Today’s topic: Andrea Minichiello Williams writes a blog on the Christian Concern website. Christian Concern is an apt name, because as a Christian, I am concerned. I wanted to provide some rebuttals for some of the things she has posted that I think are flawed arguments, which as a lawyer I am surprised she is not embarrassed about using in her debate against same-sex marriage. Although as a side note, I’d like to point out the hypocrisy of Christian Concern running a campaign to aid marginalised and discriminated against Christians (http://www.christianconcern.com/campaigns/not-ashamed), all the while actually marginalising and discriminating against not only gay christians, but all gay people.
The difference between ‘being the same’ and ‘being treated the same’
Firstly, she wrote this blog post: http://www.christianconcern.com/blog/government-to-introduce-‘square-circles’ which I think is supposed to be funny, but sarcasm and condescension sit either side of a fine line. Her main argument is that if we allow same-sex unions to be called ‘marriages’ then it is basically the same thing as calling a square a circle, under the guise of equality. But, what seems to be misplaced here is an emphasis on semantics. No, a square should not be called a circle, because yes they are different. But, if a square is allowed to eat cereal for breakfast, then a circle should also be allowed. Nobody is stupid enough to not see the differences between a square and a circle, similarly, no-one is stupid enough to see a gay couple and think they are straight. By calling a same-sex union a marriage, we are not trying to fool anyone into thinking they are the same thing, but rather we are trying to show that they deserve equal treatment.
She does it again in another blog post http://www.christianconcern.com/blog/ben-and-jerry’s-melting-away-difference-is-deceptive where she says that you wouldn’t sell frozen yoghurt as ice cream in order to increase sales. But again, calling a same-sex union a marriage is not about pretending it is something that it isn’t. It isn’t about fooling people into thinking it is a heterosexual marriage in order to validate the union, it is rather about same-sex couples being allowed the same rights and blessings for their union as heterosexual couples are allowed. She claims that we need “a clear distinction between [frozen yoghurt and ice cream]” because they are completely different things. Ok, so what if Ben and Jerry’s did sell frozen yoghurt in a tub that said ‘ice cream’ on the front. Wouldn’t any ice cream lover taste it and see it is different, and know it is frozen yoghurt? Similarly, so what if a same-sex union is called a marriage. Wouldn’t anyone looking at it still be able to see that the people involved were homosexual and not heterosexual? The status of ice cream is not threatened by a tub of frozen yoghurt using its name because anyone would know they are different. Similarly, same-sex unions pose no threat to a Christian ideal of marriage, because we can all see they are different things. Yet we would say, frozen yoghurt deserves to be treated the same as ice cream. It still deserves shelf space, people can still choose to eat it, we would all eat frozen yoghurt with a spoon, despite its inferiority to ice cream, it doesn’t mean we suddenly start lapping it up with our tongues like animals. So a same- sex union can be treated with equal respect as a heterosexual union, despite it being less common, or as Andrea Williams would suggest, ‘inferior’.
Is marriage only available to a certain demographic?
She says “the decision to pursue a homosexual lifestyle is a decision to forfeit marriage.” Wow. Firstly, I think we all know that being homosexual is not a choice. Acting on it and living the ‘lifestyle’ is, to some degree, a choice, as it is a choice for a heterosexual person to remain celibate. But imagine it with this analogy. What if all the hair salons in the world would only cut a person’s hair if it was blonde? If your hair wasn’t blonde then you were exempt from having a haircut. And the hairdressers said to you “sorry, but the decision to pursue your brown hair is a decision to forfeit haircuts”. You’d think that was unfair surely. You’d say, well why do I have to change a fundamental part of who I am, the way I was born, in order to be allowed the same treatment as someone with blond hair? I will assume this analogy explains itself.
Secondly, it is all very well for someone of the dominant social group to make assertions like this about the minority group. Andrea is a white, (I assume middle class), heterosexual woman. She is in the dominant group in terms of skin colour, sexuality and presumably class. It’s easy for her to dictate how the minority groups should be, just as it was easy for slavery to happen due to the dominant social group dictating social order. Now, why don’t we transport Andrea back a hundred years. She’s a barrister, a working woman, a sort of power woman as we see them. What if we placed her in a society which capitalised upon her inferiority- being a woman. We put her in a world where men were saying ‘women should not be allowed to work.’ What if we went back further and put her in a world where men were saying ‘women should not be allowed to speak in church.’ She would surely feel frustration at her choices as a woman being impeded by people who don’t understand what it means to be a woman, and who assume a superior status. Of course, woman are well on their way (not quite there yet though!) to achieving equality in our Western society, because we figured out long ago how ridiculous it is to marginalise them based on their gender. Similarly, the gap is closing between ethnic minorities and the white majority, especially on a micro level by which I mean most people wouldn’t believe themselves to be more suited to a job, or more entitled to the last can of beans in the supermarket simply because their skin is white and the other person’s is black.
I would assume that Andrea is not racist, I assume she believes each woman has the right to reach their personal potential, I would assume that she would find the notion of blonde hair only hairdressers ridiculous, I know for a fact that she believes Christians, as a minority, deserve to have their voices heard. So why stop at sexuality? To be boring for a moment, the main protected characteristics according to the Equality Act 2010 (meaning the traits upon which it is illegal to discriminate against people) are: Age, disability, race, religion, gender and… drumroll… sexuality. I shall take a stab in the dark and guess that Andrea doesn’t mind who uses the label ‘marriage’- they could be 16 or 60, they could be in a wheelchair, or be autistic, they could be black or white, they should be christian but in most cases that doesn’t really matter, they can be a groom or a bride. BUT they cannot be two people of the same gender. ONE protected characteristic that Andrea has deemed should be exempt, should not be allowed the same protection as others. I don’t want to bandy around the term homophobic, but it seems to me that there is some discrimination against a certain group of people occurring here.
So homosexual people should just become straight, right?
Ok, last point for this blog post. Andrea tells us that if a homosexual is motivated to do so, then they can change their orientation, found here: http://www.christianconcern.com/blog/homosexuals-can-change-let’s-speak-the-truth-in-love
In response to this, I leave you two things:
Firstly, the heterosexuality questionnaire taken from the pinkpractice website-
1. What do you think has caused you to be heterosexual?
2. When and how did you first decide you were heterosexual?
3. Is it possible your heterosexuality stems from a neurotic fear of people of the same sex?
Point being, an apple can’t stop being an apple and a pear can’t stop being a pear. It would be ridiculous for the apple to turn to the pear and say “you should be an apple so change to become one, because obviously all fruits were originally supposed to be apples”.