Two rowdy armies are lined up and ready for a fight. Spears, shields and banners are waved in the air, great generals parade up and down in front of their troops giving them pep talks and revving them for the fight. Jeers and catcalls come from within their ranks, the noise is almost overwealming. They are ready for the fight of their lives. There's only one problem; each army stands in an otherwise empty field. All their screaming and posturing is for nought.
That's the state of the marriage equality debate at the moment.
The churches have amassed a formidable army, through relentless promotion, at C4M. The marriage equality supporters have now, belatedly, begun to martial their forces too, at C4EM. But if you look at the arguments appearing beneath the line on newspaper website and on forums, you'll see that neither appear to be on the same page about what it is they are arguing about.
Take our believing friends. Many can't understand why the Government is going to force churches to marry same sex couples. It's such an overwealmingly obvious attack on religious freedom that they aghast that any Tory-led Government could contemplate such a thing.
That, in case any of you don't immediately realise, is all nuts. The Government is still going to force all churches NOT to marry same sex couples. The proposals on the table are, shamefully, only focussed on civil marriages. They are not even thinking about religious marriage, let alone plotting to force homosexuality into the churches! Hilariously the Government is proposing something of limited scope to avoid upsetting the devout, but didn't really realise just how deluded some of those same people can become when fed with a little misinformation.
Others are concerned that if marriage equality becomes a reality their freedom of speech, to say same sex couples can't get married, will be compromised. Given the recent history of "hate speech" laws going a little over the top, this is not completely without merit. But opposing marriage equality on these grounds before any law has even been put forward for review is a little premature and I think it unlikely that such an outlandish suggestion is going to come to pass.
My favourite comments have been those suggesting homosexuality will become mandatory, a typically OTT reaction that one can only ever find below the line. Brilliant stuff.
On a more serious level the believers debate is about language, about technicalities and "tradition" (the tradition they like of course, not the ones they don't!).
On the opposing side are people talking about love, equality and freedom. But there are also people talking about paedophile priests, dredging up anti-Catholic and anti-Christian bigotry, declaring the country would be a better place if it was free of all these meddling priests and believing sheep. This sort of stuff isn't helpful. Cardinal O'Brien is self-evidently not a very nice person. But let's attack him for his arguments, or lack thereof, instead of for the crimes of his Church or simply for his beliefs.
Right now it's hard to debate because neither side is on the same page. I'm hopeful that the imminent consultation on marriage equality might help show what is really at stake and perhaps allow the fight to commence in a more direct and honest way. The falsehoods from both sides (although my bias definitely sees far more of that from the Campaign Against Marriage) might at least become a little less.
Rest assured I'm in this fight until marriage equality's victory, however long and hard the road may be.
If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist