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Sunday, 14 August 2011

SNP MSP withdraws homophobic "Nazi slur"

Bill Walker MSP seems to have parted company with his senses of reason and proportion this week.

The SNP MSP for Dunfermline is one of three MSPs to support John Mason's "equal marriage" motion, which is homophobic in the sense that it appears to support maintaining sexual orientation as a barrier to legal equality. However, Mr Wilson went further than Mr Mason's expressed sentiments, informing a local newspaper that he found gay marriages to be "a contradiction in terms" and that "anything that puts homosexual relationships as any way equal to male-female marriages is just not right". Some of his SNP colleagues immediately attacked his unwise decision to unburden himself of his homophobic prejudices to a local journalist, with SNP MEP Alyn Smith labelling him "a bigot".

Unfortunately, these criticism from colleagues failed to have the effect of silencing what are unhelpful contributions to the ongoing debate on equal marriage. Walker, who clearly has something of a persecution complex, proceeded to attack his critics, claiming that he was being "intimidated and threatened" online by LGBT rights activists. I would not approve of a campaign of intimidation, although I imagine if such claims were true then Mr Walker might now have developed some insights into the ways in which many LGBT people have been treated in recent years. However, he has not so far offered any evidence with which to back up his rather spurious and generalised claims and yesterday created further outrage after comparing LGBT rights campaigners to Nazis.

Apparently, in response to nothing more sinister than an anti-homphobia logo, Walker commented that "I regarded that as quite intimidating actually because ... it reminded me of the pre-war Nazi-type stuff banning things." Firstly, I worry for the mental health of someone who can not only be offended but intimidated by a pro-equality logo. Secondly, the Nazi slur is unjustified and insulting, especially given what people of homosexual orientation had to endure under Nazi rule.

The SNP have not, I believe, as yet issued a statement although Walker has been forced to backtrack and withdraw his comments admitting to being "intemperate". He certainly was intemperate. But he was also irresponsible, prejudiced, unprofessional and frankly a national embarrassment. While I welcome the fact he has withdrawn his comments under pressure, there can be no escape from the shameful truth that he meant what he said, that he genuinely does feel that gay equality is "not right" and that those who disagree with him are guilty of "intimidation". "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." (Mt 12:34) During the last few days Bill Walker has shown what kind of man - and MSP - he is. I am certainly glad he isn't mine.

It's difficult to assess his possible motivations for his apparent determination to demonstrate to the electorate how out of touch he is with public opinion. Lalland's Peat Worrier, an SNP blogger, sees Walker as "seeming desperate at every turn to introduce himself to the Scottish people as a cantankerous and shallow-pated hephalump with all of the mental and political dexterity of quivering invertebrate." While Walker is a member of the Church of Scotland, he dismisses religious influence as a factor in his action, professing to see the issue in purely moral terms: essentially he arrogantly perceives himself and his own sexual orientation as morally superior to that of others.

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said: “Alex Salmond has to now make clear where he stands after this bizarre and offensive outburst by Bill Walker, tainting his critics with this Nazi slur.” I agree entirely. Salmond has so far preferred to sit quietly as the controversy has unfolded. Walker's offensive outburst is surely evidence of the need for the SNP's leadership to exert some control over the few but highly vocal rebels who are not only undermining their party's broadly liberal stance on LGBT rights but also providing a dis-service to the Scottish Parliament as a whole. Perhaps Salmond will rid his party of this turbulent false prophet, or at the very least exile him to the Westboro Baptist Church.

It is regrettable that in the weeks leading up to the consultation on same-sex marriages John Mason's unwise motion and Bill Walker's offensive comments are framing the debate. I can only speculate as to the purposes of John Mason's original motion but if, as he claims, it was simply designed to ensure that Scotland will be "a pluralistic society where all minorities can live together in peace and mutual tolerance" then surely it has already proved counter-productive. We can not afford for a democratic discussion about equality of marriage to become centred around the outdated and retrograde attitudes of a minority.

The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey shows an overwhelming majority of Scottish people support same-sex marriage. This is surely an issue on which the wishes and thoughts of the majority should be listened to. I am pleased the Scottish government has opened up what I hope will be an informed, constructive and positive consultation process which will allow it to kick into touch the homophobic views of Walker and his ilk (who delude themselves that they speak for the "moral majority").

Bill Walker certainly has very little personal or political credibility following his recent antics: perhaps he will now simply be allowed to drift into obscurity until his inevitable defeat at the next election?

3 comments:

An Duine Gruamach said...

I'm pesonally in favour of gay marriage, but I wonder how there can be any sort of "debate" at all if conflicting views are all decried as homophobic. I'm not going to defend Walker's comments, but I really don't see anything other than echo-chamber in a debate that considers all opposing views as unfortunate and homophobic.

Anonymous said...

Oh pleeeeaaaaassssseeeee! In what way was the vile Nazi slur Andrew refers to NOT homophobic?

(and I notice that it's only the slur and the message of the motion the writer describes as homophobic, not the people behind them)

Andrew said...

I am not suggesting that conflicting views are themselves homophobic, and I use the word carefully.

I described John Mason's motion as homophobic because, in my view, it "appears to support maintaining sexual orientation as a barrier to legal equality". Essentially what he and others like him would do is to draw a dividing line on the basis of sexual orientation; surely that is homophobic?

And what is homophobia if not the prejudice and discrimination shown towards people of homosexual orientiation? John Mason certainly wants some level of legal discrimination, but Bill Walker goes further and sees homosexuality as morally inferior to same-sex relationships. When I describe such a view as homophobic, I am sure you understand why. He is not only dismissing gay marriage as wrong on the basis of an intellectually lightweight argument, but making a moral judgment about those who would enter such arrangements from an assumed position of moral superiority.

There are many people who are not supportive of same-sex marriage for a range of reasons. They're not necesarily homophobic. Some gay people I know simply don't see it as an issue now they have civil partnerships. I disagree, but such differences and conflicting views are good in a democratic society and breed understanding rather than homophobia. Anyone, however, who opposes a change to combat discrimination on the basis of prejudice or fear is surely homophobic by definition?

It all comes down to attitude. And, thanks to his ill-advised outburst, we all know what Bill Walker's attitudes towards gay people are.

Anonymous - yes, there can be no escaping that the "Nazi slur" is inherently homophobic. It's also rather juvenile. You might like to look at Lalland's Peat Worrier's piece (Bill Walker: political idiot) - see link above.