You might just be forgiven for thinking that gay rights aren’t the most important thing to legislate on and advance in the political world. You might think that the economy, the environment, tax law or any number of other things should take priority in Parliament and in Brussels. If you do, you’re probably straight. It’s the argument that’s been repeated so many times, “why are we talking about gay marriage when millions of people don’t have a job”, “gays have rights now so can’t we talk about something more important”.
Even Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Front Nationale, has made the same argument; avoiding the issue of same-sex marriage (yeah, like she supports it anyway) because she would rather focus on real issues. But here’s the thing: gay rights and good political policy are not mutually exclusive. The government is not incapable of legislating and leading on many issues at the same time. It’s not like Cameron tells George Osborne to take the weekend off so the government can talk about fracking. Newsflash: the government is comprised of more than one person.
If you’re not privy to the importance of securing equal rights for LGBT people that’s not a problem per se, but if you’re willing to use societal problems to throw LGBT rights under the bus, to push them to the back of the line so to speak, that’s wrong.
It’s not that when straight people make this argument it’s somehow excusable, but it is largely to be expected. What is not to be expected, and what adds insult to injury, is when LGBT people themselves make this argument. Take David Coburn, the newly-elected UKIP MEP for Scotland. Coburn is an openly gay member of UKIP who has caused outrage for suggesting that same-sex marriage should not be allowed because it leads to homophobia, preferring to draw the line at civil partnerships since he thinks straight people aren’t worried about them.
Now a gay person who isn’t for same-sex marriage is nothing new, but this man now has political power. This man has responsibility. It’s at least unusual to think that Coburn isn’t willing to position himself open-mindedly on the issue of same-sex marriage. After all, not all gay people want to adopt children, it doesn’t mean they should be against same-sex adoptions.
The most plausible explanation is that he’s with UKIP because despite his sexuality, he’s more concerned about immigration and scary Romanians than he is about gay rights. Is Coburn really happy to align himself with a party that openly denounces not only same-sex marriage but gay rights in general? It’s fine if Coburn doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage, no matter how foolish that may be, but it’s definitely not fine for a gay man to join a party of homophobes.
It doesn’t matter how deeply afraid of the free movement of people you are, it doesn’t matter how badly you want radical immigration reduction, it doesn’t matter how badly you want your country to leave the EU. It matters whether you can stomach sitting on the same team as people who think you are not worthy of equal status, who consider you a second class citizen or less-than-perfect due to your sexual orientation.
If Coburn can stomach sitting with that kind of team, he is proof that gay rights are yet again disposable in the face of “more important” issues like immigration, and are even disposable by gay people themselves. It’s like being a black member of the American Tea Party, it just doesn’t make sense. Why throw your own rights under the bus?
Coburn isn’t the only person who has aligned themselves with UKIP despite UKIP being opposed to the advancement of their rights. Nikki Sinclaire, who is trans, recently conceded her MEP seat, having served firstly under UKIP before forming her own lunatic party We Demand A Referendum. Sinclaire at least had the courage to wise up and leave the party, and has not held back on firing shots at Nigel Farage ever since. The question is, what the hell drew her to UKIP in the first place?
They probably have the same level of respect for trans people as the BNP or Liberty GB, i.e. absolutely none. Again, right-wing politics, specifically anti-immigration policies, seem to be drawing people to parties that do not respect them for who they are. Sinclaire claims that she was accepted as a lesbian in UKIP (I’m sure she was, it’s only gay MEN they find creepy) and also claims that the Liberal Democrats are some of the worst homophobes in politics. It seems she hasn’t totally wizened up after all then.
Finally, and most extreme of all, are gay Front Nationale members. Now the Front Nationale is one of the largest political parties in France after the 2014 European Parliament elections, and is notably anti-semetic, homophobic and racist. If there was a French version of the BNP, the Front Nationale would be it. Gay FN members keep an extremely low profile and are actively encouraged to remain invisible, and worst of all, are actually so internally homophobic that they oppose things that further their own rights.
The ones MediaPart managed to contact told the blog that they oppose gay marriage and gay pride because they prefer a France which is indifferent to gay rights. Indifferent? You actually want the people in power to be indifferent towards you? Is your dislike of multiculturalism and immigration so strong that you’re willing to sacrifice your safety and well-being for a party that can ensure a more “pure” France?
Front Nationale’s founder recently said that an Ebola epidemic would be a great way of stopping immigration. Marine Le Pen Tweeted last year that the man who committed suicide as a protest against same-sex marriage was a hero, and the party also has a long sordid history of Holocaust denial. This is not a case of joining a slightly anti-gay party for the benefits of reduced immigration, this is a case of joining a party which openly detests you, all because you think immigration is a problem.
There are countless other examples across the globe of gay people sacrificing the status of their own social group in favour of a conservative cause. No doubt the Golden Dawn and the Swedish Democrats have LGBT supporters too, and I’ve even come across gay neo-Nazis before. Gay people are of course technically free to join whatever nasty, far-right political fringe groups they like, but they should really ask themselves if they’re truly prepared to be lambs for the slaughter.
Update 29/05/14: David Coburn has gone on a Tweeting spree claiming that same-sex marriage is no different from civil partnerships and that they do not promote equality. Make of that what you will.