boring boring gay marriage

And if a man shall lay down with another man, they shall be forced to consider booking the hotel earlier next time

It’s March 2012 and the biggest, brightest and most contentious political discussion in contemporary Britain is “Should marriage be redefined so as to incorporate anyone who loves anyone else?”. Flying over one highspeed railtrack of comment is the Religious Express (taking in ‘militant atheism’, ‘dangerous secularism’, ‘tetchy Alpha course preachers’, that sort of thing), whilst clickity-clackiting over on the political branch line is the Post-Blairite Social Policy local stopping service. And lo, didst the resulting points problem outside the station inconvenience us all.
The gay marriage debate is so boring. Redefining marriage to incorporate same-sex couples should be no more contentious than redefining junk food to incorporate Innocent smoothies (oh come on, have you seen the sugar content?). What we get instead is a protracted circus of moral handwringing and social commentary straight from the Big Book of the Bleeding Obvious.  Cardinals whinge, social conservatives clear their throats and homosexual couples are cultural vandals smashing bus-stops with SkullCandy headphones
It should come as no surprise that the religious vox-pops sound to me like echoes of an historic age. In centuries gone by, the words from former Archbishops of Canterbury would be treated with absolute respect because in most cases the holders of that position had long since died and their words were coming through the foam-mouthed babbles of Mrs Humendthwump, the poor-house cleaner. As the old joke puts it so clearly, marriage is an institution and I have no desire to be put into one of those. Whether the persons involved are of the same sex or otherwise is of neither great personal concern; nor should it stoke too may fires amongst the sage old voices of the various Churches.

Christians have every reason to walk upon this subject’s ground with care because of the rules and regulations laid down by the teachings on which their belief is based. Same-sex marriage is not explicitly forbidden, leaving many of the on-high pronouncements conclusions of opinion rather than scripture. And these opinions speak in the accent of panic and confusion, of a form of nostalgia. Remember when every man and woman you met in the street were married and every child was looked after and cared for? Happiness in all its forms, and the only way to pronounce ‘homosexual’ was like Norman Evens or Cisse and Ada.

The debate is boring because, broadly speaking, everything which the Moral Compass Corps. attacks is drenched in the same stodgy mess of paranoia, prejudice and judgement. What results from this is the turning of an interesting subject into a dirge; it’s like Homer Simpson doing impression of white-noise. Redefining marriage to include same-sex couples is the natural extension of civil partnerships, which has not caused the country to collapse or existing divorce rates to sky-rocket anymore than they were doing already. I can’t even consider it particularly important if the redefinition happens immediately or after the next election; it’s an inevitable extension of a common sense policy, one of the rare moments when Blairite social tinkering actually did something good.

What is boring is how tired both sides of the argument sound. We all know circumstances, some very close and personal, in which the claim that marriage between a man and woman does not extend very far beyond “a vague commitment” does not match reality. Settling down with someone for the rest of your life can be a decision made beyond religious considerations – it’s stunning that we still have to frame arguments within these constraints.

Being against the redefinition is not the same as being homophobic, of course. But the ballpark as open gate and I can see the usual suspects limbering up to play. Let us try and keep this year’s political debate getting lost in the moral maze; this is not the year to be “social commentaried” to death….

Stand Up and be Silenced

I have great difficulty in accepting the need to continue with “Gay Pride” marches, the “equality lobby” equivalent of the English Defence League wanting to keep England sealed in a 1945 or 1966 bubble. If the homosexual rights “community” want to maintain the stereotype of all gay men being Kenny Everett lookalikes listening to high-NRG pop, fine, go ahead. Because “gay rights” and “Gay Pride” don’t tally. One drags down the other. It’s little wonder homophobia exists in every field from politics to sport: I don’t see the Notting Hill Carnival asking black people to only dress as previous generations would have done in the 1950s, why do Pride marches perpetuate outdated images of homosexuality?

Clare Balding, the BBC sports reporter who complained to the Press Complaints Commission over being called ‘a fat dyke on a bike’ and Conservative blogger Iain Dale, prove that the gay equalities agenda has done its work without resorting to outdated or overboard screaming from rooftops. Balding does not feel the need to introduce a report with the words, “Before today’s Challenge Cup Final, remember everyone that I’m a massive lesbian”. Iain Dale did not ask for his recent appearance on Any Questions to be preceded with a Kylie Minogue medley just to ensure everyone realised his homosexuality. They just get on with things, happening to be good in their fields whilst being gay.

It’s not very easy being of liberal mind while also being realistic about the world outside. I struggled to balance similar concerns around the time of Raoul Moat’s rampage. Prejudice based on skin colour or religion is ignorance to the nth degree, moreover the continued existence of such hatred reflects far more on those who spout such rubbish. That’s not to say that a “victim disorder” exists to a degree, nor do local authorities come across very right-on by banning the word “Christmas” ‘just in case’ of offence. Such silliness is in itself ignorant, pushing a racist agenda rather than defeating it.

