Video: Nothern Ireland bakery owners lose gay cake case
In the third and last article in this series Kathy Gyngell, co-editor of The Conservative Woman blog, finds a trend in favour of gay rights and against freedom of religious expression and conscience.
Once support for same-sex marriage was established in the opinion polls from 2012 onwards, courts in the UK have sanctioned case after case of intolerance of private beliefs and private behaviour. You could call it legally endorsed bullying.
From wedding cakes and bed and breakfast accommodation to pressure on Catholic adoption agencies and sex education in the classroom, public pressure and legal rulings have gone one way – in favour of gay rights and against freedom of religious expression and conscience.
Before the legislation was enacted in March 2013, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) had ruled that marriage registrars were public officials and so should expect to be “required” to carry out the gay marriage ceremonies. No choice there then. It concluded that religious protection was “a qualified right” which “the State can interfere with” in some circumstances.
In another case following their refusal to rent a shared room to a gay couple, two bed and breakfast accommodation owners were taken to the UK Supreme Court and ordered to pay damages, wrecking their livelihood and future. Never mind it was their private home.
In a rare instance, a housing official (local authority employee) managed to win his case with legal support and advice from the Christian Institute.
He was still stripped of his managerial rank, had his salary almost halved and career ruined. His crime? To say on Facebook he thought same-sex weddings in churches were “an equality too far”. His employer, Trafford Housing Trust in Greater Manchester, claimed he had breached company policies that prohibited upsetting colleagues or promoting religious views and that he had potentially damaged the Trust’s reputation for “diversity”.
So it is simply disingenuous to argue, as some gay activists do, that the sky hasn’t fallen in as a result of gay marriage laws. Cracks opened up in the run up to it.
Since it was enacted, the legislation has had more sinister manifestations both within and without the Church. Independently minded clergy have come increasingly under attack – even when espousing official church doctrine on the matter. To get a full account of the hostility encountered by Hull vicar Melvin Tinker after he spoke out against York Minster’s blessing of the gay pride parade, read philosopher and theologian Paul Helm’s reflections.
Andrew Symes of Anglican Mainstream has also written on the furore, arguing that the real outrage was not the words or argument that Melvin Tinker used, but the fact that York Minster celebrated ‘gay pride’ in the way that it did.
These two brave men put their own careers on the line with their statements of belief.
More worrying still is officially sanctioned indoctrination of the young.
Just last week the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan (a practising Anglican who voted against same-sex marriage when just an MP) told the BBC that children who express negative attitudes about homosexuality could be marked as potential extremists. Given that the Government is constantly adding to its anti-terrorism legislation, this is no mean threat. This needs to be understood in a context of official sex education where same-sex relationships are taught as being on a par with heterosexual ones.
Which brings me to the legislation’s final devastating impact – on the institution of marriage itself.
Have not homosexuals nobly demanded the right to participate in this tradition that nurtures the common good? Theo Hobson, the theologian, asked in The Spectatorrecently. No, he says:
“Gay marriage is an affirmation of gay rights, not of marriage. Though it speaks of marriage as a social good, its moral energy is all about individual rights (which run counter to the moral meaning of marriage). In the past few years I have not heard a gay marriage advocate saying anything thoughtful about marriage. They all say, in effect, ‘our love is as good and pure as yours and deserves the big teacher’s tick of marriage, how dare you say it doesn’t, how dare you?’
But now after the passing of the same-sex marriage Act in Britain, anyone who dares refuse the teacher’s tick or refuses to fly the rainbow flag or otherwise pretend that the emperor is not naked is a marked man. That’s how it feels to be in Britain today. So much for equality under the law.
A longer version of this article can be found at The Conservative Woman.
Other artilces in this series: