Tuesday, 24 January 2012

"Scotland for Marriage" petition discussed in Holyrood

The Scottish Petitions Committee has today considered the petition lodged by Amy King - a representative of Scotland for Marriage - which aims to "preserve marriage".

As you will no doubt realise, their interpretation of preserving marriage actually means preserving a very narrow and discriminatory definition of marriage. To be honest, I thought the predictably homophobic line taken would make me quite angry, but to my enormous surprise the substance of the petition just amuses me. It's hilarious.

You can read it here. It certainly is worth reading, if only for the lack of critical thinking and the way it defends spurious "facts" with even more questionable "evidence". Intolerance is reinforced with intolerance. Some of my Lib Dem friends were discussing this on facebook, with one interpreting the submission as "one of the most ridiculously homophobic things I've ever read". I disagree: it's simply one of the most ridiculous things I've ever read.

I want to get a bit angry about this. I really do. That's my regular reaction to experiencing prejudice and discrimination. But I really can't, for reasons which will become obvious as I look at in in a bit more detail.

Let's take a look at some of the claims and arguments Amy King puts forward:

1. Surveys suggesting that the public support same-sex marriage are flawed and inaccurate. Less than 50% of actually support same-sex marriage, but are more supportive of same-sex civil partnerships. Of course. If you don't like the outcome criticise the process. What Ms King doesn't tell us is the proportion of Scots who are, like her, opposed to same-sex marriage - I imagine that would represent a somewhat inconvenient truth. As for the notion that Scottish people are supportive of one form of same-sex union but not another - that can be quite easily dismissed. Most people do not spend their time intellectualising about the sanctity of marriage and who to exclude from it as if it was some kind of club.

2. Legal benefits of marriage are already available to same-sex couples, so why "redefine" marriage? That tired argument. Yawn! In that case, why the strong and sometimes vitriolic opposition to it? If civil partnerships are effectively marriages, why not upgrade them to having the same status?

3. So few people are directly affected by it. So why redefine marriage "for the whole society"? The Free Church of Scotland and the likes of Scotland for Marriage represent an even smaller proportion of Scottish society than the LGBT community. Why should society's understandings of marriage be assumed to reflect those of anti-equality groups as a default position (they currently don't). What the petitioners fail to appreciate is that governments and legislation don't define marriage in anything other than legal terms - it's social attitudes that do. They also fail to grasp that it isn't just same-sex couples that are affected, but anyone who cares passionately in the cause of equality.

4. Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie is - wait for it - "a pro-homosexual spokesperson" who "imposes [his] views on us". Indeed. I get the picture: the evil Mr Rennie is aided in this quest by the Devil, the Beast out of the Sea and the temptress Jezebel. This claim is so funny as to render a critical response barely necessary.

5. "Marriage should not be redefined for the whole of society given the tiny percentage of society actually affected by the issue...The introduction of same-sex marriage is being presented in the media and by some lobbyists and politicians as something that does not affect most of us [but] in reality, this change would have huge implications for...wider society." Hmmm. Few people are affected by it...actually, all of society is affected. No contradiction there then.

6. "Schools would be expected to promote same-sex marriage to children." No, schools are not in the business of promoting but educating. I can only imagine which school Ms King went to. This fear was expressed prior to the Civil Partnership Act being passed and to date the promised moral meltdown and promotion of homosexuality in our schools has never materialised. The argument is so dated and so discredited by evidence as to be facile.

7. Pro-homosexual story-books could find their way into schools. Obviously Ms King would close my old school down then. I remember being about 5 years' old and my teacher reading to us that wonderful gay fairytale, The Ugly Duckling - Hans Anderson's autobiographical parable of the loneliness and poor self-image he had as a gay man and his hopes for tolerance to make a way for acceptance. Presumably Scotland for Marriage would like this book to be banned? And the Harry Potter series of course as Professor Dumbledore is gay. Obviously children's stories with gay characters in them are far more harmful than those about murderous wolves, evil queens who poison stepdaughters, witches who lure children to their deaths in forests with promises of sweets and psychopathic kings who murder masses of innocent babies around Christmas time.

