But for something that happened today worthy of comment, I would be otherwise reluctant to return to the subjects of equality and gay marriage, since I have said a lot on these subjects already and I find labouring such points can be counter productive. My credentials as an equality champion speak for themselves and if folk want to know what these are then they are invited to check out my “Outside the Camp” and its sequel “Onward and Upward” books. My views on gay marriage, along with reasons, are included in my “The Gay Conundrum” book, and I do not wish to repeat these here. Part of my cultural commentating is that the equalities agenda has come to take precedence over other agendas in certain quarters, such that folk acting / speaking according to conscience can fall foul of the system. This too I have written about, e.g. my last blog relating to the subject was titled “Protecting religious liberty”. As much as I value equality and diversity, I value truth and righteousness more.
The event that sparked of the line of thought that follows was something posted on Facebook that had the title “Caroline Dinenage, New Equalities Minister, Voted Against Gay Marriage”. I decided to share this on my own timeline and cheekily added the comment “so what”. The organization that initiated the posting was “The Huffington Post” and I read some of what it writes because it helps give me the wider view I believe is so important. A day or so earlier it had posted an article “Priti Patel, New Employment Minister, Wants To Bring Back The Death Penalty” and I was tempted then to share my dissent because it seemed to me liberal types were once again pressing points that I felt were barely relevant, compared with the many issues they could be pressing, and that was also my gripe in the past against some political parties.
Often when I do post something on Facebook, I get little or no response, and sometimes that applies to something fairly controversial or challenging that I happen to feel strongly about. But this time I did get responses, mostly along the lines that it was inappropriate (stronger language was used) for someone who voted against gay marriage to become the Equalities minister. That adverse reaction was borne out when I read the readers comments section of Pink News, to reports on the same story. I should say that while I respect my friends challenging my belief that how Ms Dinenage voted on Gay Marriage should not impact on her suitability to be an Equalities Minister, I disagree. However, if it does cause a lack of confidence for a section of the community (i.e. LBGT) who suffer inequalities then I might think again.
It seems to me that along with being able to do the job there needs to be a commitment, not just to see the letter of the law carried out but also the spirit of the law, and if that is a problem then perhaps someone else should be appointed. I suspect if I had been offered such a post, I might think hard before accepting if my personal beliefs could be a barrier, as I suspect in this case it will be given how the government has pushed gay marriage. As far as I am concerned (and I know some will strongly disagree) gay marriage is not an equalities issue. There are all sorts of things barred to different sections of society that most of us accept. For example, we don’t allow minors to vote, we detain some who are mentally incapacitated, we may take children away from their parents if we deem them unfit and we deprive prisoners of certain freedoms. Recently, the matter of three way marriage was raised and the Green Party leader said she would consider it. Logically, if marriage was an equalities issue she would be right to do so but why stop there? But some, like me, see marriage as an institution ordained by God at the beginning of the history of humankind for the benefit of society, and it was to be between a man and a woman, whatever society says.
Parliament may well decide to redefine marriage, and it has done so with the dust having hardly had time to settle, but what about those who disagree (as one may do on any number of laws that are passed)? Even though the law needs to be obeyed, it is wrong for people to have to agree to do something that in all conscience they cannot do (e.g. if a teacher refuses to teach gay marriage in a gay affirming way, should he/she be disciplined, as some sections of the community have been pressing?) and therein lies a conundrum, especially if tackling societal inequalities is our goal. One of my concerns is that each week we read of some story or other of someone being punished because of their beliefs (some I have blogged about). Having an Equalities Minister that understands where the gay marriage dissenters (and the law allows for such) come from ideologically may be a positive thing, for a society that accepts equality for gay folk and religious folk (some are both), provided these act within the constraints of the law, yet accepting they can freely act according to their beliefs as well, is a healthy one.
Footnote: Hot off the press are reports that Caroline Dinenage has done a U-turn and now supports gay marriage. The referred to article is self explanatory and I will refrain from adding further comment. I await the Pink News version to help redress any balance.