Opinion: Make no apologies for religion on equal marriage

If there’s one thing that really irks me about the Tory leadership’s rightful defence of equal marriage, it is this constant, almost apologetic necessity to seek to justify the position by reminding everyone that ‘religious freedoms’ will in no way be encroached upon by this piece of legislation. In his albeit heartfelt endorsement of allowing gay people to enter into “a great institution”, David Cameron was at pains to remind us that any religious groups who oppose the reform will not be forced to hold same-sex marriages.

In a country where the church-going population barely exceeds 10%, it is a strange insistence to be making repeatedly. It seems almost as if the government has been deceived by the vocalness of the bigots, so much so that it is convinced of the need to appease these antiquated institutions and their outdated views.

Part of the issue, no doubt, is that Tory MPs have been allowed to hijack this policy and construe it into a matter of so-called ‘religious freedom’, a nifty get-out-of-jail-free card which allows them to oppose equality whilst holding off accusations of homophobia and bigotry. In many ways it’s comical seeing these MPs develop, overnight in some cases, such a high regard for preserving Church doctrine, as if they were the voices of the CofE within the Commons.

Far less laughable, is the reality that a great swathe of backbenchers are being allowed to hide behind this argument, when their principal objection is not one of religious pedantry, but is just prejudice like any other, a belief that gay people cannot and must not be allowed to marry. Peter Bone MP couldn’t have demonstrated this to greater effect when he suggested this week that teachers would be forced into suggesting that same-sex relationships were of equal value to heterosexual ones. Religious concern? Do me a favour, that’s homophobia plain and simple.

The point worth making, which in the present climate seems taboo, is that sure, religious freedoms are important, but why must the debate centre on extending gay equality within a context of not upsetting the Church? Surely the fundamental ‘freedoms’ of somebody who is born a certain way ought to take precedence over those of somebody who has, ultimately, made an active and conscious decision to practice a faith.

The government holds a misconception that large parts of British society hold sympathy with the church’s view, though I suspect this is more to do with the Tory party fearing a backlash from the right at the 2015 election. Equal marriage will happen, and champions of equality everywhere can take pride and joy in that fact. Sadly, however, if this debate has taught us one thing, it is that the ‘modern’ Conservative Party has far from thrown off its label of the ‘nasty party’, and in spite of the efforts of a more liberally-inclined leadership, still contains large swathes of members and MPs who are both stuck in the past and increasingly out of touch with the people of Britain.

If malicious policy decisions over student fees and disability benefits weren’t enough to convince the British people that the Tory party are out of touch, then this latest, and unashamed display of bigotry surely must.

* Olly Hudson is a party member from South Wales

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50 Comments

  • I couldn’t agree more.
    The shameful display of barley concealed homophobia in the HoC this week has shown the world a very undignified face of britches politics.
    When you compare the debate in our HoC to the one in Uragay this week what a differenc!
    the only thing that will happen when equal marriage is legalised is gay people will get married. The sky will not fall in, churches won’t fall down and there will not be a rush to ECoHR like the eupo & homo phobes of the tories think!

  • Generally I agree with the thrust of your argument Olly, but I think it’d go down better if you avoided co-opting the language of the aggressive, anti-religion crowd. ‘Antiquated’, ‘outdated’…it’d be a lot easier to take your thoughtful comments seriously if you avoided descending to the same level of intolerance as shown by those on the opposite side of the fence.

    W e should be working constructively with the fair-minded majority of decent religious folk who I believe are perfectly happy to see equal marriage go through. Positivity and understanding are key to this, and help maintain our party’s unique position as one that can extend across all faiths & none.

  • Religious freedoms can be met by simply ensuring that the law explicitly gives religious groups the option to carry out marriage without the obligation to do so. The “legal protections” being offered to the Church of England and Church in Wales by making it illegal are not required, and in the case of the Archbishop of Wales have been described as a step too far.

