Sunday, 17 February 2013

Temperate language is the difference between opinion and bigotry.

Gay couples are ‘clearly’ incapable of providing a ‘warm and safe environment’ in which to raise children. Not my opinion, we have Welsh Secretary David Jones to thank for these pearls of wisdom as expressed on television in the principality last week.

What he said in full was, ‘I regard marriage as an institution that has developed over many centuries for the provision of a warm and safe environment for the supporting of children, which is clearly something that two same sex partners can’t do.’

Mr Jones isn’t, perish the thought, a homophobe, oh dear me no; he can’t be because he has ‘several people in my life who are important to me who are gay.’ He’d probably better check that because I don’t imagine they’d much want to be in the life of someone who has such opinions about their ability to form meaningful relationships.

Condemnation of what Mr Jones said came quickly with shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Jones calling his comments ‘profoundly offensive’ and Andrew White of Stonewall Cymru said he was ‘saddened that the Secretary of State for Wales should make such offensive and inaccurate remarks.’

Quite right too, what David Jones said was inaccurate and offensive, enough so to make the blood boil of anyone who happens to live in the twenty first century as opposed to the grimier corners of the eighteenth. There is nothing about their sexual orientation that prevents a gay couple from being good parents, or bad parents for that matter; like most parents they’ll probably just muddle through being a bit of both.

What really offends me is the way David Jones presents his nasty views as being shared by the ‘silent majority’, making him the voice of middle England, that mythical place of neat suburban gardens and quiet stoicism that is home to our innate national character. He is nothing of the sort; he is either a bigot or a cynic and his toxic opinions are all his own.

He may, as he claims, have received a number of letters on the subjects of gay marriage and whether or not gay couples should be allowed to adopt children, I’ll bet most of them were written in green biro on hospital notepaper. The silent majority haven’t been besieging the offices of their MPs on this issue because most of us have grown up enough to recognise that there is more than one kind of stable relationship.

What David Jones has done is seize on an issue trumpeted by a vocal minority and use it to try and stir up division. It is the same tactic this government uses when it sets strivers against skivers and public sector workers against those in the private sector; divide and rule in an age where ideas are absent.

When it comes to the non-controversy over gay marriage I give it maybe five years and the public mood will have shifted to the point where opposing same sex marriage will seem as arcane as wearing a powdered wig or believing in witchcraft. That’s what happens, we might not all live in perfect harmony, but we do all have to live together on a crowded island and so most people just get on with it and accept change.

Some people can’t of course, often because they have strong religious principles that even though I don’t share I am willing to treat with respect. In a democracy we are all free to say what we like so long as we use temperate language, David Jones didn’t do so, his comments were hurtful and inaccurate, they show him to be unfit to hold a ministerial position.

Ultimately what he said makes me tired and sad rather than angry. Tired of listening to comfortable politicians pretending to speak for the middle England I happen to live in and sad that our political system stifles the more diverse and interesting voices who could do so more accurately.

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