Norman Tebbit on Gay Marriage

With a heavy heart and a deep sigh I noticed that Norman Tebbit has written a piece for the Telegraph on the issue of gay marriage. I was, of course, compelled to read it at once:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/normantebbit/100144912/gay-marriage-wont-win-cameron-the-next-election/

Let’s dispense with the foolishness of the title – “Gay Marriage Won’t Win Cameron The Next Election” – right away. Just as basic civil rights (and no, living in a country where everyone else is forced to abide by select teachings from your particular holy book is not a civil right) should never be granted or taken away by popular vote, neither should they be used to try to win or lose elections, often though that may happen.

This article really is the very worst of old-school conservatism fighting a rear-guard retreat against inevitable and welcome change, but the sheer patheticness of the new arguments that Lord Tebbit raises to slow the march toward marriage equality are so ludicrous that I felt I must deconstruct them one by one.

“Was anyone asked to check in how many pieces of legislation the words “husband” or “wife” appear? Are they to be replaced by some suitable non-discriminatory new word or words? Then what about the grounds for divorce? How will adultery be redefined? Exactly what kind of sexual acts outside marriage will constitute grounds for divorce? What will amount to the consummation of a marriage?”

The word you are groping for is “spouse”, Lord Tebbit. I know, it was a tricky one. Do we need to replace the words “husband” and “wife” in every bit of legislation ever written? I’m not a student of law, but I would hope that this is not necessary and that judges up and down the land would not be so pedantic as to fight their own personal mini-wars against gay marriage by issuing contrary rulings until the letter of the law was changed. But even if this were the case, is that a good enough reason to deny a civil right to someone?

How will adultery be defined? Having sexual relations with someone other than your spouse, same as it is now. No need to worry there either, Lord Tebbit. Simples.

Exactly what kind of sexual acts outside marriage will constitute grounds for divorce? What will amount to the consummation of a marriage? Ah yes, the old-school conservative hangup with exactly what goes on in the bedrooms of the same-sex couple. Well, first of all, Lord Tebbit, it is stupid to have a list of certain sexual acts that constitute grounds for divorce and ones that don’t. If we have such a list now in this country, it too is stupid, and we should get rid of it. Secondly, such a “list” would include all of those ghastly goings-on, the thoughts of which keep you awake at night in a cold sweat. Intercourse, oral sex, all kinds of naughty things that should only ever take place missionary-style, for five minutes, between a married man and wife, for the express purpose of having a baby. With the lights off. Sorry, old chap.

“What fun will be had amongst our legislators as they grapple with the question of the appropriate titles for the “partners” of those who receive the honour of knighthoods, or are made Dames, Barons or Baronesses. At present we live happily with the inequity of husbands receiving no title when their wives are honoured, but surely that cannot continues under the politically correct new order.”

Norman Tebbit proposing this argument against gay marriage is like me being tied to the rail tracks as an express train hurtles towards me, and me throwing a feather in its path hoping to stop its progress. Nonetheless, let’s engage. Firstly, I would say that the existing honours and title system in this country is stupid, vastly outdated, not understood by the majority of the population, and should be replaced by a single honour, the “Order of the United Kingdom” or something like that. But if we must keep the existing system then I’m sure we can pay a panel of retired, betitled judges to form an official enquiry into the new name that should be given to the husband of a man who has himself been titled. We like enquiries like that in this country. Maybe you could draw the new official coat of arms to be used by the gay spouses of honourees, Lord Tebbit, wouldn’t that be fun? We’ll get you a sheet of paper and some crayons.

“Within the can of worms that Mr Cameron is determined to open there are several nests of snakes. Why should a marriage be confined to just two persons? What is the barrier to the marriage of sisters, brothers or even parents and children?”

Well, one thing at a time, Lord Tebbit, eh? While the objective of those who push for marriage equality is obviously to use it as a mere stepping stone on the path toward their long-cherished dream of marrying their horse, we understand that progress comes slowly in this world.

Oh. And a nest of snakes in a can of worms? How does that work?

“Perhaps it is another contagion from his Lib Dem partners.  Surely it cannot be to gain votes. Not only would that be unworthy, but he must know that the pink vote is substantially less than the UKIP vote. Indeed most of the homosexuals that I know cast their votes on very much the same issues as the rest of us. They are not a separate species. They pay taxes, have mortgages, battle with EU laws which destroy jobs, have concerns about the price of petrol, crime, immigration, the cruel delusion of multi culturalism and  the dangers of instability in the Middle East, just like heterosexuals.”

Ah yes, there is always a line in these articles affirming that the author actually knows many homosexuals him or herself, and gets on very well with them and considers them great chums, and that to a person they all quite agree that they don’t need all this equality nonsense. Check.

And again – seriously, Lord Tebbit, are you saying that because there are more people who vote for a eurosceptic party than vote for marriage equality, the Conservative party should ignore the “pink vote” and chase the eurosceptic one? Firstly, I’m not so sure as you seem to be that the two are mutually exclusive, and secondly, yes of course gay people are concerned about all of the same issues as the rest of us, it’s just that they have that one additional cause to worry about – that of not currently being equal under the law with a married heterosexual couple.

In all seriousness now. It doesn’t please me at all to belittle Norman Tebbit, who has served this country admirably both in the armed forces, the private sector and in government. I believe that he has done many great things to help this country, especially during his tenure in PM Thatcher’s cabinet. But the fact that such a distinguished man can make such petty rhetorical arguments – “we can’t allow gay marriage because then we would have to decide what to call the husband of a Duke” – in the path of progress is beneath him as a man of intellect, and is only further evidence that the argument against gay marriage has been comprehensively lost by the old guard. If this is the best that they’ve got, marriage equality in Britain may be even closer than we think.

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4 thoughts on “Norman Tebbit on Gay Marriage

  1. Mary! March 19, 2012 / 7:09 PM

    Let us be kind and generous to Norman Tebbit. He is old. He grew up in a different era and can’t really help thinking as he does. We should however, be very concerned if modern people share his thoughts.

    Like

    • belindasgallery March 19, 2012 / 7:11 PM

      This blog post was me being kind and generous to him, given the primary school-level weakness of his argument 🙂

      Like

    • belindasgallery March 19, 2012 / 7:15 PM

      If I read an article against gay marriage I want to hear exactly why it is wrong for man to lay with man, as the Bible says, but okay to wear clothes made from more than one type of fabric, or to eat shellfish, or stone people to death or sell them into slavery under specific circumstances, as the Bible also says. What I don’t want are some last ditch, ill-thought-through arguments about how establishing civil rights will be a bureaucratic pain because we have to replace the words “husband” and “wife”, or how we need to come up with a new word to describe the husband of a Baron. If I’m mean to Lord Tebbit in my post it is because he embarrasses himself with his threadbare argument. I want the real thing, the real reason he opposes same-sex marriages, not the smokescreen.

      Like

      • Mary! March 20, 2012 / 6:58 AM

        One day we too will be old, and the thoughts we have, which we think so enlightened, will be seen as unbelievably barbaric by those in future generations…So, let us be kind. We too are Norman Tebbit.

        Like

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