    This is not rocket science and is, in my opinion, a clear sop to the Tory right…..

  • coldcomfort 13th Dec '12 - 4:35pm

    Steve & Colin are right. There is no justification for exempting Anglicanism from the right to conduct marriages between whatever couple present themselves. Individual religious institutions should have the freedom to make a choice & be exempt from ‘discrimination’ charges if they decline. And one group should NOT be given precedence over any other. As a white heterosexual of no particular faith should I be given the ‘right’ to get married in a Mosque or Synagogue? Don’t be absurd. There is too much emphasis on ‘rights’ and nothing like enough on obligations.

  • Paul in twickenham 13th Dec '12 - 5:11pm

    It seems self evident that anyone who wants to get married in a church which then tells them that their relationship is disgusting and will not be officiated in their premises should reconsider their affiliation to that church. Why would you subscribe to a church that regards you as a sinner in grave risk of eternal hellfire? That sounds like a recipe for terrible cognitive dissonance.

  • Richard Church 13th Dec '12 - 5:16pm

    It’s the year 2042.

    The headline in the online press is that her Ladyship the Archbishop of Canterbury has been arrested together with a gay couple for attempting to conduct a same sex wedding in Canterbury Cathedral. A strange anachronism in our law prevents gay marriage in two small sects of the Christian faith called the Church of England and the Church of Wales. Historians have compared it with another antiquated law that prevents the heir to the throne marrying a Catholic, but that had just been repealed after 29 year old Princess Diana got married to her Catholic partner Mary in Westminster Quaker Meeting House to the delight of King William and Queen Kate.

    Following the insistence of the Liberals in the coalition government, a Religious Feedom Bill to end this injustice has been laid before parliament. Some Conservative backbenchers have objected claiming this bill should not be a priority because the public care about more important things like taking Britain out of the United Nations. ‘The census published this week shows that only 5% of people follow these sects’ said Peter Bonehead MP ‘As Conservatives it’s time this coalition government stood up for the majority who want to get married in their local registry office and stop pandering to these tiny minorities’.

  • The Churches have been able to discriminate about who has a church marriage for years. For example some denominations will not allow divorcees a church wedding (even the future King and head of the CofE!)

    The fundamental issue is about the STATE not discriminating about who is allowed to be married.

  • I would point out that marriage is a “belief” in itself, which several couples object to adhering too (hetro cps should be offered). The state merely “licences” the belief in the same way we do charities for tax and legal benefits. Its not obvious why one form of consentual relationship is superior to others for liberal and secular outlooks?

  • I think this is very illuminating, it seems neither the CofE or the Church in Wales asked for, or we’re consulted regarding the ‘special’ status the legislation gave them…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/dec/13/anglican-church-protests-gay-marriage-ban

  • I wonder what a difference in reaction there would be between
    “Surely the fundamental ‘freedoms’ of somebody who is born a certain way ought to take precedence over those of somebody who has, ultimately, made an active and conscious decision to practice a faith.” Or “Surely the fundamental ‘freedoms’ of somebody who is brought up in a certain way ought to take precedence over those of somebody who has, ultimately, made an active and conscious decision to practice a particular form of sexuality.”
    To me they are just looking from opposite ends of the telescope. Don’t we as liberals believe in personal choice when it comes to sexuality, but we do when it comes to religion?

  • Foregone Conclusion 14th Dec '12 - 1:04am

    We have an Established Church. Parliament makes rules for it, confirming what it decides for itself and enshrining it in law. This is effectively what’s happening here. If you support disestablishment, well fine – I’m minded that way after the debacles of the last couple of weeks (I am not an Anglican in any case). But it’s hardly outrageous for an institution which prides its ties with the state to have that special position acknowledged in legislation, especially since it is the only denomination with the right to marry a couple without the presence of a registrar.

