The Real Gay Marriage Bigots are Gay Marriage Bigots
Today I read on article in the Daily Mail called “The real gay marriage bigots are its intolerant supporters“. The article focused on the “intolerance” of the proponents of gay marriage directed towards those who oppose it. I encourage you to read it before my response.
The world has come a long way from complete intolerance towards homosexuality, but equality and acceptance aren’t the current reality. It’s been great to see Barack Obama (regardless of his plentiful flaws) become the first sitting president to back same sex marriage, and here in the UK see the same marriage rights extended to same-sex couples as heterosexual couples with the marriage (same sex couples) act 2013; however, many countries lag behind significantly and we recently saw Russia begin to regress on same-sex issues. This is important because people are more influenced by their laws and politicians than most people (myself included) would like to believe, this can be evidenced by the increased homophobia in Russia following a new law introduced which prohibits the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” (although I am aware correlation doesn’t equal causation).
As terrible as it is, the intention of this post isn’t to go into great detail about the unequal treatment of heterosexual and homosexual couples around the world. I want to stick to a much narrower scope and just write a bit about the Daily Mail article I read today. Before I get onto that though I would just like to draw attention to the type of language used in the article, particularly the method of persuasion used in the introduction.
The article opens by the author, Amanda Platell (who I’m sure thinks she is a tolerant and supportive person), attempting to convince us that she isn’t your run-of-the-mill bigot and has legitimate concerns over same-sex marriage founded in logic rather than emotion. “I wish them every happiness for the future”, so her intentions are good, right? “But that does not alter the fact that I still disagree with the concept of gay marriage.” So to clarify, she wants same-sex couples to be happy as long as their happiness isn’t rooted in being able to marry the person they love? These kind of tactics are, I suppose, necessary for winning people over to her side, which being fair and stating the obvious is the goal of any debate.
This is because we live in a world where everyone has an “us verses them” mentality (I’ll leave the elaboration for a future post, maybe). By opening the article like this she’s saying “hey, I’m on your side. I’m not one of those intolerant homophobes, I’m just like you, I just don’t think gay people and straight people should get the same marriage rights.” I guess it’s the same kind of emotional appeal that you hear when some politician or your dad or something tells you that he used to be a liberal when he was your age as well. With regard to the sensationalistic language used, let’s look at an excerpt from the fourth and fifth paragraph:
“One audience member, Marilyn Barmer, was booed and hissed for even having the temerity to ask: ‘Why do we need to change the definition of marriage that has existed for thousands of years, when equality already exists?’ A perfectly reasonable question, you might think. Yet from the outraged response of the audience, it was as if she’d been proposing the execution of every first-born.”
Now I’ve never witnessed the response to someone suggesting that every first-born should be killed but I would like to think such a response would probably be more extreme than that given by the audience. Although the question could be construed as “perfectly reasonable” it is not without its flaws. Perhaps my answer to this question may give insight to where the “outrage” comes from, although I don’t claim to speak for any person in that audience as they can probably speak for themselves when given the opportunity.
Firstly, does the definition of marriage really need changing? Does a new category, “same-sex marriage”, really change the definition of “marriage”? If marriage is, by current definition, “the formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife” then does a “same sex marriage” really change the definition of that? I’m sure linguists would be able to give very good arguments for and against it, but it seems like a pointless exercise to me. Leave any heated debate long enough and it’ll eventually degrade and become semantic nit-picking, so I will ask a new question: should definitions change over time? A lot of people refer to “same-sex marriage” as “gay marriage”. Isn’t “gay” a word that had its definition changed after a prolonged period of time? (answer: yes it is) Many words we use on a regular basis no longer have their original meanings, should we put an end to words and definitions changing? Should we keep the same definition used thousands of years ago in a version of English very different from the one we use today, in a time of feudalism, before electricity, technology and today’s values and principles?
