, ensuring that the equality message is brought to every community of London.

A response came today from the misleadingly-titled Anglican Mainstream, a Christian organisation which claims to support “traditional” teaching on the family (and you know what that usually means). They booked a smaller ad campaign on 26 London buses, claiming that sexual orientation can be changed with therapy. The ads, which were due to appear from next week, were a spoof of Stonewall’s design and slogan: “NOT GAY! EX-GAY, POST-GAY, AND PROUD. GET OVER IT!”

Naturally, a lot of people got upset about this, and after a storm of controversy raged on the Internet for most of the day, Transport for London finally responded on their official Twitter earlier this evening.

I anticipate there will be howls from certain quarters about censorship and free speech. I’m a strong advocate of freedom of speech in almost all circumstances. However, I believe that TfL’s decision to remove the adverts was absolutely the correct one, for two reasons.

Firstly, the ads are arguably misleading. The campaign cites a study on changing sexual orientation which, as the Guardian reports, is dubious at best. The general opinion of respected psychological organisations the world over is that sexual orientation cannot be changed.

Secondly, the ads could be harmful to people. While the great strides forward over the past decade or so have helped LGBT people to live happier and more fulfilled lives, there are still plenty who suffer prejudice and discrimination; from society, from religion, even their own families. They often experience mental health and other problems as a result.

The solution to that issue, however, is not a promise of a “cure” that won’t work. The American Psychological Association says, “there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation … is safe or effective. Furthermore, it seems likely that the promotion of change therapies reinforces stereotypes and contributes to a negative climate for lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons.”

If the anti-marriage equality camp can phrase their argument in a way which doesn’t boil down to “gay people are icky and weird and now we’ll all be marrying hamsters and Jesus SAID SO,” I’ll be happy to listen. Until then, jog on.

PS People have been praising Boris Johnson for intervening personally to make TfL block the ads. While he’s on the right side this time, please bear in mind that back in 2001 he said this:

If gay marriage was OK – and I was uncertain on the issue – then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men; or indeed three men and a dog.

He’s moderated his views slightly since then (when asked about the above comment in an interview for the May 2012 edition of Attitude, he says that the Government’s position on marriage is “credible” and the argument “will rapidly look out of date”) but he still seems a bit dodgy on this subject to me.

PPS you have filled in the Government’s same-sex marriage consultation, haven’t you?

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