Saturday, 18 February 2012

Newsflash: Gays marry, life goes on as usual

Some of you may remember me talking about Peter Saunders a while ago when I was exploring Nadine Dorries' motivations behind promoting various sexual health and reproduction policies against all the evidence. Well, it turns out he was the one peddling the pseudoscience to people with vested interests in the subject, such as the Lawyers Christian Fellowship - he also tried pulling a fast one by commenting on Dorries' Guardian article on the subject by posting a comment in support of the movement without telling anyone about his background or connections which puts a different slant on things when there's so much evident bias.

Well, unfortunately it turns out he's making another effort to limit people's freedoms through the use of dodgy lines of reasoning. This time he's trying to limit the freedoms of LGB people like me because he seems to think his religious beliefs are so special that everyone should be forced to follow them, not simply applying them to his own life and concentrating on saving his own soul.

Saunders opposes same-sex marriage on the grounds of his faith, providing citations from the Bible to back up his viewpoint. He does provide an interesting line of thought here though:
Marriage is also in this way illustrative of Christ’s own self-giving abandonment to his bride the church (Ephesians 5:31, 32) and points to a greater richness of human relationships beyond the grave of which the very best on earth are but a pale shadow.(1 Corinthians 2:9, 10).
So there you have it: necrophilia is more acceptable than homosexual relationships. Very strange, but at least we know how much we're reviled, eh?

The blog post details ten reasons why gay marriage should not be legalised in the UK, all full to the brim with fallacies and misleading information. The first point is the age-old argument of 'marriage has always been between one man and one woman, therefore it's the best option'. This argument is a classic example of the appeal to tradition fallacy and very symptomatic of someone who isn't keen on change - that's fine, nobody is forcing anyone to marry someone of the same sex (or opposite sex, for that matter), but using such a weak tactic to try and reduce the freedoms of others is hardly a sign of intellectual stength or integrity.

Speaking of a lack of integrity, Saunders also tries to mislead readers of his blog when he writes the following:
The UN Declaration of Human Rights (article 16) recognises that the family, headed by one man and one woman, ‘is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State’.
At no point does the UN Declaration of Human Rights state that a family is headed by one man and one woman, that's something Peter made up to try and lend his personal prejudices an air of legitimacy. Article 16 has a clause which says "the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State" - there's no mention of an objective definition of what a family is, that's something which is open to interpretation. I'm hardly the arbiter of what the national definition of a family should be, but to me a family is made up of people who share strong bonds with each other - I'm a child of a single-parent family, does that mean we're not actually a family at all according to Peter Saunders? More than a bit cheeky if so.

The second point says that we've already got same-sex partnerships we should be happy with what we've been given. Sure, we've been given concessions, but that's still not equality since civil partnerships aren't allowed to contain any religious references. Saunders' arguments centre around his particular Christian beliefs, but other religious denominations such as the Quakers and Unitarians want to offer same-sex marriage ceremonies in accordance with their religious beliefs. Far from protecting religion and society, banning same-sex marriage entirely also prevents freedom of religion when allowing it would cause no harm.

Point three: 'redefining marriage without consultation is undemocratic' also known as 'I know people who agree with me, so there'. Interestingly there is an indication that quite a lot of people support same-sex marriage, including 57% of Scottish Catholics and similar proportions have been found in other faiths. So, it seems like legalising same-sex marriage would actually be the democratic decision here - times have moved on, homophobia is no longer given a free pass in the UK.

The fourth argument is as follows: "equality does not mean uniformity". People should have equality of opportunity but that doesn't guarantee equality of outcome (and nor should it, with variety being the spice of life and all that jazz). Funnily enough the concept of 'separate but equal' was used in the US when racial segragation was in effect and is still being used to justify institutional sexism by certain religious officials - it was ridiculous back then and it's gained no respectability in the decades since. It's a famous refuge of the bigot, nobody with a strong and convincing argument would resort to this rubbish - give an eejit enough time to speak and they'll expose their own ignorance, really.

He also goes on to say that "same sex couples do not fulfil the eligibility criteria for marriage, which should be reserved for the voluntary union of one man and one woman for life." And who sets these criteria? That would be the officials involved in each religious denomination. Again, the Quakers and Unitarians say that same-sex couples do meet the criteria and yet this man wants to prevent them from doing so because of his own personal disgust - hardly a democratic decision, is it?

[Update: ...Right, I had to take a break from reading all this ill-informed rubbish and went out shopping for a bit a few hours after Saunders had submitted this particular blog post. Interestingly it has since been taken down from the main blog, Christian Medical Comment, but it is still partially available from two sources, a different music and Anglican Mainstream.

I'd love to direct you to the original blog post in full, but the author has taken it down and left nary a trace - it's not on the Wayback Machine archives either unfortunately. Why? I don't know for sure, but I'm thinking it might have been out of shame or a bad case of internet flaming (entirely possible, given that the first and only comment as of 2pm today simply said "asshole" and nothing more). Still, let's crack on with the other six points as best we can, thanks to the good folks at 'a different music' (keep up the great work, friend!).]

