Barely a week after Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong cited opposition in France to gay marriage as a reason not to do anything about Singapore’s anti-gay law, he was shown up for his piss-scared views by the government of President François Hollande. The French National Assembly approved a key part of Hollande’s Reform Bill that will allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. The French showed that controversy is no excuse for inaction.
With that, the bottom fell out of Lee’s argument.
In Paris, deputies voted 249-97 last Saturday in favour. The remaining articles are being debated, but the overall bill is expected to be passed within two weeks.
In any case, Lee may not realise that despite the noise of the demonstration against gay marriage in Paris, a majority of the French public backs gay marriage. A recent poll for Atlantico.fr magazine carried out by Ifop found that 63 percent of people in France support the legalisation of same-sex marriage. 49 percent supported gay adoption.
Meanwhile in Britain, the House of Commons approved the second reading of a bill to legalise same-sex marriage. See the BBC’s report: Gay marriage: MPs back legislation. Members of Parliament voted 400 to 175 in favour.
Lee Hsien Loong said on 28 January 2013 that even in countries that do not criminalise homosexuality, “the struggles don’t end”, citing the example of a recent demonstration in Paris by those against gay marriage. (There was a subsequent demonstration in favour of it). This is not the first time that he is relying on the argument that since there are hate-spewers around, let’s not antagonise them.
“Why is that law on the books? Because it’s always been there and I think we just leave it,” said Lee, referring to Section 377A of the Penal Code which makes it an offence to have gay sex, even in private.
The myopic might argue that it is not entirely wrong for a government to sit on the fence while controversy rages. This is a very mistaken view that takes no account of the moral difference between the two positions. There is a huge moral difference between fanning discrimination on the one hand and affirming equal dignity and progressivity on the other.
Some anti-gay folks will seize on my use of the term “moral difference” above and reject my argument that equality and non-discrimination have greater worth than their opposites. They may argue that morality is grounded in religious injunction, specifically the injunctions emanating from their churches’ pastors pretending to speak for their god.
While there is indeed a form of morality that springs from religious teaching, when it comes to a secular state, that is not the morality to be used as yardstick.
The Delhi High Court, in the Section 377A case, put it best, saying that courts have to be guided by constitutional morality. These are the noble principles and aspirations enshrined in a constitution, among them equality and non-discrimination. Especially in a secular state, judges must be clear-eyed about what morality they should be guided by. Unfortunately, this is also a more subtle, intellectual argument, without the decibel power deployed by the alliance of anti-gay churches.
The worst part of the latter’s campaign is that by muscling into our politics as a religious group, it is going to do long-term damage to our understanding of a secular state. Koh Weijie has a good article on this.
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The anti-gay crowd often put up arguments that are laughable. They are either logically flawed, contrary to evidence, circular or subjective. Push them hard enough, and you will find that many arguments go no further than a scriptural barricade.
A novel, if rather absurd argument against same-sex marriage recently surfaced in oral hearings before the US Supreme Court, where California’s Proposition 8 is being considered. Opponents of same-sex marriage argued that
- the purpose of marriage is to ensure that accidentally-conceived children are not born out of wedlock;
- since same-sex couples never have accidentally-conceived children, their unions cannot possibly meet this purposive prequalification for the term “marriage”;
- therefore marriage should be reserved to opposite-sex couples.
Los Angeles Times reported this new, mind-blowing development with much sputtering: Marriage exists — for what?
But even so, it is hard to beat the reasoning supplied in a letter to an newspaper by a girl named Jasmin. Click the duck to read it.
Okay, okay, you may point out that the letter about ducks was written by a 14-year old, and we should give her some latitude. Fair enough, but I think the more important point I should make is that the arguments used aren’t much different from those used by our leading anti-gay campaigners — who are adults.
Might they be suffering from arrested development?
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Concerned Christians may be wondering how much damage their anti-gay campaign is doing to the reputation of their faith. Leave the crazy pastors to their echo chambers, and they’d likely go all the way to making gay-hate as much an article of faith as believing in Jesus Christ.
Fortunately, there have always been plenty more Christians who are more thinking and self-reflexive. There is a range of opinions, from those who argue that the church should be fully embracing to those who make a careful distinction between moral teaching and what the law in a secular state should be free to do.
On the latter point, a recent blogpost on CNN noted an interesting finding, which illustrates this:
Forty years after the Supreme Court protected abortion rights in Roe v. Wade, a new survey finds that white evangelicals remain the only major religious group that supports overturning the landmark ruling, even though most such groups find abortion morally wrong.
Slightly more than half (54%) of white evangelicals, according to the Pew Research Center study, favor completely overturning the 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed a woman’s right to have an abortion. No other religious group, including white mainline Protestants, black Protestants and white Catholics, agreed with completely overturning the ruling.
In fact, substantial majorities of white Protestants (76%), black Protestants (65%) and white Catholics (63%) say the ruling should not be over turned, the survey found.
But support for keeping Roe v. Wade intact does not mean these religious majorities believe abortion is morally acceptable.
— Blog: Survey: Few religious groups want Roe v. Wade overturned despite belief abortion morally wrong. Link.
Large numbers of Christians are able to delink their moral views from what they think criminal law should say.
Others, like MP for Tottenham David Lammy (Labour) speaking in support of the bill in England and Wales, apply their Christian-based moral views in support for equality. Note particularly his remarks starting 1 minute 45 secs “Separate but equal is a fraud”, and from 4 minutes 15 secs.
This only shows that the pastors and others leading the current campaign over 377A do not have a monopoly of Christian interpretation. Unfortunately, they are getting so vocal, they drown out others from their faith with differing views. They’ve managed to frighten our prime minister so much, he’s running around with a flapping bottom.