The other day, Brendan O'Neill gave a speech in which he wanted to argue that gay marriage represents a "war on difference". He attempted to support this by the analogy of a music college (i.e. marriage) being forced to admit people who are no good at music (i.e. teh gays). Now, Mr O'No tends to position himself so far beyond the realm of reasonable thought that there's little point in engaging with him. On this occasion, though, his wrongheadedness is, I fear, fairly widely shared.
Let's debunk this spurious analogy, which can be achieved with a little historical awareness. After all, there was a time when marriage was used to wage a "war on difference". Gay people were expected either to marry someone of the opposite sex, often producing misery and sexual frustration for all concerned, or to be single and lonely out of misplaced respect for the sensitivities of a prejudiced majority. It is not too hard to see that what is happening now -- the opening of the institution of marriage to "different" relationships -- is an affirmation of difference par excellence, and not a diminution of it. (Particularly if we consider that nobody has to get married if they don't want to.) As for the music college analogy, let's just note that Mr O'No seems to think that the real reason teh gays shouldn't be allowed in is because he thinks they're no good at marriage and don't deserve a place in it. After all, there's only so much marriage to go round! Right?
Arguments often fall flat on their face. Luckily for Mr O'No, his never got off the ground to start with.
For more than four months my mother was held in solitary confinement. In 2010, after 2½ years of detention, during which the seven were physically mistreated, they were charged with baseless accusations of espionage, insulting Islamic sanctities, crimes against national security, and ''spreading corruption on earth''. Any one of these charges can result in the death sentence in Iran.
Charles Moore, a Conservative who insists that so much talk about gay marriage is damaging the Conservatives, has chosen to pen another column on the topic. Fine by me; from these quarters you'll hear no objection to damaging the Conservatives! However, in his characteristically self-satisfied tenor, Moore writes as though no answers have actually been given to the points he makes. His contention today is that the Marriage Bill will change the "nature" of marriage. For a start, marriage has no "nature"; it is a social and legal institution which has been modified throughout history. But what he is getting at is that marriages between men and women will somehow be changed by the fact that same-sex couples will soon also be able to enter into legal marriages.
Since rational argument is not Charlie's cup of tea, shall we just have a little wager? The morning after the Marriage Bill is passed, if all married heterosexual couples suddenly wake up to find their marriages changed -- presumably by husbands being possessed of an irrepressible urge to plump cushions, and wives spontaneously becoming Grand Theft Auto addicts, or perhaps by husbands and wives the land over discovering their genitals to have been mysteriously modified by an Act of Parliament (for such is the silliness of this trajectory of thought) -- I will take it all back. Alas, when these absurd outcomes fail to materialise, I won't expect similar concessions from the other side. Such is the "nature" of brainless conservatism.
George Carey is fast becoming to Christianity as Alan Partridge is to broadcasting. Most of his comments are too facile to bother engaging with. Except perhaps this one point:
By dividing marriage into religious and civil the Government threatens the church and state link which they purport to support. But they also threaten to empty marriage of its fundamental religious and civic meaning as an institution orientated towards the upbringing of children.
Let's leave to one side more of this prejudiced language of teh gayers "emptying" marriage of its meaning (which echoes Sentamu's talk of "diminishing" and "dilution"). Carey mentions the "upbringing of children", as if there were no gay people or gay couples in the world currently bringing up children. Well, old boy, there are, and by all accounts they seem to be doing it just fine.
What Carey and his apologists really want to say, but are too afraid to, is that they don't think gay people should have anything to do with raising kids. And that, I'm afraid, is a view which belongs about two hundred years in the past.
