Sorry but love is a right; jewellery isn’t

Comparing not having the right to wear a cross to not having the right to marry the person you love is actually almost as idiotic as comparing gay marriage to slavery.

Well, not really. Obviously, comparing gay marriage to slavery – yes, in any kind of context, drawing any kind of a parallel, before someone inevitably pipes up with “but he wasn’t saying it’s exactly the same as slavery!” – is about as sensible as comparing it to the union of a salt dish and pepper dish, or a pair of socks. We can all hopefully see this, and we’ve all had a good laugh about it. Yet, comparing same sex marriage to not being allowed to wear a cross, pray at work, or discriminate openly against gay people in your B&B, is being argued and debated as if it’s a lot more reasonable. These debates are, on the surface, about the conflict of different minority rights, and there is a debate to be had about which right trumps which. But even though it’s less emotive than the slavery parallel, these kinds of comparisons in rights are almost as much of a logical fallacy.

When a cross-party group of Christians examined whether the things LGB people ask for get more recognition in law than the things Christians ask for, they found Christians’ requests being discarded, and gay people’s requests being granted. So the report declared that “gay people have more rights than Christians.”

This is ridiculous for one glaring, huge reason: Christians – or straight ones, at least – already have the rights gay people are asking for. The right not to be discriminated against by the hospitality industry, for example, or to marry the person you love, or to adopt a child. And gay people – Christian or otherwise – do not have the right to do any of the rights Christians are asking for either.

This is one of the most important arguments in modern politics and it hardly ever gets said: everyone has the same human rights. Human rights are always talked about by those who oppose them in terms of “group A’s rights vs group B’s.” It’s a brilliant way of making everybody disown their own rights because they are only applicable to other people. We hear about the rights of the criminals or accused criminals versus the rights of the victims; the rights of religious people versus the rights of gays.

It’s a nonsense; a complete failure to understand the whole concept of rights, freedoms, and the law. The argument, ultimately, comes down to this: just because you’ve never had to call upon a particular human right in a court of law because you are automatically granted it every day without you having to even think about it, it does not mean that you don’t also have those exact same rights. Just because you’ve never had to call upon the right to a fair trial because you’ve never been accused of a crime, it does not mean someone else getting a fair trial has more rights than you do. Just because you’ve never had to take a B&B to court for kicking you out in the middle of the night because of your sexuality, it does not mean you don’t also have the right for that not to happen to you. And just because you’ve never had to fight tooth and nail for your right to marry the person you love, it doesn’t mean you are being discriminated against when other people get that same right, just because you personally don’t like them having it.

Gay people would have more rights than Christians if, say, on account of being LGB, you magically get the legal right to wear jewellery, headscarves, turbans, or veils to work or school, even if it violates a dress or safety code. But you don’t. Nor can LGB people pray during work hours, discriminate against guests at a B%B on the basis of sexuality, or preach hate and incite violence.

On the other hand, gay people don’t have the right to marry the person they love. But straight people do.

Discrimination means being treated differently from everyone else, not being treated the same as everyone else. Loss of privilege is not discrimination nor is it oppression. Freedom cannot possibly work if we’re not all equal under the law. And most people agree that while love, and the right to marry the person you love, is a sensible thing to consider as a human right, the right to wear a piece of jewellery because it’s symbolic of something you personally find special to work, is not. How many Christians would give up their right to marry in exchange for wearing a cross? Perhaps some. But probably not many. Yet they think the rights LGB people have are somehow better than the ones they have? Please.

The fact is, there really are no sensible arguments against allowing two consenting adults in love to marry. One of the funniest things is that so many of the anti-gay marriage voices like Janice Atkinson (UKIP) and Roger Helmer (a recent UKIP convert) try to paint themselves as being interested in “freedom” and the “role of the state.”

The “it’s not the role of the state!” argument is, of course, as silly as a banana pudding in a hat. Not the idea that the church shouldn’t be part of the state. But the idea that it isn’t already. The Church of England was set up by the state, for personal, political reasons. Christianity was only brought over to this island for political reasons in the first place. Religion and politics are completely intertwined up, and pretending otherwise is just factually incorrect.

If they really want more freedom to be applied to religious institutions though, I’m all for it. No more state support. No more special tax privileges. No more automatic seats in the House of Lords. No more Head of the Church and Head of State being one and the same. No more panic about preserving each and every religion; just like any other business, political party, charity, or pressure group, if enough people choose any given religion, it survives, and if they don’t, it doesn’t. Surely that’s freedom. What is freedom, I’m sure conservative “libertarians” like UKIP will agree, without the freedom to fail?