8. "It is not unreasonable, therefore, to conclude that same-sex marriage is an
effort by gay rights campaigners to impose their views forcibly on the rest of
society. Those who oppose same-sex marriage do not seek to impose their
views on same-sex couples."
Actually, it is unreasonable. There is, in fact, no need for "gay rights campaigners" to impose any such view on a society that is already broadly supportive of equality. As for the claim that those unsupportive of such equality are not seeking to impose their views - erm, in that case what is the point of your rather desperate petition?

9. "Defending [a narrow definition of] marriage does not affect the freedom of others to think, believe and act as they choose". No, of course not. Unless we choose to get married.

10. If same-sex marriages are allowed, then polygamy should be too. Another insultingly facile argument that equates loving and committed relationships between two people of the same sex as a route to "sexual chaos" (I love that term, it sounds rather fun). It is also claimed that same-sex marriage is a form of "social engineering" - something that hints at the paranoid motivations of Scotland for Marriage.

11. The best way for children to grow up is with opposite-sex parents who are married. Well, given my childhood I find that rather hard to believe but I'm more than aware of what the evidence suggests. It is, however, so easy to cite "evidence" of the benefits of a loving family. I would use the same arguments to make claims about the need to extend marriage to same-sex couples given its incredible benefits to children - a point Ms King doesn't think should be "assumed" (perhaps because same-sex couples are more likely to be mentally ill, according to her). The petition goes on to argue that children should ideally be brought up by their "natural parents". Oh dear. So no role for adoption there then? (I should also add that my natural father was gay - good to know Ms King approves so highly of his influence!)

12. "Many Scots find the consultation process too difficult and/or time consuming, but would want to be supportive of man/woman marriage." No doubt. And probably even more who favour marriage equality. What's your point?

13. Foreigners should not have any influence in shaping the outcome of the consultation. So, the Scottish government can't learn from experiences elsewhere and have their discussions informed by these? Does Scotland for Marriage really believe in governments working in a vacuum, isolated from what goes on elsewhere? Or are they simply xenophobic as well as homophobic?

14. Suggesting that people opposed to equality are cultivating a “discriminatory attitude” is a serious threat to freedom of speech. No, it isn't. Suggesting they're cultivating a "discriminatory attitude" is a pretty accurate diagnosis. I defend your right to say what you think and even to present it to the Scottish parliament. I also retain the right to deconstruct your arguments and demonstrate your supposed sociological critique to be little more than the reinforcement of outdated prejudice. I don't care if you look ridiculous - it is, after all, you that's saying it. Real freedom is, as George Orwell pointed out, "the freedom to say that 2 plus 2 equals 5". But I maintain that your attitudes are discriminatory, because - very simply - they make a discrimination in insisting one group of people should not be able to access the same rights as another. That, Ms King, is discrimination pure and simple - and you are promoting it.

So, if Alex Salmond's government press ahead with the furtherance of equality by allowing same-sex marriages, the result will be - according to Scotland for Marriage - "sexual chaos", schools promoting gay marriages, homosexual story books for children and the legalisation of polygamy. Yes, naturally. And gay people are responsible for climate change, the recession and the fact that it always rains on your day off.


Garry Otton said...

Your best yet, Andrew!

Anonymous said...

I think some people really believe the sky will fall because of gay rights and equality.

I can't think of anything better for pushing forward equality than seeing the arguments like this against it and letting it be aired.

When things go ahead and the sky does not fall then things will be accepted and people will move on and grow better from it, much like when independence finally happens and the scaremongering against liberty and self determination and the frankly awful and embarrassing unionist arguments and camps finally dissolve and realise that things are actually not so bad after all and the sky is indeed still above us. The pandas might even still be there.

[Oddly appropriate captcha for this, BTW, which I won't mention for good taste, but it did make me laugh.]