The Marriage Debate and The Barrage of Homophobia

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness
Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well
as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here.
Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from

We’re battling for marriage equality in
the UK at the moment. And I dearly want this fight to be won.

Not just for the obvious reasons – 
though I am counting the seconds until Beloved and I can marry.

But the debate is wearing. I’ve said before how studies
and debates can be insulting
, well there can be no
greater proof of it than the last few months and it doesn’t look like
it’s going to end any time soon.

Of course, there’s always some homophobe
somewhere spouting some vile bigotry – and certainly you can’t
go near the internet without being pelted with slurs, screeching and
sheer nastiness. But when we decide to have a public debate on whether
or not we’re real people due rights and respect due actual, proper
citizens, we’re treated to a double – and unavoidable – load.

Tory MPs have crawled out from under every
rock (after dark, of course, sunlight being anathema to them) to talk
about incest and paedophilia and the poor poor children with nice side
trips to “bring back section 28”. One has announced that his chief
whip is the pope, to which I invite him to fuck off to Rome then. We
have so many open letters from “concerned” MPs that they probably
extend to several volumes now and the phrase “I support equal rights
for gays but…” has been used so often most reporters have probably
set up a macro for it. If you write the phrase into office that annoying
paperclip will probably pop up “you look like you want to write a
bigoted screed, would you like to time travel back to the 1950s?”.
We have innumerable people screaming about the freedom of religion –
which is apparently a special right bigoted Christians have to ensure
the whole country follows their belief system. It seems like rather
an odd definition of “religious freedom” to me. We have some wonderful
claims like “no gay people have said it’s important to me!” from
Tory MPs who have managed to score a great big zero when it comes to
gay rights record, oh why do they think ANY gay person would say anything
to them? And then we’ve got the wonderful “haven’t we got more
important things to worry about!?” crowd who completely ignore the
fact that if it weren’t for them jumping on the tables and screaming
like drunken howler monkeys this law would have long since been passed
and done.

Also Nadine Dorries has Said Things, which
is never ever ever ever a good thing. She’s like a human manifestation
of the Daily Mail.

Which brings us to the papers who have gleefully
reported bigotry from every corner. Editorials have been written by
the usual poisonous suspects to spread venom and bile everywhere. The
Telegraph has been positively hunting down ANYONE they can find who
can be reliably depended upon to provide some homophobic quotes and
desperately tackling them to meet their hate quota (the Daily Mail has
just unmuzzled it’s slavering rabid attacks dogs and let them lose
from the pens in which they wallow in their own filth. And has never
ever had a problem meeting their hate quota). Even the more liberal
press is full of the debate with earnest people having to counter the
ridiculous constantly. And, of course, good ol’ nasty auntie has been
there, “unbiased” as ever, giving a platform to every passing bigot
who happens to flag them down. And, of course, they can’t challenge
the hatred, oh no, that would be BIASED.

Then there’s the religious groups – we’re
rapidly working on a full set. The Catholic church, Anglican church,
Chief Rabbi, Muslim Council of Great Britain, the Network of Sikh Organisations
they’ve all done their bit for bigotry and hate. It’s almost touching
to see all these diverse religions coming together so passionately –
shame it’s to condemn and attack our human rights. The Catholic church
has had a wonderful showing of utter venom that’s been so poisonous
I’m stunned how any person in this country can even remotely view
this toxic institution as remotely moral. Rowan Williams has shuffled
away, leaving a parting shot of bigotry, but the New Archbigot Justin
has made it clear he’s just as bad. I think the CofE has given up
presenting themselves as “not as extreme as the Catholics” and are
really giving them run for their money in the bigotry department. I
don’t think I’ve gone 2 days without someone waving a cross with
one hand, a Bible with the other and telling me why I’m beneath them
and other proper straight folks on some channel or some publication.

Then there’s people from all corners –
the religious groups, the MPs, the media all squealing about the world
ending. Marriage is being redefined and then there’s the teachers!
The poor teachers will have to teach that gay marriage is legal! They
will have to go against their principles and teach that it exists! Why
any teacher has a principle of not telling children what the actual
law is, I’ll never know. And I fail to see why teachers being forced
to teach equality is somehow a BAD thing? Or teachers no longer being
able to slop bigotry on the kids is supposed to be worrisome? Hey, gay
bullying epidemic, have you heard of it?

People have brought up the case of Lilan Ladele
who just lost her case before the ECHR about being discriminated against
because she had to do her actual job as a civil marriage registrar –
and apparently expecting good straight people to do their job when it
means dealing with gay folk is just far too much to ask and so very
very awful. They’ve even thrown “consummation” and “adultery”
into the ring because marriage equality conflicts with the archaic definitions
of these ridiculously out dated laws – and you know they’re scraping
the barrel when they want to talk about “consummation” (got to love
the sight of MPs arguing about consummation by being unwilling to use
any sex words).

Horror stories abound which either a) are
not very horrific and just show how bigoted the commentator is (civil
registrars forced to perform marriages! Hotels hiring out to gay couples!
People no longer being able to use the “married people only” as
a desperate excuse to kick out gay people – and yes, as a lawyer I
know all about that one. The horror! The horror!) or b) completely ludicrous
(like churches being forced to tolerate our nasty presence – just
weeks after the Anglican church STILL can’t bring itself to have bishops
who are *gasp* WOMEN!)

I’m tired. I’m really really tired, worn
through in fact. A large part of me wants to hibernate until the collected
bigoted attention is directed elsewhere and we’re beneath their notice

I wonder if this is their intention. If they
are hateful enough, if they throw enough bigotry at us, if they’re
venomous enough, of they can delay enough and throw enough shit at us,
do they think we’ll go away? Do they think we’ll give in? They need
to look at history if they think that.

But what this unrelenting barrage of hate
tells us is that there’s a major battle still to fight – not
about the law, but about acceptable public discourse. And this? This
is not acceptable. This level of overt hate speech is not acceptable,
it’s not tolerable, it shouldn’t be happening. I know now there
are people squealing about censorship but this is ridiculous – we
have a level of acceptable discourse from politicians, from the media
commentators. There are things we know they cannot say without their
parties or their bosses or their editors kicking them out to disassociate
from such bigotry. Such considerations do not extend to homophobic speech
–and this is a major problem. We cannot go on expecting
to be treated as full members of society when this is what constitutes
civil discourse, when this is considered reasonable conversation. We
cannot expect to have a decent sense of self-worth, or people not to
denigrate and attack us when such dehumanisation is such standard fare.

Until the political parties and the media
(I give up on the religions – I don’t think our humanity will
ever register with them; I can only hope they dwindle in relevance and
power until their hate no longer has any influence on our lives) accept
that GBLTQ people are due basic respect, we will never be treated as
full, equal members of society who have every right to be here, every
right to exist..

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