I don’t find homophobia particularly appealing either, but how easily offended the gay rights lobby seem to become over the slightest hint of prejudice. The word “gay” is changing its meaning again, used to describe incidents or people without a hint of malice (“iPlayer is being well gay” “Lost out on that CD on Ebay, that’s well gay”). I have seen the commetariat rally against this use of the word as though, context or ney, what really is being said is “iPlayer is being well gay, by which I mean, iPlayer is raping goats and urinating in the eyes of toddlers”. Until the gay rights lobby calms down, they’ll never get the equality they crave. Is this illiberal of me? Or realistic? What good comes from continuing whinging about outdated attitudes and language while acting like a petulant teenager?

I understand that homophobia in schools and workplaces needs to be tackled. What causes this prejudice in the first place? A deeply held genetic mistrust? The idea that all gay men are leather-chap wearing permatanned drama queens? Where could people possibly get the idea for this image, I wonder?

The fact of “gay” entering everyday discourse to become as meaningless a word as “damn” should be celebrated. But no, the Pride lobby now feel offended by it, getting what they wished for being somehow not acceptable.

Maybe that’s the point. Pride needs to keep up the pretence that the 1960s legalisation never happened, because the desire to play the victim means attention and spotlights and funding from on high. It’s patronising to the highest order, forever highlighting the differences between gay and straight while simultaneously demanding equality. The two don’t balance. Until enough people realise this, prejudice will flourish. That doesn’t sound like ‘pride’ to me. It sounds like attention seeking. Councils who fund gay equality events may want to look into their budgets to decide if such defeatist self-promotion is really worth council tax payers money.

Toothless PCC "protects" homophobia

Yesterday’s Daily Mail included an article from Jan Moir entitled “Why there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death”. The inverted commas are not my doing; they were in the article.

Included in the piece was the quite bizarre and rather offensive observation;

Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one”

Moir then continued to pour scorn and homophobic derision on the late Gately on the eve of his funeral. Clearly this article was the result of a tight deadline and undiluted ignorant prejudice. Her article questioned how a 33-year old man could possibly die of “natural causes”, suggesting that the death was “sleazy”.

Like so many people – the latest figure is around 1,000 – I contacted the Press Complaints Commission to lodge my concern at the article’s content. That Moir shows signs of homophobia was not my primary concern; the PCC “Code of Conduct” was breached (particularly Clauses 5 i), 12, i) and ii), and 3 i)) and like so many people I felt it necessary to draw the PCC’s attention to these breaches.

What occurred, and has been picked up by various bloggers and magazines in the 24-hour period since, is the clearest sign of the toothless-tiger that is the Press Complaints Commission.

The PCC sent an email to anyone who forwarded their complaints that, in most cases, “third parties” cannot complain about specific articles concerning individual people. Pink News magazine says;

However, the body’s remit does not include offensiveness and it is likely that action can be taken only if Gately’s family complain.

If anything comes from this complaint it may not even be published; the PCC is not required to publish its findings.

I am no Boyzone fan, and the only time I have ever listened to Gately’s “New Beginnings” single is when an orchestrated version was used at a Liberal Democrat Conference in Southport. My problem with the article, and the problems felt by so many, is how the article was merely an unchecked and unbalanced prejudiced rant. There was no concept or requirement to stick within the rules of the PCC Code of Conduct. Stephen Fry said, via his Twitter feed, “I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathsome and inhumane.”

If the PCC cannot push the Daily Mail into publishing an apology or fining Ms Moir, then its Code of Conduct is meaningless. The voluntary scheme it operates has no function in an age where social media and blogging sites can whip up far more support far quicker for situations like this. Press freedom is absolutely paramount in any developed Western democracy, and is not under threat from a tribe of Tweeting liberals. However the Daily Mail and Jan Moir got their freedom of speech completely upside-down yesterday, while probably knowing nevertheless that the PCC could do nothing to stop them from keeping the article on-line.

Homophobic attitudes are not “in the past”. Like so many prejudices they cannot be completely wiped off the face of the planet for prejudice and value judgements are part of human nature. On the football terraces and in the clubs and at the water-coolers people will make statements that could attract the fabled ‘politically correct brigade’ and as a proud democrat I do not want to wander around the country slapping injunctions on anyone who thinks that a situation is “a bit gay” on the grounds of gender-hate. Jan Moir is an extreme example, however, a woman whose article did more than just question the details of Gately’s death. In implying that somehow being gay was the cause – with more than a hint of Chris Morris’ ‘good AIDS/bad AIDS’ – she was allowed a national platform to print an article of innuendo and offense at the worst possible time.

There is a thick line of decency under which is prejudice, over which is freedom of speech. The PCC are lying on the line unable to comment on anything which falls beneath it. To tighten up the rules governing press content in the spirit of OFCOM and ASA rules is surely a pressing priority to maintain the right to live however one chooses in this day and age. The Daily Mail should publish an apology for Moir’s article immediately.