Local Conservative MP Roger Gale has upset the gay and LGBT community by writing a full-page article in Thanet Extra last week in which he disclosed his opposition to equal marriage and had a dig at so-called 'militant homosexuals'. This revelation shouldn't really come as a surprise, given Gale's voting record on the issue of equal rights for gay people, as pointed out by Labour councillor Will Scobie on his blog.
In Roger Gale's opinion piece, he makes the ludicrous suggestion that Shakespeare may be re-written if the law enables homosexuals to marry and even fell into the trap of peddling the usual Daily Mail-esque paranoia about the words 'husband' and 'wife' being expunged from the British lexicon. Quite predictably, Roger Gale now finds himself subjected to a big splash of negative publicity on gay news website Pink News. In particular, the news item was subsequently picked up by LGBT news website Unicorn Booty; and Craig Ford on Gay Rights Network wrote: "This laughable attempt at demonising equality for the sake of tradition serves to benefit neither camp."
Roger Gale did write that he expected to "be described by some of my own constituents and by the wider gay community as homophobic and prejudiced" and this evening he even appeared on BBC South East and attempted to defend his position. But what on earth possessed him to write such an inflammatory article in the first place, if he knew it was going to cause such a fevered outcry? Did Gale not realise that this could impact negatively on his public profile, something which he should've been mindful of, not just because he's an MP, but also given that he's recently been granted a knighthood?
The peculiar thing is Gale appears to justify his position by citing his religious beliefs, even though he himself has been divorced twice. I don't want to disparage anyone of faith, but according to the 'holy law' Gale speaks of, divorcees are looked upon with much the same derision as homosexuals in the Bible. In Matthew (19:19), it states: "I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery." So, according to scripture, getting divorced and re-marrying makes you an adulterer, even if you didn't engage in sexual immorality. I'm no scholar, but I can't really see how that quote can be interpreted any other way.
Therefore, since 'thou shalt not commit adultery' is one of the Ten Commandments, it does beg the question - what sort of position is Roger Gale in to lecture others on the sanctity of marriage? I'd say none. Besides, nothing the government is proposing says anything about same-sex couples getting married in a church - it's enabling them to engage in civil marriage in registry offices, and I honestly can't see the problem with this. Obviously, as a heterosexual man who supports equal marriage, I'm bound to take this view, a perspective which I happen to share with my girlfriend for that matter. I'm sure many others will agree that Roger Gale has made a gross error in dropping this doodlebug into the gay rights debate, something which I'm sure will only serve to undermine the Conservative position on equal marriage.
Meanwhile, Cllr Ian Driver is moving a motion in support of equal marriage at a meeting at Thanet Council on 19 April. This will make TDC the first council in the UK to vote on the issue of same-sex couples being able to marry. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, if the motion is broadly supported by local councillors and the vote goes in favour of equal marriage, it could set a good precendent to other local government bodies and will give our council some positive media publicity, perhaps even on a national level.
However, if the motion at TDC gets rejected or - worse still - the outcome of the voting is one of outright opposition to same-sex marriages, it could backfire and impact negatively upon the council's reputation. So, it could go either way. Obviously, I hope the vote goes in a favourable direction, as the last thing we want is our council being slammed in the national press for being institutionally '
homophobic' and giving TDC the unenviable title of 'the only council in the UK to oppose to equal marriage.' I guess we'll just have to wait and see which way it goes.
A public meeting in support of equal marriage will be held on 12 April at Margate Media Centre from 7.00-9.00pm and will be chaired by Cllr Ian Driver. The meeting will feature local speakers and representatives from Stonewall have been invited to attend. Find out more info here.