Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Quid pro quo: a proposal to religious bigots

I have no authority to make this offer and I don't know whether gay rights campaigners would agree with me, but I'd like to make the following proposal to the religious bigots who yesterday lobbied the House of Lords against the Equality Act 2006 that will prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on grounds of sexual orientation:

You can have your wrecking amendment ("Nothing in these regulations shall force an individual to act against their conscience or strongly held religious beliefs") to the Sexual Orientation Regulations of the Equality Act...just so long as you agree to a similar amendment to the self-same Act that currently gives you, as religious people, protection: something like "Nothing in these Regulations shall prevent an individual with strongly held anti-religious views from discriminating against religious believers".

Does that sound OK to you god-botherers? Have we got a deal?

I suspect that the bigots (mainly Christian in this case, but joined in their homophobic campaign by Jews and Muslims), would not go for it: after all they campaigned for years to have religious belief given the same protection under the law as race and gender, finally succeeding with the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 and then the Religious Belief Regulations of the Equality Act 2006. Personally, I always considered both those pieces of legislation to be ill-conceived nonsense, giving people's ideological beliefs (but only religious ideological beliefs, mind you) special protection: it's all the more ridiculous when you bear in mind that we're giving temporal privilege to people who believe that they have the Deity on their side, and will be finally vindicated in the after-life... Yet these self-righteous hypocrites now seek to deny gays similar protection!

Polly Toynbee (not a writer I often recommend) was in superb form on this topic a couple of days ago in the Guardian, making the excellent point that, " None of this might matter if it were just about the strange practices in private of religious bigots. But faith groups already run and are bidding to take over many more social services. If they win this debate, free to discriminate as they please, they will prove themselves utterly unfit to provide state services or receive state funding". A lot of of us knew that anyway, but apparently New Labour didn't. No doubt it's too much to hope that this latest outrage by religious bigots will wake up this disgracefully pro-religion administration.


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