So I guess in answer to the question, the definition should be changed because more or less everything else about the world has changed since then. A lot can happen over thousands of years, but the definition of a word can’t change? Interesting. To address the second part of the question “when equality already exists”, my response would have to be “is complete and uncompromising equality what we are aiming for?” I am not entirely convinced we live in a country full of communists so I would have to say “no”. If two people enter a hospital at the same time, one missing both their legs in some terrible explosion or something and the other with a fractured finger should they both get the same number of doctors and nurses and be seen at exactly the same time?
The reality is although equality sounds like a warm fuzzy idea, we’re not all made equal, and we need a society that will at least give everyone an equal chance at happiness and success. We do have “equality” in the sense that both heterosexuals and homosexuals can marry someone of the opposite gender, but what kind of equality really is that? Is that what the gay community wants? Again I don’t claim to speak for them but I think probably not.
“Anyone brave enough to voice unease has been branded a bigot whose views were so beneath contempt they didn’t even deserve to be heard.”
Maybe this is because any arguments against it are based on bigotry? I am confused as to how people can think otherwise. There is an interesting article by the Wire which talks about how the arguments against same-sex marriage are very similar to those against interracial marriage. When you look at the arguments in terms of race it seems abhorrent, hopefully the same reasoning applied to same-sex marriage should issue the same response. Also since when has it required bravery to marginalise and discriminate against minorities?
“A poll that went out at midnight after Question Time said two-thirds of people support gay marriage, but a third still do not. That doesn’t make them homophobes. Indeed, I suspect the vast majority welcomed the introduction of civil partnerships, yet simply feel that gay marriage is a step too far.”
I really don’t see how someone can say something like that and not realise the intolerance of such a stance. So their only reason against same-sex marriage is that they feel that it’s a step too far. That’s an acknowledgement of a lack of an ability to reason if I ever saw one, it’s an admission that their feelings are the only thing that stops them from accepting same-sex marriage. So here’s my question: if that’s not homophobia then what is?
“Do they not have a right to a voice? The gay community has fought all along for tolerance, and rightly so. But surely it should extend both ways.”
It does and they do, that’s why the Daily Mail still sells nearly two million copies a month.
“And never mind that this meant trampling over the beliefs of many Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and others opposed to gay marriage.”
I am not a religious person, but I do believe in religious freedom. Surely, if a government prohibited same-sex marriage that would be trampling over religious beliefs more than permitting it would? If a government doesn’t allow same-sex marriage then these religions have no choice but to exclude homosexuals. Christians, Muslims & Sikhs are each very diverse groups of people with differing beliefs, are you implying that each and every single one of them are inherently against same-sex marriage? I don’t think they are. Wouldn’t the optimal solution to be to make same-sex marriage legal, and then leave officiants to decide whether or not they want to conduct such a marriage? That way same-sex couples can get married and the religious can avoid having their beliefs “[trampled] over”.
Finally, let’s take a look at the last line of her article.
“That’s not social progress, it’s a form of intolerance every bit as ugly as homophobia.”
Here are some examples of the ugliness of homophobia:
– Mobs of people (including police officers) attack suspected gay men with clubs and iron bars in Nigeria
– A gay couple was attacked in NYC by a homophobe, 50 witnessed it and did nothing
– 26% of gay people in the European Union nations have been attacked or threatened with violence because of their sexuality in the last 5 years
– Russian men beaten in Russia before the olympics (see the link posted previously in the second paragraph)
– The death penalty for homosexuality reintroduced in Uganda
Examples cited in the Daily Mail article for the ugliness of “intollerant [same-sex marriage] supporters”:
– Being “booed and hissed” for asking why the definition of marriage should be changed
– “Vicious attacks (…) from politicians cynically trying to parade their touchy-feely credentials” (note “attack” is not meant in a physical sense)
According to Amanda Platell, these two things are as ugly as each other, I vehemently disagree. I’d like to end with a link to an article by the Onion, a satirical news network, entitled “Close-Minded Man Not Even Willing To Hear Out Argument On Why Homosexuality An Abomination“. The parallels that can be drawn between the Onion article and the Daily Mail article are quite interesting/unnerving.