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May. 11th, 2006

Gay and lesbian activists are concerned. They're often concerned, to be fair, and often with good reason; other times maybe less so, such as the accusation that the remodelling of the park in Russell Square was a homophobic act since it was a renowned cruising area, and, with fewer trees around the place, where on earth would there be left to skulk?

The specific object of their concern is Ruth Kelly. Now that John Prescott has been demoted in all but salary, his workload has been transferred to her, which includes overseeing the working of the forthcoming Equality Act. How, the argument runs, can she possibly represent gay and lesbian interests as a Catholic—and not just any old Catholic, at that, but a member of Opus Dei?

Since the publication of The Da Vinci Code, Opus Dei has had a bit of a bad rap. "We're not utterly insane," they patiently point out to every interviewer who trudges to their door. "We don't assassinate anyone and we don't flagellate ourselves nearly as often as you might think. We're just mostly insane," they continue benignly, as they show off the restraining and bloodletting devices they wear under their clothing to remind them how Christ suffered to vanquish evil.

So we have an equality minister who should be inimically opposed to the interests of a significant minority whose rights she's supposed to be defending. Opus Dei has already complained that she declined to comment yesterday on whether homosexuality is a sin: "Sex outside marriage is sinful," says its spokesman, Jack Valero. "Homosexuality is a condition that people can't help but the homosexual act is sinful. I don't know why she didn't simply say that. It is disappointing." (The Evening Standard slyly finishes the article where Valero is quoted with "... Members are also believed to practise self-flagellation. Poor Ruth Kelly—as if she isn't getting enough stick already".)

Her chosen compromise on this matter is illustrated by her voting record. As this Pink News article points out, she has bunked off all the main votes on anything involving homosexuality since at least 1999. She may not like players on the other team, but in the current cultural climate it would be political suicide for her to be seen to be voting against them... so she doesn't vote at all. She's clearly prepared to put her career before her principles—but only so far. If pushed, who knows which way she'll jump? Maybe the best that gays and lesbians can hope for is that she proves to be entirely ineffectual and winds up not doing too much harm. Maybe, at this stage in this administration, that's the best that any of us can hope for from any of them.

(Incidentally, Pink News is a proud sponsor of the staggeringly unfortunately-named "Grooming Month". Meaning haircare and skin products, apparently.)


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 11th, 2006 10:13 am (UTC)
Given that at least two of the shadow Cabinet - our new Government in waiting - have a record of being openly hostile to gay rights, including the shadow Home Secretary, I would have thought that Kelly's words:

"I don't think it's right for politicians to start making moral judgements about people. That's the last thing I would want to do...the question is what are my political views and as a politician those are the ones I'm accountable for to the public.

As a politician I think anybody should be free from discrimination and I'll fight to the absolute end to make sure that is the case."

were far less of a worry.

There's actually quite a history of this sort of thing - people with personal religious views that were at odds with the position of the party. John Smith - not a Catholic, but representing an extremely Catholic constituency, and quite devout in his own right - famously abstained on all votes regarding abortion
May. 11th, 2006 12:16 pm (UTC)
It's suggestive that she distinguishes moral views from political views. The remark recalls Blair's bafflement at being asked about his philosophy and replying with some stock answer about NHS reform.
May. 11th, 2006 12:55 pm (UTC)
Isn't it more about distinguishing personal moral beliefs from actions (moral or otherwise) taken as part of an elected political platform?

Anyway, just to prove that I don't copy all my ideas from there, or that they don't from me, or that I'm not a Blairite droid, or...something or other, Harry's Place totally disagrees with me.

I always think far too much mischief is made out of that Blair incident. It's the last question anyone would expect at PMQs, so he wasn't ready for it, and it's so big, it needs time to think about. Giving a quick answer could have been very foolish, so best to simply change the subject.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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