peterbirks: (Default)
I'm a staunch atheist and a vociferous supporter of equal treatment for gays in all areas, but I do feel that the people who voted against this measure are being unfairly stigmatized in a fashion that is not suitable to anyone who claims to be socially tolerant and liberal.
If you see marriage as a religious institution rather than a legal institution, one "sanctified by god and by god alone", then you could be a strong supporter of gay rights and yet still feel unable to vote in favour of gay "marriage", because (their argument would go) they simply cannot do so because they believe the institution of marriage to be something unique to a man and a woman. That isn't homophobia (the most common accusation) or bigotry (the second-most common accusation). It's a deeply held belief (no matter how misguided from some people's point of view) based on an interpretation of the Bible.
One aspect of which Britain (in particular, I think, London) is justifiably proud is a willingness to accommodate different beliefs, so long as those beliefs do not seriously impact on other people's lives. None of the MPs who voted against gay marriage are planning to launch mass protests, or to picket gay marriage ceremonies. They are simply saying that, as a matter of conscience, vote in favour.
"Groupthink" is becoming nastily fashionable on the left -- it's a strain of politics that does not sit easily with my belief in social liberalism (perhaps even social libertarianism) and "live and let live". Not only does the law start to say how you must act; the Groupthinkers want it to say how you must think.
Sure, there may be some bigots and homophobes amongst that minority who voted against gay marraieg (OK, let's face it, there probably are), but that does not make every single one of those who voted against a bad, evil, person who should not be tolerated in the current political system. Already a significant minority of people in this country are effectively disenfranchised because their views (on race, homosexuality, immigration, whatever) are now illegal to express. Some people want to extend this to virtually everything that they don't agree with themselves.
That is the Orwellian future that one MP referred to in the debate yesterday. It's not an invalid fear. Others on the liberal left: There are people who hold views that are different from ours. We should not seek to bar them from speaking or insult them personally as "bigots" for saying things with which we disagree. That way lies fascism.

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