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Wednesday, June 20, 2012
I was chatting with an elderly relative, who leaned in close to say the son of a friend had ‘turned queer’.
This was not delivered as titillating news: but as bad news, as something horrifying.
I briefly considered my reply: ‘So?’ or ‘He hasn’t turned queer, he was always queer. And, anyway, queer is an offensive term.’ I calculated how much arguing I would be required to do to nudge the world view of a man in his early 80s.
I wimped out. I simply said: ‘Well, that’s the way it is nowadays.’ He looked at me askance. ‘Well, I don’t like it.’ It is a truism that as we age change becomes more difficult; and, perhaps, at a certain point, impossible.
Certainly, my relation thought that being gay was self-evidently wrong. He didn’t just think it; he felt it viscerally: disgust was writ large across his features. It is this emotional response that would have been the most tricky to counter.
Last week, Ken Maginnis, a man of similar vintage to my relation, appeared on a radio show in the north to discuss gay marriage. Ken went for it. He described homosexuality as deviant, he said that gay people should seek help and that legalising gay marriage would be a step towards legalising sex with animals.
The Ulster Unionist Party has since withdrawn the whip from Maginnis for his comments. (Though, rather wimpily, the UUP doesn’t have a policy on gay marriage, it’s left up to individual conscience). Maginnis, though, hasn’t backed down and warns of Ulster being overrun with gayness if this sort of thing is encouraged.
Gay-rights advocates aside, much of the criticism Maginnis has received has not been so much for opposing gay marriage, but in the way he expressed that opposition: particularly in creating an equivalency with bestiality.
The consensus seems to be that if he had opposed gay marriage but been ‘respectful’ while doing it, then that would have been OK.
If Ken can throw up mad comparisons, then so can I.
What if this discussion had been about inter-racial marriage? Is it possible to oppose that in a ‘respectful’ way? In a way that would not be construed as racist? In both cases, the fundamental social ideas are the same: adults of all races and creeds should be allowed marry because, as human beings, they deserve the same rights as each other.
If society feels gay human beings should not be allowed marry, then they are not getting full human rights. They are not full humans.
Gay people are either equal to the rest of us or not. It is as simple as that.
In 50 years, when gay marriage is just marriage, that generation will look back and wonder what the argument was about.
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