Advertising standards and the TfL ruling | 24.3.13
Last week the High Court ruled that TfL's decision to block some anti-gay advertisements from buses last year was lawful, but "procedurally unfair". In the ruling, its lawfulness is justified on the grounds that the ads, placed by Anglican Mainstream and the Core Issues Trust, would have caused widespread "offence". The outcome of the ruling is right, I think, but for entirely the wrong reasons. The causing of offence, although sadly restricted under English law, is not a good reason to curtail the free expression of an individual or organisation. After all, many were surely offended by Stonewall's "Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!" campaign. Those celebrating the fact that the High Court has upheld the ban would have little recourse if TfL chose not to carry Stonewall's advertisements in future. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
So why, you ask, do I think that the Court's decision was right nevertheless? It seems to me that there was a sound reason to block the adverts. The wording was: "Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay And Proud. Get Over It!". This wording implies a positive claim that people can stop being gay. Since the Core Issues Trust is concerned largely with "reparative therapy" for gay people, this is reasonably understood as being tantamount to an empirical claim about the clinical effectiveness of such treatments. It is doubly clear that this is the reference, since the Core Issues Trust's web address is appended to the ads.
Making unsubtantiated claims about the effectiveness of a therapeutic treatment is routinely, and rightly, restricted under advertising standards regulations. Those would be the proper grounds on which to refuse to display these banners. After all, why should a product such as a moisturiser have to demonstrate its safety for market, while similar requirements are not made of a psychological therapy which is widely documented to have caused much harm? There is no medically accepted basis for the claim that gay people can become "ex-gay" or "post-gay" through such therapy. By contrast, the existence of gay people, which was Stonewall's only claim, is incontrovertible (without descending into the depths of an epistemological argument that it is hardly TfL's to adjudicate).
The contrast here is is not so different from that between the statements "Some people are black" and "Ex-black, post-black, and proud". The first is self-evidently true. The second is, at best, nonsense on stilts.
Upon the enthronement of a new Archbishop | 21.3.13
Yesterday Justin Welby commented upon the "stunning quality" of some gay relationships. The quality of our relationships would be stunning only to someone who had a prejudice that they were less than good: the exception proving the rule. And if he witnesses this stunning quality, why would he lead the church in persisting with the cruelty of excluding gay couples from its blessings?
On the very day that the last Archbishop of Canterbury was enthroned, my partner and I got together. Ten years later, through the grace of God, through my fiancé's care and understanding, and through the generosity and sensitivity of countless friends, we are still together.
During that decade, the Church of England vociferously opposed and attempted to wreck the Civil Partnerships Bill; went on to claim dishonestly that they had supported it all along; and continued, even under a new Archbishop, to oppose and attempt to wreck the Marriage Bill.
In all that time, and in spite of the fact I worked for a church for nine of those years, church has been the only place where our relationship was not affirmed; and not even called by name. It is with relief, as the CofE continues on the road to disestablishment, that I find myself free from the sanctimony and priggishness of this organisation.
I look forward to spending a life of love together with my partner. It is a shame that some, whose vocation is to love, refuse to share in it.
Over the years Keith O'Brien has described gay people as "captives of sexual aberrations", criticised the introduction of civil partnerships, described gay relationships as "harmful", labelled gay parenting "totalitarian", compared gay marriage to "slavery", described gay marriage as "a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right", and as "degenerate". He was awarded "Bigot of the Year" in 2012 by gay rights charity Stonewall for his voice of extreme division and prejudice. During the gay marriage debate, commentator Dan Hodges remarked that "I can't remember the last time I read a more morally and intellectually bankrupt rant from a senior member of the clergy," in reference to O'Brien's remarks.
It seems that, as many would have guessed, these comments were at least in part O'Brien's personal psychodrama: a battle between his nature and his settled moral beliefs, played out in a public political debate. It is a well-trodden path. But, before we all get this wrong: the hypocrisy here is not caused by the conflict between his own homosexual attraction and his negative remarks about homosexuality in general. While that conflict indicates great personal turmoil, no doubt, it is at least logically consistent.
The hypocrisy is between experiencing first-hand "unwanted same-sex attraction" (as the ugly "Christian" set phrase seems to be), and yet using the language of diminishment and sanctimony towards those he should have been especially capable of experiencing empathy for. His words were at the very least a gross betrayal of his pastoral duties, as I remarked at the time. And the deeper hypocrisy is, allegedly, of using a position of pastoral care to attempt to seduce others into the same sexual conduct which he publicly denounced.
