Originally written for The Huffington Post.
Gay marriage will very soon be back on the Westminster agenda. A number of arguments will once again be put with vigour against legalising gay marriage. Many of these will be emotionally charged. This is understandable, as for many, marriage is a particularly emotive issue.
However, some – both in and out of Westminster – will attempt to use that emotion as a smokescreen for the fallibility of their arguments. This should be called out. In 21st century Britain, if you want to deprive a large group of people of a right that really matters to them, you can’t do it by quoting scripture.
As a guide for those who aren’t quite sure if what they are regurgitating is in any way valid, I’ve taken the liberty of picking apart some of the worst arguments that will be put forth for keeping gay marriage illegal.
‘There is no mandate for this debate’
Far be it from me to recommend what I believe is a purely opportunistic Tory progressivism, but if you actually look in the Conservatives’ 2010 equality manifesto, under LGBT you will find a promise to, “consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage.” That’s more of a mandate than for the cuts to the NHS, which, we were promised, would never, ever happen. Tory backbenchers and Daily Mail journalists, desperate to promote democratic accountability, might like to consider campaigning against these instead. Would certainly save more lives.
NB. In case you missed it, a huge public consultation was also carried out with the majority of 228,000 respondents supporting equal marriage.
‘This will lead to a breakdown of the family’
Admittedly, this one is more popular in the US than over here, but it is still wheeled out occasionally. ‘Statistics show’ that as gay partnerships are going up, old-fashioned marriages are declining. Gay marriage will, allegedly, only serve to reinforce the implied link. Repeat after me; correlation does not equal causation. This should be obvious and it doesn’t even (really) need to be said. How many men and women do you personally know that are planning on abandoning their families if civil partnerships are reclassified as marriages? I imagine that it’s a number close to zero.
‘Marriage, in this country, has always been for a man and a woman’
The sentiment behind this declaration is, ‘Things have been like this for a while, so they should stay like this.’ It is not an argument that history looks kindly on. Institutions change with attitudes. Until 1967, sex was, in the eyes of the law ‘for a man and a woman’ and few are arguing to overturn the Sexual Offences Act that kicked off the legalisation of homosexuality. Voting was once for men. Housing was once for whites. Tradition can be overturned and we can all be better off for it. This is not controversial.
So if you’re looking to oppose gay marriage, make sure you’re not planning on using one of the aforementioned arguments. Also, try to avoid words like ‘sick’ and ‘abhorrent’, as they really aren’t going to help your case amongst the ‘decent, hard-working’ people you’re no doubt seeking to appeal to. Once you’ve taken these rebuttals into account, if you really are stuck for an argument against gay marriage, perhaps consider that maybe, just maybe, there’s a reason for that.
Edit(s) made on upload to theCharadian: two typos fixed.