    What is truly bizarre is the inclusion of the Church of Wales. The last Liberal-Conservative coalition disestablished that after the Great War – or has this escaped the notice of civil servants? Perhaps the Liberal Democrat History Group could set them straight…

  • Geoffrey Payne
    ” Most countries in the rest of the world have not had that debate and are totally mystified by what is going on in the western world.”
    The far eastern world tends to be more tolerant when it comes to the question of homosexuality but there isn’t any gay marriage.Whether these countries become forced to accept it due to western neo-imperialism remains to be seen.

  • @Foregone
    But they have not decided this for themselves. The issue has not been decided at Synod and the Bishops were not consulted as to the quadruple lock.

  • John Broggio 14th Dec '12 - 11:39am

    The important difference with an established church is that they, like Registrars, enact a state function. If the function changes to include same sex couples then they have to conduct that function for all who present themselves or give up the function. Equalities legislation means all are (or should be) equal before the law and no-one should be barred from a state legal function they provide.

  • @John Broggio
    Sorry but you are wrong. The established Church do need to carry out their functions to all who present themselves and never have. For example divorcees can be re-married in a CofE Church but only if the Priest in Charge agrees.

  • David Evans,
    I’m sorry but there IS a difference between sexuality and religion. Yes you can be influenced in religious belief, but it remains a personal choice in the end. Sexuality is natural, and cannot be chosen or even ‘practiced’ as you say, for you cannot opt out of being gay, it’s what you are, and to attempt to do so is to suppress your own nature, which breeds all kinds of mental health problems etc.

  • Sorry my response to John Broggio should read “do not need” not “do need”..

  • Helen Tedcastle 14th Dec '12 - 11:08pm

    I may the only Lib Dem on this thread who finds this article extremely unhelpful in the debate over marriage. The language is overly aggressive and is riddled with assumptions and accusations of homophobia and bigotry towards those who disagree with the writer.

    The fact that church attendance is falling is not actually a good measure of attitudes towards gay marriage.

    In the 2012 Census, nearly 60% of adults still describe themselves as Christian – most may not attend a church and a good number may not agree with the church view on gay marriage but their identity is bound up with a religious belief, which should be respected not treated as ‘fair game’ by those who do not agree with religious opinion.

    Of course a combined 10% or more belong to other religious groups like Muslims, Hindus, Jews, the majority of whom belong to orthodox branches which agree with the Cof E and RC churches on marriage.

    It is as well I would hope, to be sensitive in one’s use of language and tone when we seek to sign up members of these traditions as members and activists…

    It’s not really a very clever idea to condemn those who wish to safeguard religious freedom as bigots or Tories.

  • Alex Matthews 15th Dec '12 - 11:40am

    “The far eastern world tends to be more tolerant when it comes to the question of homosexuality but there isn’t any gay marriage”

    I know more than a few people from the ‘far east’ who would disagree with you on that account. I do not know your circumstances, but I have live out in East Asia as well, and I found it to be a mixed bag. Taiwan was very open on this account, but China and Singapore were shocking. Japan was similar to us, they accepted it in theory, but still have some conservatives resisting change.

  • David Evans 15th Dec '12 - 1:55pm

    @Olly
    What utter self justifying tripe. I have friends one of whom was initially hetero, then had a male partner and then decided he was bi. Each of these was a personal choice based largely on the person he was in love with at the time. Get real and stop hiding in the politics of genetic imprisonment – you have a choice. If you don’t believe that, it must be very difficult to believe “none shall be enslaved by conformity.”

  • David Evans, assuming that you are (or view yourself as) heterosexual, have you ever thought of what it would take for you to “choose” to be gay? This is not a “choice” that straight men and women are able to make. A minority of people, of course, present as heterosexual (or homosexual) but are actually bisexual, and so may be varying or indifferent in their preferences for the sex of their partners. But that’s not a matter of them choosing to change their sexuality; that’s just what their sexuality is. And for non-bisexual heterosexual and homosexual people, sexual preference is fixed and there’s nothing they can do to change it. If you’re a straight man, you can’t wake up one day and say, “I’m bored with women, I think I’ll try men today.” That just doesn’t happen. And the same is true for gay women, and the converse (of course) for gay men and straight women.

