Whatever your views on gay marriage, the debate should be dignified and sensitive
Published: 10:58 BST, 16 August 2012 | Updated: 11:12 BST, 16 August 2012
Is partnership enough? Protesters calling for same-sex marriages march down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh
Last night on the BBC Three show Free Speech I saw the Catholic journalist Milo Yiannopoulos argue bravely and honestly for a number of things, including against gay marriage. He was mocked by the comedian Shappi Khorsandi for being – as a gay man himself – like the token Asian guy who wants to be in the BNP.
It’s a silly ad-hominem attack to drag the BNP into the debate, but Shappi’s point is that Milo is relying upon his own identity to argue against the rights of others who share his identity. The jokey way that the attack was made underlines the arrogant and insensitive approach that many who believe in change take to the honestly-held beliefs of their opponents.
That’s my view, as someone who sees no philosophical problem with allowing gay marriage in a society where marriage isn’t a religious institution, but a constantly changing cultural one.
Anyone who says that marriage is an immutable building block within our society has forgotten that the heir to the throne has a marriage which was conducted outside of the church of which he will one day be the head, and a type of marriage which was once considered innovative.
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The existence of non-religious marriages put an end to religion’s ownership of marriage, and broke the argument that marriage is an institution incapable of change. Any time anyone tells you that something is part of the bedrock of our society, it is important to recall that the geology includes some extremely significant moral failures.
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Where I agree with Milo and opponents of change is that it is an extremely sensitive issue which must be handled in a dignified and respectful way on all sides. I also worry that a change to the law can’t be misused by legal activism which seeks to sue churches for not offering services to couples who request a gay marriage.
Milo’s contention is that civil partnerships are sufficient. What is in a word, he asks, when it comes at such a great cost? Why do they need to be called the same thing?
The answer to this is another question, and one which I’ve never had sufficiently answered by opponents of gay marriage:
If civil partnerships are sufficient for gay couples because they provide the same package of rights, is that significantly different from saying that Rosa Parks should have been happy to sit at the back of the bus because it took her to the same place as the white people at the front?