Thursday, 5 August 2010

What can the Prop 8 fight teach us in the United Kingdom?

California and the United Kingdom are completely different in both social and legal terms. The fights for marriage equality in the two different jurisdictions may as well be held on different planets. In California it is organised and “militant” against powerful, organised opponents. Here in the United Kingdom it's disorganised and... well.. most gay men, lesbians and bisexuals don't really care, it's brutally honest I know but we must not deceive ourselves. Despite what the loony homophobes might say, the LGBT “community” in the UK is not “militant” and is quite happy to just get on with life. The hurt wounds have been bandaged over the last decade and few have much fight left in them. Our opponents are weaker than in the USA and, perhaps, more unready for any fight.

Which gives those of us still fighting for equality a pause for thought. What can we learn from California's Prop 8 campaign in 2008?

It's not about getting an organised campaign in the same way as California. I just don't think there's the groundswell of feeling necessary for that. And it's not about money. What it is about is knowing what the opponents of marriage equality will do in order to keep equal rights from those who want them.

In California, Prop 8 supporters (as evidenced by this recent report) were quite willing to fear-monger and spread lies to get their way. If we are to ensure that their allies don't try the same here, during the run up to any legislative action to get marriage equality, we must be prepared to pre-empt and counter these lies.

The main lie was all about religious freedom. In California Prop 8 advocates claimed, erroneously, that marriage equality would force religious organisations to hold same sex marriages on their premises. Of course, as the treatment of divorcees in the Catholic church shows, this is patently untrue. Marriage equality is, however, a religious freedom issue; there are now several religious orders that want to conduct same sex marriages. The Government's ban is what is hurting that freedom, not the prospect of marriage equality.

Another tactic is the “won't somebody think about the children” defence. In California the following advert was used to support the ban on marriage equality:

As you can see it works on the basis of appealing to the residual fear and prejudice in even the most kind heterosexual parents. “Your children will be taught it's okay to be gay. Homosexuality is a choice. Your child might turn gay.” It is important we get out and say that this is not an education issue. Homosexuality is not a behaviour that can be taught. This is an issue about the freedom for adults to marry who they wish. It's a message that must be clear and must be heard loudly.

It is important we ensure our Parliamentarians are contacted NOW so that these issues are clear in their minds. That is why I keep going on about writing to your MPs and other representatives. If you really support marriage equality then you simply must do it. If we don't tell them our side, you can be damn well sure the Churches and other religions will tell them theirs.

It is also important to rebut arguments. Don't let these arguments stand, be it in newspaper adverts or on comments on blogs. Respond and correct, politely of course, wherever you encounter erroneous arguments. Don't delay or think someone else will do it.

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist


Alan said...

I guess I am one of the gay men who didn't really care. For me civil partnerships were enough. I am beginning to change my mind. You have put forward powerful arguments. And in the USA, Chad Griffin today was magnificent -
I now realise that there cannot be grades of equality. I am glad that the coalition government, and the Labour leadership candidates, are thinking about the issue. And I am impressed by the American judiciary in California who have overturned proposition 8. Interesting debates lie ahead.

Paul Brownsey said...

"Despite what the loony homophobes might say, the LGBT “community” in the UK is not “militant” and is quite happy to just get on with life. The hurt wounds have been bandaged over the last decade and few have much fight left in them." That's an interesting comment, Jae, and it chimes with something in my own recent experience.

Glasgow University, where I worked until last december, recently awarded an honorary degree to Archbishop Mario Conti, the RC Archbishop of Glasgow, who has gone out of his way to express strong anti-gay sentiments. That the University should thus honour him was the more troubling in that RC bishops in Scotland appear to be more forceful than those in England about trying to influence legislation that all are to live under. I tried to get the staff LGBT network to protest about this. Well, they did, but no-one seemed much angered by it and I had the impression that quite a lot of people couldn't quite see why one might want to protest, saying things on the lines of, "Well, you'd expect him to say that and it's his view." As someone who developed his gay anger in the 1970s I was left wondering whether I was making a mountain out of a molehill or whether the present generation is just too spiritless in the cause.

Jae said...

Well I'm very happy if anything I've said has moved you on this issue, Alan. It's nice to know I'm not completely screaming at nothing!

Paul, that is very common situation. At my last company (public sector), there were 20 of us in the LGBT group. There were 4 of us "radicals" (the chairman and chairwoman included) and the rest just wanted... well I never understood what the rest were there for. They didn't want anything to change and seemed more interested in discussing our "launch party" than actually solving issues within the company. *sigh*

Coming from a late nineties background, I knew plenty of radical people then, and I was the more conservative hanger on. Never would I have imagined they would just disappear and leave me (from that group anyway!) to take up the fight a mere 10 years later. I think "The Fall Of The Gay Liberation Movement" might make for an interesting study!