  • “What utter self justifying tripe. I have friends one of whom was initially hetero, then had a male partner and then decided he was bi. Each of these was a personal choice based largely on the person he was in love with at the time. Get real and stop hiding in the politics of genetic imprisonment – you have a choice.”

    To my mind the interesting thing is that David adduces anecdotal evidence about his friends in support of the proposition that sexuality is a matter of choice, rather than arguing from his own experience.

    That suggests to me that he can’t remember himself making a choice to be heterosexual (or whatever). So how on earth can he presume to tell homosexuals they are homosexual by choice, if they say otherwise?

  • David Evans 15th Dec '12 - 3:16pm

    Sorry David,

    I don’t accept your argument and I refer you to my previous post. What makes sexuality so special it is absolutely not under an individual’s control, or do you believe in predestinaltion generally?

  • David Evans 15th Dec '12 - 8:36pm

    Chris,

    If I didn’t believe in the primacy of personal choice, I wouldn’t be a liberal. Would you?

    David

  • David

    The question is whether sexuality is a matter of choice. Saying “I believe in the primacy of personal choice” doesn’t make it so, any more than it makes the colour of one’s skin a matter of personal choice.

    But I am interested in whether you feel you made a choice at some point to be heterosexual (or homosexual). Did you? I mean in the sense that you felt you had the potential to be sexually attracted either to men or to women, and made a choice that you would be attracted to women (or men)? And if so, do you feel you would be able to change your mind and make a different choice in the future?

  • David Evans 16th Dec '12 - 1:35pm

    No Chris. The absolutely fundamental question is whether you believe we have free will or not. If so Liberalism has a point. If not there is no point to it other than to exercise our lack of free will, until the point in life where we definitely don’t have free will. I really think you need to answer the first question I put to you, rather than simply ask a lot of other questions. So I will reiterate the key part of the post

    “If I didn’t believe in the primacy of personal choice, I wouldn’t be a liberal. Would you?”

  • David Evans, you seem reluctant to answer the question. That’s fine — your personal life is your own affair. I hope that you find a way to deal with your conflicted feelings (whatever they are) in a way that’s healthy for you and those around you.

    For me, however, I no more have a “choice” about my sexuality than I can choose to be seven feet tall, blue-colored, winged, with two hearts and three stomachs, able to breathe nitrogen and comfortably digest arsenic. Sexuality is a biological fact, like having brown hair. (For that matter, I can’t even “choose” to prefer Brahms to Beethoven.) Philosophical arguments can’t change the fact that human beings live within physical parameters, and the ability of mental exercises to shift those parameters is strictly limited.

  • David (Evans)

    Now you’re just being silly. Quite obviously there are things we don’t have free will about. I can’t choose that I’m going to wake up blond-haired and blue-eyed tomorrow morning. The question is whether sexuality is one of those things.

    I think it probably isn’t, because I can’t recall ever having heard anyone say “I chose to be homosexual” or “I chose to be heterosexual”. You seem remarkably reluctant to make such a statement yourself (I’m not expecting you to tell me which way you chose, by the way). Why is that? If you think sexuality is a matter of choice, that must apply to your sexuality, not just everyone else’s – mustn’t it?

  • David Evans 16th Dec '12 - 9:04pm

    David, I am very disappointed for you. Firstly, because you choose to imply that I don’t want to answer a question. However, at present I am awaiting Chris’ answer to my question – after all I did ask a question of him first!

    Secondly I am sad you believe you have no control over your life in probably the most important area of all. I know I had a choice and I took it. Likewise, I have no idea why you have concocted the idea that I have that I have conflicted feelings, I certainly don’t have any that I notice. Did you need to portray me in such a manner?