I hope and pray that O'Brien will recover from what must currently be a truly horrible experience. But as part of his recovery, he will have to find a way to process the fact that the sadness he is experiencing now is the kind of sadness that he has been inflicting on gay people, and especially gay Catholics, for many years.
This being Britain, having discovered in Jimmy Savile a new social pariah, we must turn to diminishing the state of his dwelling; apparently it was left in a "terrible condition". Cp. the Telegraph's report the other day about a girl with extraordinarily high IQ, which in the second paragraph made reference to the fact that her parents' house was worth £350,000. Human society is very strange.
Peter Tatchell and Simon Hughes discuss the 1983 Bermondsey by-election | 24.2.13
When the Civil Partnerships Bill was going through parliament, heterosexual couples were told the law wouldn’t apply to them as they had the option to marry, while gays didn’t. Now that gays will be allowed to marry, shouldn’t straights be allowed a civil partnership with the rights that go with it? I fear the answer is yes.
The irony she misses, of course, is that civil partnerships would not have been necessary had opposition to gay marriage not been so strong ten years ago. Civil partnerships were a compromise, and nobody should be surprised that, social attitudes having mellowed in the light of the sky not having fallen in, most now see the sense in allowing same-sex couples access to the institution of marriage.
The new discrimination in law -- that opposite-sex couples are not at liberty to undertake civil partnerships -- could also be eliminated by repealing the Civil Partnerships Act. This will be politically impossible, though; not least because the churches and a certain stream of conservatives have made such an embarrassment of marriage in recent months that many heterosexuals will now campaign for a more civil arrangement.
Watching the House of Commons debate over the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill last week, I was struck by one point repeatedly made by opponents of the legislation: that people are diverse and different, and that equality legislation suppresses, rather than celebrates, these differences. Is this true?
1/ Men and women are different. Should there be one law for males, and another for females?
2/ Persons practising diverse religions are also different from one another. Should Christians have some rights that Hindus don't have?
3/ Some have different colour skin. Should black people ride in one part of the bus, and white people in another?
Equality legislation does not suppress differences. It protects people from those who think that they are just that little bit more equal than others.
Having heard the highlights of Joni Mitchell's Blue and Hejira, I turn to The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975). This is an upbeat album; it draws on jazz and rock styles, in contrast with the lighter folk overtones of earlier records. It also features thicker textures, electronic instruments, synth, and more extensive studio editing.
This track, "Harry's House / Centerpiece", embeds an old jazz classic by Sweets Edison and Jon Hendricks.
Heatwaves on the runway
As the wheels set down
He takes his baggage off the carousel
He takes a taxi into town
Yellow schools of taxi fishes
Jonah in a ticking whale
Caught up at the light in the fishnet windows
Watching those high fashion girls
Skinny black models with raven curls
Beauty parlor blondes with credit card eyes
Looking for the chic and the fancy to buy
He opens up his suitcase
In the continental suite
And people twenty stories down
Colored currents in the street
A helicopter lands on the Pan Am roof
Like a dragonfly on a tomb
And business men in button downs
Press into conference rooms
Battalions of paper minded males
Talking commodities and sales
While at home their paper wives
And paper kids
Paper the walls to keep their gut reactions hid
Yellow checkers for the kitchen
Climbing ivy for the bath
She is lost in House and Gardens
He's caught up in Chief of Staff
He drifts off into the memory
Of the way she looked in school
With her body oiled and shining
At the public swimming pool ...
... Shining hair and shining skin
Shining as she reeled him in
To tell him like she did today
Just what he could do with Harry's House
And Harry's take home pay
I am one of your constituents in Manchester Gorton. I write to thank you for supporting the Marriage Bill at yesterday's Second Reading.
My partner and I celebrate ten years together this month, and the progress of this Bill encourages us that one day society will be able witness to our relationship on equal terms with heterosexual couples.
As a regular churchgoer of twenty years, I also hope that the leadership shown by you and 399 other MPs will eventually lead the Church of England to see the wisdom of affirming the loving relationships of all its members.