David Cameron’s grand plan to modernise/liberalise Conservative social thinking, thereby broadening the church of his party to encompass a broad swathe of society who err towards liberal notions of social justice and equality whilst adhering to more traditionally conservative ideas of personal responsibility and economics, looked at the time like a political masterstroke.
But the first acid test of this new socially liberal brand of conservatism has exposed the fault lines of a party that still houses many people who believe religious dogma or nebulous notions about freedom of expression are excuses for the continuation of structural prejudice.
Today’s vote will be revealing of several things: It will show the extent to which David Cameron’s programme of social liberalisation has or hasn’t taken grip within his party, it also gives Labour and the Lib Dems the opportunity to reassert their social justice credentials by turning out strong yes votes.
Backbench Tories have rolled out every excuse in the obfuscater’s handbook to try and get this vote pushed back or abandoned altogether. For those fortunate enough to have missed their illogical blatherings chief among them seems to have been the ‘this isn’t an important issue for most voters’ otherwise known as the ‘there are children starving in Africa’ defence i.e we should only legislate over things people really care about. A defence that falls down in relation to gay marriage in two rather hilariously fundamental ways: a) People do really care about this. b) Parliament spends an inordinate about of time passing incredibly arcane laws.
The former Telegraph editor Charles Moore provided a handy précis of the rest of the conservative arguments against equal marriage on Today: From attempting to forge some kind of technical illegality, stooping so low as to suggest that there was no way to define consummation within a gay relationship and therefore that made equal marriage impracticable.To, without appearing to appreciate the searing irony of his position, imploring us to think of the poor religious bigots (my word, not his) who would be ‘persecuted’ by this law which would compel them in their professional lives to go against their beliefs.
It was a depressing tour-de-force, that not once could counter the defining argument at the centre of the equal marriage debate: how is it it moral to deny a person a right on the basis of their sexuality?
The sad fact is, this isn’t much of an equal marriage bill as is: It bans the established church from carrying out gay marriages (not something Anglicans were consulted on) and doesn’t compel anyone to do it if they don’t want to.
Of course, anyone should be free to disagree with gay marriage, just as you can disagree with gender equality, and racial equality. And if you disagree with it I’d much rather you were able to say without fear of prosecution under asinine and illiberal ‘hate speech’ laws. It’s always helpful for bigots to identify themselves publicly, it makes it much easier to ignore them.
Hold those uninformed views if you so choose, but be under no illusion, you are not free to discriminate based on your beliefs, because your bigoted beliefs, regardless of their provenance, can never trump someone’s right to live a life free from discrimination.
Be under no illusion if you are opposed to gay marriage you haven’t thought it through properly or are adhering to someone else’s view. There are no excuses. In years to come when they make the movie you will be one of the braying morons the audience as-one are booing.
Given that freedom of the individual is at the supposed core of the conservtive ideology, in the opposition of gay marriage it becomes apparent that those ideas are being used by some Tories as a foil to ignore social responsibility under the banner of personal responsibility.
If you believe in freedom of the individual, if you believe in equality, then you can’t oppose equal marriage.