    Finally, there is a massive difference between sexuality and a biological fact like having brown hair. While it is true that lots of research has been carried out in an attempt to prove or disprove a link, the results are massively in conflict. But then on the other hand, perhaps just as someone can choose to adopt a different hair colour for a particular circumstance, they can choose to adopt a different sexuality too.

    As a liberal, I do fear your beliefs may be artificially constraining your potential for free choice, possibly to your detriment, but I hope not.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 17th Dec '12 - 12:01pm

    @David Evans

    “there is a massive difference between sexuality and a biological fact like having brown hair.”

    I apologise if I am appearing as obtuse, but are you saying that one chooses whether to be Gay or not?

    I am not sure that any of the Gay people whom I know, and/or have met, have had a choice in their sexuality, and being aware of some of the discrimination that goes along with the ‘choice’, I really do not see this as a choice that many would make.

    I was thinking of posing this question to family members, and colleagues in the Gay Police Association, and other groups whom I have and do work with, but I fear that I may appear somewhat ridiculous to them for asking the question, and this may well undermine my own credibility, as it will the Lib Dem’s if such views are ever expressed to the outside world.

    David (Evans), how would you structure a question to someone that is Gay, as to whether it was their choice to be Gay or not?

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    English Party Diversity Champion

  • Ruwan

    I’m not expert in these things, so you may suggest improvements if you wish, but I would suggest

    Is your right to choose important to you in your life?

    Do you believe you have free will?

    Do you believe you have the right to choose your partner, regardless of their age, race, religion or sex?

    Do you believe you have the ability to choose your partner regardless of their age, race, religion or sex?

    And you might end with

    Which party has done the most over the years to support and promote gay rights?

    David

  • David

    The fact that none of that comes anywhere near what Ruwan was asking about makes me think that you’re on a quite different wavelength from the rest of us.

    The question isn’t whether people have the ability to choose a partner regardless of the partner’s gender. It’s about whether people who are sexually attracted predominantly to those of a single gender – whether their own gender or the opposite one – are that way because they chose to be that way.

  • Chris,

    My point absolutely is what the nub of the question is – but then I’m on a Lib Dem wavelength, perhaps yours is different. However, I do think you may not be noticing the inconsistencies in your own argument.

    There was a saying “Gentlemen prefer blondes.” Of course it wasn’t true , some men preferred brunettes, others redheads etc. But even if someone preferred blondes, it didn’t stop many of them marrying a brunette and having a perfectly happy, contented life. They may have been attracted predominantly to blondes at one stage in their life, but ultimately they chose differently. There were doubtless a whole raft of decisions and choices that they made that moved them from one position to another. Choosing to take one job over another would in itself lead to a whole series of new social interactions that would in turn impact on lifechoices. All these choices may well lead you to a point where you believe you have no choice, but you have chosen all the way along. I still haven’t seen anyone who can justify it as being total predestination with no free-will involved whatsoever, even though you seem to insist upon it.

    However, you still haven’t responded to my question to you going all the way back to 15th December.

    “If I didn’t believe in the primacy of personal choice, I wouldn’t be a liberal. Would you?”

    I think it would help me understand your point better, if you tried to give me an answer.

  • David Evans: ” Likewise, I have no idea why you have concocted the idea that I have that I have conflicted feelings, I certainly don’t have any that I notice. Did you need to portray me in such a manner?”

    It wasn’t a concoction but a deduction which has been amply borne out by your further responses. However, as I said, it is your personal affair, and I can only wish you good luck as you struggle through this phase in your life. I have seen others in similar situations, and I know it is very difficult for them, particularly if they lack a good support structure of friends and allies. I hope you find some resources that can help you — I know they are out there.

  • David (Evans)

    Well, from what you say, you have the capacity to be attracted to both men and women, and that’s the context in which you consider that you have a choice.

    What you need to realise is that many people (I would think most people) are attracted predominantly to people of only one gender. In the circumstances, when one of those people tells you that was not a matter of choice, you are in no position to accuse them of talking “self justifying tripe.”