The fifth point is one often used to demonise LGB people: "protecting traditional marriage safeguards children and society". It's grim that I even have to spell this out but we're honestly not dangerous to children. The bisexual behind this keyboard has been teaching maths and physics to much-loved children in British society for a few years without incident or any mention of sexuality. Hell, I'd like to think I've contributed something valuable to others through that work. My sexuality is just one part of who I am among many - I won't morph into some massive horn-crested sex beast if I marry another woman in later years, I'll still be a hair dye-loving science geek who wants nothing more than equality and Half Life 2: Episode 3. Nothing sinister, Peter, but I'd love to know what damage you think it'd do to society - if you're reading please do fling me a message, I'm genuinely intrigued.

The sixth addition to our growing scrapbook of fallacies is "marriage is a unique biologically complimentary relationship". So is a quick knee-trembler behind the bins in an alleyway but I don't see any opponents of same-sex marriage mentioning that when it comes to this line of thought. As for 'biologically complimentary', that's basically code for 'vaginal sex' because the argument sounds less silly when you dress it up in fancy words. Fingers are also quite well shaped for penetration, they're a complimentary shape and everything - does that mean we're okay to marry as well then?
The next point our intrepid campaigner complains about is the expense involved in redefining marriage. That's funny, he didn't seem concerned about the costs concerned with his proposal to ban abortion in all cases including rape and incest. The financial of that policy would be very high indeed but that's not an issue to Peter because it's a plan he likes. Is anyone starting to see a pattern here?

Point eight returns to the 'think of the children' rhetoric, mentioning that schools will have to teach children the new definition of marriage and lamenting the idea that some children might not grow up to be homophobes like their parents. That would be a shame, having them see us as equals rather than subscribing to the idea that we're evil for no reason other than because a bitter and petty deity said so. If these parents are so set on raising their children to believe in their prejudices 'family values' then they could maybe, you know, actually teach them about it themselves rather than relying on other people to do it for them?

Number nine is a gem, plus it mentions bisexuals! Awesome. Let's take a look...
If the legal definition is changed to accommodate same sex couples other minority groups with a vested interest (eg. Muslims, Mormons, Bisexuals and Polyamorists) will have a much stronger case to argue for the legalisation of polygamy and group marriages.
Peter, dear, bisexuals don't want to marry two or more people, we're simply attracted to people of both sexes - getting such a basic term so very wrong is not doing your argument any favours whatsoever. Besides, how is this point even relevant when we're discussing the idea of two people getting married to each other rather than groups of people? The slippery slope argument at its finest, people, and sadly a very common distraction technique in this debate.

Finally, in point number ten Peter exposes his own hypocrisy: "redefining marriage will lead to faith-based discrimination". As mentioned before, the Quakers and Unitarians are already being discriminated against because they're not allowed to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies in according with their faith. They're not causing anyone harm and they'd be creating a net gain in happiness for all involved, so where's the issue?

And there we have it - it's been a very long post but this sort of harmful prejudice needs investigating when it surfaces. Rest assured, if same-sex marriage is legalised then straight couples will still be perfectly capable of having full, loving relationships and the world will continue spinning on its axis as normal. Nothing will change and I'm perfectly willing to bet that opponents of gay marriage won't even know a ceremony is taking place.

Actually, Peter, do let me know if you detected a disturbance in the force or something when I went on a date with another girl a few years ago. The James Randi Educational Foundation has $1,000,000 to offer you if you can so it's not all bad news, eh?


  1. he seems to have something of a bee in his bonnet about gays. Looking at the Google cache for his site there's still no trace of the spectacularly dumb post - presumably it didn't have time to be cached - but I noticed that the "legal can of worms" title gets reused fairly often.

    Peter, Peter, you _know_ what they say about homophobes who are obssessed with gay sex...

    1. It's back up! I've saved a copy of it this time. I'll try and have a look at it later. Rugby first.

    2. I've noticed none of the disclaimers against homophobic abuse or violence made it in there - Saunders suggested he would consider them after I brought the subject up on twitter. The absurd idea that bisexuals would somehow be more interested in marrying more than one person is still in there, but that just reveals his own ignorance on vary basic concepts in this subject.

  2. Yes, that they need to step back and take stock of their current relationship. ;)

    I just don't understand why some people can't leave us alone rather than obssessing over the fact that we don't share the same views or fancy the same people. 'All people are equal but some are more equal than others' is a key theme in these sorts of arguments.

    I noticed the can of worms post while I was browsing through the blog earlier - did you notice he'd put a picture of a can of worms next to it to illustrate his point and make us look revolting at the same time? That was nice of him.

  3. Excellent post. It irritates me to no end when people hide behind the shield of "traditionality" to justify their bigotry.

  4. Three points:
    (1) Clearly all marriage should be banned. Otherwise it's a slippery slope to mass public orgies.

    (2) Someone should send a feisty Muslim woman to the Pope as a little Valentine's Day cock tease.

    (3) Sorry about the second point, I got a bit carried away thinking about orgies.