Hypocrisy is the greatest flaw in the structure of any argument. Give a man confidence and a clear voice and he can argue against facts and figures and still be believed. Politicians are the greatest practitioners of this peculiar art, able as they are to hold positions with conviction while in ignorance of science and reason. In a sane world the measuring of a position against the truth would decide its merits but often it is hypocrisy, or the appearance of hypocrisy, that can put down the most oiled of arguments.
Holding the above wittering to be true then some reasoning may exist for the non-appearance of any censure or criticism of the Russian State Duma’s decision to ban ‘gay propaganda’. While the Russian government deserves the most withering criticism possible, any British government figure that utters such will be committing gross hypocrisy.
At first glance you might suggest that Russia, where homosexuality has only been legal since 1993, is far behind the British model of tolerance and integration. Yet until a decade ago we had our very own ‘gay propaganda’ law in the misshapen form of Section 28, a law that a member of our current dominant political party praised during last years debate on equal marriage.Yet such rubbish is not just consigned to neanderthal back benchers. The proposed marriage bill itself is flawed, writing in protection from ‘persecution’ for certain religions. Rather than simply allowing religious organisations to chose whether or not to hold ‘gay marriages’, the logical extension of ‘if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get one‘, the proposed law would actually make it illegal for certain religions to hold gay marriage ceremonies. The idea that this is to protect religious institutions from being forced to hold such a ceremony is farcical, although not as farcical as having the whole shebang announced by an equalities minister who’s voting record includes a stance against allowing gay people to adopt and is in favour of defining homophobia as an extension of freedom of speech rather than a hate crime.
Yet it isn’t just the British government that is hypocritical on the issue of LGBT rights. A review of the media coverage of the aforementioned marriage bill reveals that the press, and by extension its readers, are guilty too. As the collapse of traditional marriage, whatever traditional marriage is, was mooted in print it was interesting to note on a basic level the language used. For what is a highly personal issue there was a forcible lack of personal pronouns. Comment pieces, editorials and letters were pock marked with phrases such as ‘gays shouldn’t be able to marry’, ‘the rights of gays‘ and most offensive of all, comments about ‘gay choice‘. Everyone seemed to have missed that in the middle of the debate was a group of people. People who happen to be homosexual and might in some cases like to get married. The pluralisation ‘gays‘ was a vulgar use of language at best and nowhere was heterosexual marriage referred to as ‘straight marriage‘ or heterosexual people as ‘straights‘. How people write and speak on issues is often indicative of their prejudices. Linguistic insinuations that being gay is somehow a lesser state than being straight or that it is a choice away from a sexual norm were something that came to typify the equal marriage debate.
Of course there is no denying that when compared to Russia or Saudi Arabia or Nigeria British laws and attitudes can boast some superiority. LGBT discrimination is illegal, although religious organisations seem to be able to bypass this at times, and homophobia is at least publicly unacceptable and rightly scorned. However one must ironically paraphrase Jesus here because if we want to truly tackle the archaic homophobia present elsewhere in the world we need to correct that which still exists here.
The ‘speck’ in our eye may be small but it is still significant. Let us not forget that the ‘father of the computer’ Alan Turing, who was driven to suicide after his persecution and punishment (chemical castration if you were wondering) for being homosexual has yet to be pardoned because he was ‘properly convicted of what at the time was a criminal offence…’ If we can’t get the symbolic gestures right how can we be expected to build a society where there really is no persecution on the grounds of sexuality.
In 1996, long before Iraq and WMDs Tony Blair was that endangered species, a half decent politician. In his work ‘New Britain: my vision of a young country‘ he set out, as the title suggests, his pre-election vision for Britain under New Labour. Blair, an equally rare example of a man of strong Catholic conviction who doesn’t seem to have a problem with homosexuality, had previously voted in favour of lowering the age of consent for homosexual couples and would go on to repeal Section 28. In the book he provides perhaps the best quote on gay rights of any modern mainstream politician,
People are entitled to think that homosexuality is wrong, but they are not entitled to use the criminal law to force that view upon others… A society that has learned, over time, racial and sexual equality can surely come to terms with equality of sexuality.
It is distressing that one must go back nearly two decades to find such a quote. Yet it encapsulates what we should demand from our leaders. Words of real equality and action to match are the only way Britain will end up a truly inclusive society. Once we reach that point perhaps we will be able to talk about in the injustice of other nations without our words flying back to meet us.