  • Thank you for agreeing more with me than with Olly, who was adamant “Sexuality is natural, and cannot be chosen.” Your acceptance of the opposite view is clear in your statement “many people (I would think most people) are attracted predominantly to people of only one.” Olly’s words were unequivocal, yours and mine more nuanced and rooted in the real world. The key word you use is predominantly which means of course there is a choice. And without choice there can be no liberty.

    I believe as liberals we must all stand by the statement “Of course it is a matter of choice.” It may be a difficult one (life changing ones usually are) and we may like the comfort of rationalising it to “You were made for me,” I know I do with my partner, but I know it wasn’t a done deal from the moment we first met.

    If anyone really disagrees with that they really do have to answer my question ““If I didn’t believe in the primacy of personal choice, I wouldn’t be a liberal. Would you?”

  • David (Evans)

    No, of course I’m not “agreeing more with you than with Olly”. Quite the opposite.

    Saying that some people are attracted to people of both sexes – in other words that some people are bisexual – has nothing to do with saying that sexuality is a matter of choice. The question is whether people choose to be bisexual, or homosexual, or heterosexual. Surely you can understand that?

  • David Evans
    Need we complicate this debate more than is necessary? If you yourself were gay, then you would understand that no element of free will comes into play, it is as natural and predictable as human sexual desire, which of course, can be suppressed, but not rid of. If you truly believe that homosexuality is an active choice, then you cannot call yourself a liberal, and your argument holds no more credibility than those of religious fundamentalists. You can’t just decide that you have an attraction to women. Sure you can make the decision to have a relationship, sex or whatever, but it would feel as unnatural as you as a heterosexual forcing yourself into sexual relations with another man. Surely no human deserves to have their nature suppressed and should be free to live their lives in the most comfortable, natural, and happy way!

  • In and of itself, erroneously believing sexuality is a choice does not disqualify one from being a liberal. For a liberal as I would define one, meaning pro-liberty, the default position is always that things should be allowed unless there is a really, really good reason why not. The question of whether sexuality is chosen or pre-set (and it seems pretty clear it is primariliy pre-set), is only relevant in politics to someone who is trying to give out as little freedom as possible but is willing to budge on a case where someone “can’t help it”. Why are we even accepting the assumption that things should be decided that way?

  • David Evans 23rd Dec '12 - 4:24pm

    Chris,

    Strange, because that is the only conclusion your words could lead to. You clearly said “many people (I would think most people) are attracted predominantly to people of only one.” Olly had only one option “Sexuality is natural, and cannot be chosen.” Yours implies a choice. His does not.

    It comes down to the meaning of words. Equally surely you can understand that?

    Olly,

    I’m sorry you still consider sexuality to be a matter of inevitability. I do not agree. Perhaps you consider yours is. I was just pointing out the difficulties in reconciling that lack of free will with liberalism.

    However, I am particularly sad that you chose to say “If you yourself were gay, then you would understand that no element of free will comes into play.” Do you mean all gays understand that sexuality is not a matter of free will, but non-gays don’t? I thought we had all come a long way from such stigmatisation of people by their sexuality a long time ago. Certainly the Liberal Democrats and the Liberals before them were clear on this.

    What I find particularly perplexing is that you can come to such a conclusion and then imply that it is somehow a consequence of a belief in free will that leads to people having “their nature suppressed and should be free to live their lives in the most comfortable, natural, and happy way!” It is precisely because liberals believe it is every individuals’ right to have a free will that makes it inevitable that we totally and actively support the view that “no human deserves to have their nature suppressed and should be free to live their lives in the most comfortable, natural, and happy way!” (Subject to the usual caveats about no harm to others less able to protect themselves.)