And of course, no more immediate megaphone being handed to them whenever they have an official view on something: their views can get coverage and agreement or dissent based entirely on their own merit, nothing else. How’s that for freedom of faith?

In fact, this is perhaps the most insidious thing about all this “religion under attack” nonsense being bawled out in Cardinal Keith’s favourite red crayon in the Sunday Telegraph, and in other news outlets like the Daily Mail. The only reason someone like Cardinal Keith is listened to at all is because of the reverential attitude we have to religious opinions, as opposed to secular ones, no matter how unsubstantiated they are, and because of the privileged place religion is given in our society. Without a religious basis for them, would any of these arguments from organisations like the Coalition for Marriage seriously even be put forward, purely on their own merit? Just for fun, let’s have a look. The first argument is this:

Marriage is unique. Throughout history and in virtually all human societies marriage has always been the union of a man and a woman. Marriage reflects the complementary natures of men and women. Although death and divorce may prevent it, the evidence shows that children do best with a married mother and a father.”

Well, this one is quite easy, because no it isn’t, no it hasn’t been, no it doesn’t, and no it doesn’t.

So what’s the next argument?

No need to redefine. Civil partnerships already provide all the legal benefits of marriage so there’s no need to redefine marriage. It’s not discriminatory to support traditional marriage. Same-sex couples may choose to have a civil partnership but no one has the right to redefine marriage for the rest of us.”

This is such a wonderful blob of logical jelly circles it’s actually rather impressive in a terrible, modern-art kind of way. The argument goes like this: marriage is so special, so unique, it cannot ever be changed. But, also, civil partnerships are exactly the same as marriage, they’re just called something else. And the only reason they have to be called something else is because they are between same sex couples, and marriage is not suitable for same sex couples because it’s tradition. And that isn’t discriminatory, even though by its very nature it discriminates, but it’s not discriminatory because it’s always been that way. And obviously, as we all know, anything which has been happening for a long time is automatically not discriminatory on account of how long it’s been going on. Yes, that’s absolutely the way it works. (Apart from anything, how long does something have to go on for it to qualify as a “tradition”? Five years? Ten years? A hundred years? Is Facebook a tradition yet? Because if so, someone had better tell Mark Zuckerberg as he keeps updating it.) And since when was “tradition” automatically more important than progress?

Okay, reason number three:

Profound consequences. If marriage is redefined, those who believe in traditional marriage will be sidelined. People’s careers could be harmed, couples seeking to adopt or foster could be excluded, and schools would inevitably have to teach the new definition to children. If marriage is redefined once, what is to stop it being redefined to allow polygamy?”

The best one. Have they actually just given up by this point? Because you could apply this to any law that’s ever passed. They’re all potentially the thin end of some random scary wedge. Stating that one of the best reasons you can think of to be against same sex marriage is because of hypothetical things that could, in theory, happen at some unspecified point if we legalise same sex marriages is doing very little more than admitting how little there is actually wrong with same sex marriage itself. In other words, even the Coalition for Marriage couldn’t think of four whole reasons why same sex marriage itself is a bad thing.

The closing, rallying cry:

Speak up. People should not feel pressurised to go along with same-sex marriage just because of political correctness. They should be free to express their views. The Government will be launching a public consultation on proposals to redefine marriage. This will provide an opportunity for members of the public to make their views known.”

Er, people are speaking up, and most of us either support gay marriage or don’t really give a toss. It’s only a minority – even within religious groups – who are having kittens about it. Why don’t the public share in the rage? Because, frankly, the chances are that if same sex marriage was legalised tomorrow but nobody reported it in the news, most of the people opposing it would hardly even know it had happened. That’s how little difference it will make to your life, Cardinal.

Minority opinions, which do not stand up to the faintest scrutiny, are given a megaphone in the media because they are founded in religion. Yet the anti-marriage campaigners – for that’s what they are; they are, after all, actively discouraging a huge number of couples from getting married – still think religion is being discriminated against. Why? Because they’re not always allowed to wear their favourite necklaces. Enough of dancing about in a fake pretence that these are equal issues of conflicting minority rights. It’s time to tell any Christian who sees this as “discrimination” or worse to be glad they have so little experience of discrimination and oppression to think that this is it. And then to stop whining and grow up.

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