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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Out of touch...



... and out of town?           Photo: AP/EDDIE MULHOLLAND/GETTY

One of the themes running through yesterday's debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was that older people are out of touch with current opinion. Many MPs referred to correspondence they had received from their constituents which, allegedly, showed that younger voters were in favour of so-called equal marriage implying that senior citizens had no regard for equality. It is not unusual for younger generations to believe that they are blessed with wisdom that has evaded the elderly when in fact the elderly have a greater depth of experience bearing witness to changes over time, many of them step changes, each one presented as a small step but leading to the giant leap intended although not admitted at the time. Those familiar with this strategy who express opposition are frequently referred to as homophobes and bigots giving the accuser the satisfaction of feeling enlightened while wallowing in their own ignorance.

 Noted for his absence from the debate was the prime mover, the Prime Minister, along with the authors (above) of a letter to the Telegraph claiming that “attitudes to gay people have changed”. Of course they have changed but so have the attitudes towards people who do not bend the knee to the Zeitgeist, recognising self-interest masquerading as progress. The Prime Sinister Minister would have us believe that last night's vote is 'an important step forward' towards equality, 'making our country stronger' - see the video in this link - but not according to half his MPs who voted against the measure suggesting that Cameron is out of touch with his own party.

Deception is key to this Bill. It has nothing to do with equality, the implied primary motive of the Government when they launched their 'equal civil marriage' consultation in March 2012 because the Civil Partnership Act 2004 provides equality under the law; hence there is no reference to equality in the Bill other than a cross reference to the Equality Act 2010. Deception was used during the passage of the Civil Partnership Act with denials that it had anything to do with same-sex marriage. This question was put directly in the debate but the priest turned MP and member for Rhondda, himself in a civil partnership, excused himself by saying that things had moved on and he had changed his mind, a situation not dissimilar in the campaign for women bishops emphasising that assurances offered by revisionists are completely worthless.

Had the older generation not advanced the cause of genuine equality, MPs would not have been engaged in the current debate but we are where we are. What I find most irksome are the distortions employed to make a case. There were many worthwhile contributions to the debate but often the arguments advanced in support of the Bill had nothing whatsoever to do with equality or prejudice as claimed. For example the sad case of Alan Turing's death was used to justify same-sex marriage but the unjust persecution of homosexuals in the past cannot be used to justify the re-definition of marriage. It was also suggested by a number of members that marriage has evolved over the years citing as examples the treatment of women  involved in property transfers and wives being raped by their husbands but such examples have nothing to do with redefining marriage, they are examples of women's rights in a union between a man  and a woman.

These are not a unfamiliar tactics. In the other big debate on women bishops, what is the relevance this statement if it is not a deliberate attempt to smear the opposition by association?
"On 16 December 2012 a young woman was beaten and gang raped in the suburbs of Delhi. She died 13 days later from the brain and gastrointestinal injuries she suffered as a result of the assault." According to the Chair of WATCH, everything. She writes: "Many of us will have studied, at school or university, some of the great freedom movements of history such as the abolition of the slave trade or the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, movements which have revolutionised, restored and redeemed the relationships between human beings." 

Similar comparisons were made in the debate. We are all appalled by such events but to use such examples to taint opponents serves no good purpose and shows the accusers to be out of touch with reality.

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