The TV news channel Russia Today's CrossTalk programme for once had a debate (in the above video) I am glad to report on.
"Unimarriage?", on the subject of gay marriage, was a discussion among the UK's prominent gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, UK Independence Party's Member of the European Parliament Godfrey Bloom and Thomas Peters of the USA's National Organization for Marriage who works in Washington DC.
It was introduced thus:
Should same-sex marriages be accepted? What's driving the change in the institution of marriage? Are equal marriage rights democratic? Why aren't civil unions enough for gay couples? And if marriage is about love and the emotional needs of adults, then what about their children?The programme was also exceptional in that the supposedly "moderator" Peter Lavelle did not intervene with opinions of his own.
One of the recurring claims of the conversation was Peter Tatchell's insistence that the right to marry is one of the human rights recognized by the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to deny it to homosexuals violates a principle of equality for all individuals.
But is it true that opposing gay marriage means discriminating and denying equal rights to homosexuals?
Tatchell confuses equal rights with equal treatment. Equality for individuals who are different results in different treatment.
Peter Singer, a moral and political philosopher much respected by the Left and certainly one of the thinkers of our time who will be included in future history of philosophy books, begins his classic work Animal Liberation with a comparison between the objections usually raised against the case for moral equality of animals to humans and the derisive attacks that greeted the publication of early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in the late 18th-century.
One of the most frequent of those criticisms was to highlight the factual differences between men and women (analogous to the possible use of the differences between human and nonhuman animals to counter Singer's argument).
Singer responds to both in the same way: equal consideration of interests (the utilitarian Singer does not use the terminology of "rights") does not require equal treatment. The treatment for different sentient beings, the moral objects, will be different if their interests are given equal consideration (if they have equal rights).
The Australian philosopher says that equality does not entail that dogs have the right to vote because humans do and men have the right to abortion on demand if women do.
The incongruity of the idea that equality requires non-differential treatment in all cases can be seen if we think of, for instance, children not being allowed to drive a car or vote, even if they wanted to: developing the logic of Tatchell's argument to its full consequences would require giving children all the rights that adults have, including, for instance, driving and voting.
In the specific case of marriage, children, close blood relatives, threesomes are not allowed to marry, even if they so wished: are all those persons discriminated against? Most reasonable people would not think so.
This is probably why the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Thatchell invokes in his support does not include sexual orientation among the characteristics that should not limit the right to marry. It says:
Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.Virtually nothing of what Peter Tatchell said throughout the debate had a leg to stand on.
His assertion that polls show that a majority favours same-sex marriage was dismantled with ease by Thomas Peters of the National Organization for Marriage. He explained that in 30 out of the 34 times when people were given the possibility to vote on this they voted against gay marriage. Polls on this subject are not reliable because people tend to say they are favourable to it even when they are not, since they think it makes them look good.
In these Orwellian times when accusation of "homophobia" are thrown so liberally (pun half-intended) it seems a highly plausible explanation.
In addition, "polls claiming a majority support redefining marriage offer those they poll a false binary choice between redefining marriage and no legal recognition whatsoever".
In the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron has been accused by the polling company ComRes to misrepresent its polling data in order to claim popular support for redefining marriage:
Andrew Hawkins, Chairman of the polling company, wrote to David Cameron to “put the record straight” about the number of people who are in favour of the Government’s plans to redefine marriage.Tatchell's presentation of his battle for gay rights as a lonely one could have been realistic a few decades ago, but these days everybody knows that it cannot be delivered with a straight face. Peters pointed out that the three main associations for same-sex marriage in Washington receive many times the money his small organization gets, not to mention Obama's support and the Decmocratic Party's inclusion of legalization of gay marriage in its manifesto. Peters also said he receives death threats.
The Prime Minister had responded to a letter from MP Cheryl Gillan, in which she criticised the proposals. He said that more Tory-leaning voters were in favour of same-sex marriage than were put off by it.
But Andrew Hawkins said his polling showed that redefining marriage was unlikely to win back support from disillusioned voters.
He also said it was “simply not the case” that all the published polls show more voters are in favour of same-sex marriage, something the Prime Minister asserted as fact in his letter.
Mr Hawkins said the level of agreement that marriage should stay as it is, varies between 55% and over 70%.
He said that taking the polling as a whole, it is hard for David Cameron to ignore the fact there is less support for gay marriage than he makes out.
He said “the policy is likely to make it harder to retrieve many former Conservative supporters” and the issue is having a “detrimental effect on local Associations.”
Andrew Hawkins referred to a recent ComRes poll which showed that six out of ten Conservative Party chairmen believed the policy would lose the party more votes than it would gain.
Earlier this week, Chancellor George Osborne said that gay marriage would win the party the next election, a claim quickly refuted by the Coalition for Marriage.
C4M Director Colin Hart said: “Yet again the Government’s spin doctors are trying to claim that redefining marriage is a vote winner. Quite the opposite is true.”
More than 610,000 people have signed the Coalition for Marriage petition to keep marriage as it is.
UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom argued that the gay claims, with which he used to agree, have now gone too far, and threaten other people's liberty, as in the case of Peter and Hazelmary Bull, the Christian husband and wife B&B owners who were successfully sued by a gay couple for offering them two rooms rather than one.
Peters summed up some of the reasons to keep marriage between a man and a woman:
There's an awful lot of civil society -- churches, communities, government -- that is all built to support marriage because marriage isn't easy. It's not easy to get men and women to commit to raising the children they make with their bodies. But that's what civil society has been doing and a healthy society does that. It is difficult and gay marriage makes it difficult for all of civil society to enshrine that value that children deserve a mom and a dad, and that men and women should stick around and love and raise the children they make with their bodies, and the distraction of gay marriage has made it impossible for things like the Catholic Church, for things like political/civil government to give that message and so when you say "gay marriage won't hurt anyone" it already has because now when I try to say "a child deserves both mom and a dad" you jump in and say "that's against equality!" and so you can actually see already that the more gay marriage becomes accepted and enshrined in law the more difficult it will become for the rest of us to communicate this life-saving propagating message for the next generation.We must also not forget how the redefinition of marriage could pave the way to allowing for Islamic polygamy to become acceptable:
Muslim polygamy has been a much more easily accepted practice, with authorities and police in Western countries turning a blind eye to it, than it would have been the case in the past, when people knew what the word 'family' meant, before the time of constant redefinitions of the term to include homosexuals, threesomes, incestuous couples and all the ever-expanding circle of relationships that the concepts of marriage and family must now apply to.