David Cameron has been trying to build bridges with gay people. Now whether this is a cynical piece of electioneering or not isn't entirely relevant; the message that comes out of the modern Conservative Party is that the dark days of the 1980s, Section 28 and all that, are over. A poll for Conservative Home of prospective Tory MPs shows that a healthy 62% believe gay couples should have the same rights as married couples (though I wonder if that includes DC's proposed tax breaks for marrieds only?) which is quite encouraging for a more progressive Tory Party.
The Mail and the Telegraph, though, steadfastly stick behind the Thatcher doctrine of Section 28, and call it a ban on 'promoting homosexuality'. Which it wasn't. It was a ban on portraying gayness as equivalent to hetereosexuality, not promoting it at all. It wasn't a ban on Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin; it was a ban on teachers being able to say to kids in class that having gay feelings was OK. As such it was one of the most illiberal pieces of Thatcher-era legislation, and something which made the Tories rightly despised by quite a lot of moderate folk who objected to the rabid dogma.
Now while the Tories appear to have changed, with Cameron's apology, and openly gay MPs and candidates (and yes, openly gay rubbish Tory bloggers), their cheerleaders in the press seem to be dragging their feet. They're not so sure their readers are as progressive or as liberal as the modern Conservative Party is making itself out to be. Maybe they're not sure the blue-rinse brigade is ready to accept or, to use that ghastly word, 'tolerate', gayness...? I don't know but I think that would be a mistake - you underestimate older people at your peril; they've lived long lives, seen a whole load of things and will have encountered all kinds of folk. I reckon they're a lot more liberal than they're often made out to be. But that's an aside.
Cameron is quoted in the Telegraph as saying this:
He said one of his "proudest" moments as Tory leader was telling the annual party conference in 2006 that they had a duty to support a "commitment to marriage" among men and women, between a "man and a man, and a woman and a woman".
That's the same Telegraph, though, that can't bear to bring itself to use the word wedding without inverted commas when talking about same-sex relationships in this especially sneery piece by Martin Beckford:
Homosexual 'weddings' should be celebrated in church, says Chris Bryant
Homosexual "weddings" should be celebrated in churches, a Government minister has said in defiance of religious teaching.
Yes, this is looking like a balanced and fair article already - in defiance of religious teaching! What next, they'll be allowing pork sandwiches at church fetes, IN DEFIANCE OF RELIGIOUS TEACHING? Imagine that!
Chris Bryant, who once posed in his underpants on a gay dating website, said he wanted clergy to be "much more open" to the idea of treating civil partnership ceremonies like traditional marriages.
And the relevance of that is...? Oh, there isn't any. You just want to look down at your nose at someone for being gay. I see. Well do you want a round of applause? I bet that intro took all of ten seconds to think up and you must be very proud of it. Yes, he did once do that, and the relevance to the story...? Go and help me out, go on, tell me the relevance. No...? He, like the Conservative leader, wants a more progressive stance on same-sex partnerships. So how does the posing in underpants prove that? I'm sure Beckford's never done anything, ever, in his past, which might embarrass him. Oh no. He must have lived a spotless life. But of course if he had, he wouldn't mind it being brought up, completely irrelevantly, every time he was mentioned? That would be fair enough, wouldn't it?
It comes as the Government is pushing through an Equality Bill that religious groups fear will force them to give jobs to homosexual youth workers or secretaries, even if their faith maintains that same-sex relationships are sinful.
Look at the language - pushing through, force. And imagine the 'fear' of having to employ someone who's perfectly capable to do the job! Imagine that fear! Imagine the 'fear' of having to give a job to someone on merit rather than being able to reject them on the basis of knuckle-dragging beardy-sky-man prejudice! Horrors! Yes, they are the poor victims in this, aren't they, people who'd like to reject perfectly good candidates for jobs on the basis of their sexuality. Why would any gay person want to work for someone so disgustingly prejudiced and nasty anyway? Unless it was to piss them off. In which case, good.
Uponnothing has a look at the Mail's attitude towards David Cameron's Section 28 Damascene moment, and as you'd expect, they're not entirely happy about the turnaround from their beloved Thatcher's supposed attack on Loony Leftness, either. That same word 'promotion' pops up again:
So, again, Section 28 (according to the Daily Mail) tried to outlaw the promotion of homosexuality, but it has never been about promotion, merely an open, fair understanding and acceptance of difference. Why James Chapman puts promotion into the headline and into the information box is to make it sound crazy that the Conservatives now appear to be in favour of promoting homosexuality in schools, when the issue has never even been about promotion, just education.
The comments under the Mail story, of course, make pretty grim reading. Many people seem convinced that homosexuality is wrong, and bad, and Loony Labour was 'promoting' it in the 1980s. Not all, but many.
I mean it's not as if even 'promoting' homosexuality would turn straight people gay, is it? Is it...? Ah.
Suddenly it's become fashionable for middle class girls to kiss each other. And, says TV reporter Penny Marshall who investigated the phenomenon, it has been created (surprise, surprise) by cynical,publicity-hungry celebrities...
Oh, please. As if there was no such thing as teenage sexual experimentation, or omnivorous appetites, until Madonna kissed Britney Spears (and Christina Aguilera, but no-one remembers that, do they?). What planet are these Daily Mail people on? Mind you, as a piece of unwitting Mail self-parody, this next paragraph is hard to beat, when describing two teenage girls who kissed each other:
Both girls come from smart homes with professional parents, are well-spoken and attend a well-respected Inner London day school.
Yikes! You mean even *middle-class* kids are capable of being turned into evil homosexuals by the power of Katy Perry? Oh noes! Haha, wonderful.
And there is something rather encouraging as well at the bottom of this rambling, nonsensical, rubbish article. The highest rated comments go like this:
This is just ridiculous. Who are these paents who are 'worried'? I'm a parent, and I'd much rather my teenage daughter kissed a girl and liked it than felt coerced into having sex with boys, as the less 'sexually confident' girls of previous times did.
- Flic, Manchester UK, 1/7/2009 10:22
Oh my God, who in their right mind would be "disturbed" by this?! Girls have been kissing each other since the dawn of time, not since 2003! And why is it only a problem when "middle class" girls do it?
- Victoria, London, 1/7/2009 12:40
One big problem about this article - it assumes that being gay is a bad thing.
So what if girls want to kiss each other?! Or boys want to kiss each other?
If they don't like doing it they will stop!
- Will, London, 1/7/2009 12:27
So there we are. While the Telegraph and Mail might think their readers are dyed-in-the-wool tut-tutters, I'm not so sure. Like I said earlier, I think the Conservative Party are moving in the right direction, ie waking up to the 20th century. It's about time newspapers did, too.
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