Sunday 20 August 2017

Gay marriage debate is polarised - but the victors are setting the tone

Marriage Equality advocates, bruised from their past experiences, are on alert for abuse that has yet to surface

Brian McFadden and Vogue Williams at the 'Get Equal' march, looking for gay civil marriage rights in Ireland, in support of Vogue's sister Amber, who is gay.
Brian McFadden and Vogue Williams at the 'Get Equal' march, looking for gay civil marriage rights in Ireland, in support of Vogue's sister Amber, who is gay.
Sarah Carey

Sarah Carey

I process things slowly. That I'll admit. So it wasn't until I was interviewing Kieran Rose, from the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, (GLEN) on Newstalk last weekend, that the penny finally dropped. We were discussing recent rulings made by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) against RTE and Newstalk. Rose began to talk about a Prime Time show on RTE in 1993 when homosexuality was being decriminalised. (Can you believe that was only 1993?).

He'd been invited on to discuss the proposed legislation and described how he and other gay rights activists were put in a room with conservatives. I haven't seen it, but from Rose's description, those opposed to decriminalisation said some pretty nasty things. I could see he was still terribly wounded by the experience and my heart went out to him. And that's when I finally got it. It was over 20 years ago, but he's still back there and he's terrified the same thing will happen this time. It explains a lot.

I've been watching the gay marriage debate bewildered by the hysterical behaviour of some gay rights activists. From the Rory O'Neill episode when he lashed out at the Iona Institute and John Waters, to the BAI ruling that presenters, in the absence of any other opposing view, breach the BAI code regarding balance by adding their own supporting views when interviewing gay couples which, people told me, was the work of a right-wing Catholic agenda! Others have demanded that the entire debate needs to be monitored to prevent abuse of gay people and actually, simply having the conversation at all is a form of victimisation - an approach that wouldn't have served civil rights activists from Martin Luther King to David Norris very well.

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