Opponents of gay marriage are not all bigots preaching hate, writes Cristina Odone.
7:13AM GMT 27 Feb 2012 By Cristina Odone
Those promoting the gay marriage lobby could teach PR gurus Tim Bell and Matthew Freud a thing or two about their business. Their brilliant tactic is to cast opponents (step forward, former Archbishop George Carey) as bigots preaching unique discrimination against a blameless and vulnerable minority. To stand in the way of true love, when Romeo and Juliet wanted to tie the knot, was condemned as cruel; to stand between two gays who seek to do the same is truly hateful.
This argument has a huge flaw. If a Christian couple running a B&B were to turn away a ménage a trois (one man and two women, say), would they have been brought to court for abusing the threesome's human rights? I doubt it: campaigners for threesomes, like those for polyandry, have failed, so far, to convince the majority of their victimhood. The rules governing sexual conduct are many and necessarily arbitrary. A 17 year-old who sleeps with a 15 year-old is breaking the law; a 70 year-old who sleeps with a 17 year-old merely raises eyebrows. A bigamist is a criminal, an adulterer is not. Sometimes, the rules of sexual conduct are enforced through criminal sanctions, even years after the event – as the film director Roman Polanski, who had sex with a 13 year-old in 1977, discovered when he was arrested in Switzerland and faced extradition to the US.
Sometimes, social stigma is enough to control licentious behaviour: plenty of affairs between wealthy ageing men and pretty Lolitas are ended by the smirking contempt of his friends and family. The rules that regulate what happens in the bedroom may seem perverse or petty, but they don't single out one particular group for special censure. They try to help the majority deal with the deceptive nature of sexual encounters. Would-be gay marrieds, you are not alone.
• Gay marriage was one of the issues I prepared to debate on Question Time last Thursday. In the event, the audience didn't raise the subject, but asked about the economy and Syria. My support for the Coalition's workfare scheme raised a lot of hackles on Twitter, I discovered later. The "Right to Work" lobby bombarded me with abusive messages: I was an "arrogant theocrat", "a Christian apologist" and a "slave driver". This kind of hostility doesn't faze me, though I was surprised by the cracks about my "Cornish accent" and my hair extensions. (I have neither.) Even more annoying was the incredulity with which my revelation about my (meagre) earnings was greeted. According to my critics, I must be lying about my "fat fees" from this newspaper, and my "cushy number" with the Centre for Policy Studies, where I'm a research fellow. I invite all you doubting Thomases to a supper at home: our standard fare, starring lentils and potatoes, will convince you.
• To defend their pensions, doctors are planning industrial action – the first in 40 years. They won't strike, they've announced, and risk placing patients in peril. But there are alternatives to rattle the Government: withdraw all non-emergency care, or take all of their contracted breaks, or simply go through the motions at work in a half-hearted fashion (which, they could rightly point out, is how most of us discharge our duties).
I'd like to suggest that they see only those patients who are really ill, as opposed to those who are hypochondriacs, lonely or just a bit blue – but that, I suppose, would be too radical. Instead, maybe doctors should refuse to fill in the paperwork they are lumbered with every day. This would prove popular with patients – as the doctors would have much more time, having banished all form-filling, to cater for them. It would also drive home a big message to NHS bureaucrats: you are not necessary, thank you very much.
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