Jamie Walden examines the current debate surrounding gay marriage.
A few decades ago the police were busting gay parties and arresting the participants. Now the Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party is an open supporter of gay marriage. The case for legalising gay marriage is imperishable and unstoppable. I shall be glad when people can marry people of the same gender if they choose to do so and I find it very difficult to imagine myself deviating from that position.
Yet will the pendulum which has swung from the persecution of homosexuals towards their full equality under the law with heterosexuals, rest at the sensible position of legalising gay marriage or will its momentum be ceaseless and take us to new absurdities?
Freedom of speech is incredibly fragile and has to be protected by those willing to do so or else it shall be damaged irreparably. If it crumbles it will be almost impossible to re-assemble. So why are so many people so keen on chipping away at it and disposing with the off cuts, whenever the speech in question happens to contradict their views?
On BBC Question Time, Will Young, whilst insisting that he wants those who oppose gay marriage to “call a spade a spade, say you still don’t agree with it” said that “if this guy [Cardinal O’Brien] had been talking like this against race or religion, he’d be in court now, but he is still allowed to go on the Today Programme”, as if he would approve of Cardinal O’Brien being prosecuted or not being “allowed” to appear on the BBC. When the Daily Mail columnist Janice Atkinson (alas, it was one of the most inadequate Question Time panels there has been) said, given that we have fairly bizarre laws which govern one’s right to hate, “if they [people who oppose gay marriage] use some of that language…then they can be called into account, they could be called into a police station”, Will Young interrupted her by saying “Yes, rightfully so, yes….It’s homophobia”.
The dishonourable Cardinal Keith O’Brien believes that the plan to legalise marriages between people of the same gender is “grotesque” and would “shame the United Kingdom” and had written as much in the Daily Telegraph. Will Young would like him to be arrested and charged for writing that article. I think using physical force to grab a man and lock him in a series of rooms for a while- how long do Will Young and those who agree with him think the man should be locked in the series of rooms for?- would be an outrageous scandal. Whereas I think a senior Catholic saying some words about gay marriage is a fairly minor and predictable event which could easily have been ignored as the proud march to full equality for gay people continues. Or better still, it can be argued against using logic and clear thought, rather than winging and phone calls to the police.
But it was “homophobic” (surely that should be homosexualphobic, homophobic simply means fears of the same- although fear of the same does suffice in a surprising number of cases of outspoken anti-gay public figures). Therefore it cannot be allowed. Apparently we must reduce the space for freedom of expression further because a group of completely unconnected people who happen to be sexually attracted to, and fall in love with, people of the same gender as themselves, have been labelled as a victim group who need special protection from criticism, rather than having their rather strong case and the expression of it encouraged.
Will Young then went on to say that Janice Atkinson was “scaremongering”. He said that “it’s this kind of language which I find terrifying, because its fear mongering”. Perhaps the fact that Will Young appears to lack a sense of irony is why he does not mind reducing what is allowed to be publicly said. Thankfully we are all allowed to listen to his views and we can see that he was in fact the one asserting that the other’s position was “terrifying”.
But how terrifying is Janice Atkinson or Cardinal Keith O’Brien? Are their opinions more terrifying that the police bursting into your home to arrest you and lock you in a jail for writing, speech or thought? Whilst I am not scared of the legalisation of gay marriage or those who oppose that position one thing that does should make you shudder is the idea that one day thinking something you think might become illegal.