Prejudice stripped in public.

If you’re in the UK, it’s well worth watching the first half of Thursday’s Newsnight. It’s a rare opportunity to see the awkward exposure of bigotry when the ‘arguments’ against gay marriage face Paxman playing Devil’s Advocate, and when those Christians opposing the proposals have to directly justify themselves to an impassioned gay couple.

Giles Fraser hammered home just how scandalous it is that this Bill won’t go far enough: as I highlighted in Theresa May’s Times column the other day, even if religious institutions want to embrace gay marriage, they will not be able to by law. It’s utterly insane. So much for religious liberty.

And on that point, it was nice to see a hint of a debate about whether religious liberty should indeed include the right to practise homophobia. If only we could now hear those defending such a freedom explain why the same thing does not apply to the practising of racism. Or, at least, let’s hear them bite the bullet and say churches should be allowed to refuse to marry a white man and black woman, if they so wish.

Peter Bone and the spokeswoman for the Campaign for Marriage are laughable. As for the former, he attempted the argument from marriage being a ‘natural institution’ grounded in 2000 years of tradition, gave up on that line as soon as various bad historical traditions were mentioned, and instead resorted to an argument from the lack of a democratic mandate, as if that’s all that’s motivating him. And the latter, even more pathetically, justified her stance by noting that even some gay couples are on her side. Seriously.

Giles Fraser eventually had the balls to say what everyone with half a brain knows deep down: what underpins all of this opposition is, at heart, blatant homophobia. Paxman started off by warning him that that’s a serious accusation, but seemed to come around pretty quickly when he asked the opposition if they felt like bigots.

And I, at least, make no apologies for suspecting primitive prejudice is the driving force here. It’s hard to think otherwise when such obviously awful arguments are clung to despite the constant, clear exposure of their fallacies. These people will seemingly wheel out any premises to try and justify the conclusions they’ve already made.

So let’s call bigotry by its name, and not give it the privilege of being dressed up as ‘rational argument’ when it continues to bring nothing but nonsense to what is now a non-debate.

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