    Richard,

    Your point is very valid, and as defined from one viewpoint, totally correct. From my viewpoint it just as valid with a few tweaks (partly tongue in cheek), as follows

    In and of itself, erroneously believing sexuality cannot be a choice does not disqualify one from being a liberal. For a liberal as I would define one, meaning pro-liberty, the default position is always that things should be allowed unless there is a really, really good reason why not. The question of whether sexuality is chosen or pre-set (and it seems pretty doubtful it is primarily pre-set), is only relevant in politics when one believes one is faced with someone or a system trying to give out as little freedom as possible but it is thought could be made to budge on a case where someone “can’t help it”. However, as liberals we believe that people should have these rights without question and not have to accept them on the assumption that it is necessary things should be decided that way?

    After all, if we attempt to achieve liberalism on the basis of “someone can’t help it,” surely we weaken it for those who deserve it just as much, but where a “they can’t help it” argument does not hold. Indeed can we hold that liberty is a fundamental right if we choose to demean it by arguing from such a viewpoint?

  • Oliver Hudson 24th Dec '12 - 7:36pm

    No David, I know you feel I’m being dogmatic and close-minded on this issue, but I’m afraid that you are wrong. As I said, there is really little need to have an academic debate over a point so simple. Do you really dispute both scientific evidence and the stance of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission that ‘Sexual Orientation’ is a state of your human make-up, that we are born gay, straight or bisexual? It is, after all, for this very reason that we no longer term sexuality, ‘sexual preference’, in recognition of any element of choice.

    I stand by my comment that ‘if you yourself were gay then you would understand’. As a heterosexual, your sexual feelings have always agreed with societal expectation, and thus you have never had any need to really consider them or opt to pursue them actively. The same is not true for gay people, who must reconcile their feelings with a society that does not accommodate them. Attempting to suggest that gay people exercise free will in ‘practising’ their sexuality is akin to arguing that I could wake up tomorrow and choose to be a woman.

    Your argument really is quite unhelpful in the present climate.

  • David Evans 25th Dec '12 - 7:24pm

    Olly, Sadly, I think you are misguided in this, but I hope not closed minded. I’m sorry you think there is little need to have a debate to explore these views, because the point is in fact very complex. As I said in an earlier post, “lots of research has been carried out in an attempt to prove or disprove a link, the results are massively in conflict.” You may wish not to believe it, but it is true. You may wish to imply that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is the absolute fount of all truth on this area, I for one do not know what its detailed pronouncements are on this matter, but if it is as unequivocal as you imply, it is a sad day for equality of choice and for liberalism, but possibly the inevitable consequence of setting up a bureaucracy. It can become that these bodies actually become the antithesis of liberty, often by giving their pronouncements the effective force of law and thus proscribing debate, discussion and learning, cornerstones of liberalism.

    Liberalism is without doubt a difficult balancing act and not a simple set of rules. Personal views and judgement must come to the forefront and not simply formulaic pronouncements. This is how we work continuously to reflect the needs of all the different groups and individuals in society, not by taking formulaic positions that support our own views alone. So I am sorry, but when you say things like “Attempting to suggest that gay people exercise free will in ‘practising’ (a term I never used) their sexuality is akin to arguing that I could wake up tomorrow and choose to be a woman,” is in danger of taking us ever closer to the authoritarian position and closing the debate completely.

    I don’t know what you think is special about the present climate which needs help that inhibits liberalism, but my view as liberals is that we all need to look for common ground and work together to achieve our common aims of greater liberty for those oppressed by poverty, ignorance and conformity and not close our minds to others simply because they do not adhere to every one of our personal beliefs.

  • Oliver Hudson 28th Dec '12 - 6:05pm

    So what are you arguing?

  • David Evans 31st Dec '12 - 6:55pm

    Exactly what was in my previous post, Olly.

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    "But how many Tories would now prefer a coalition with UKIP? Most, by a large majority, I believe" Actualy the BBC asked that very question...
  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 2nd Oct - 10:48am
    Indeed. Something inside of me dies every time I hear Nick talking about how the Coalition has introduced the family income thing for foreign spouses.