Handing out leaflets at Gay Pride
For those of you in the UK, you know that I’m not talking about the latest Stephen Bennett outreach (Word SBM) but rather a little bit of controversy that has sprung up over the past few days in Scotland over some firefighters who have been disciplined for not handing out literature at a Gay Pride march. You can read some reports from different sides of the media here, here and here before I add my reflections.
Having spent a few days considering this and chatting to my wife and others I think I think the Roman Catholic church has got it wrong here. You all know where I stand on the sexuality issue, but I think I’m with those who are saying “Fire Safety is for everybody”. My understanding (and correct me if I’m wrong) is that the leaflets were on Fire Safety Awareness and were being handed out from a stand that was NOT part of the official gay pride march. And this is the crucial point, because as long as the stand wasn’t making a political point (i.e. nothing on the stand in and of itself was “pro gay rights”) I can’t see any reason why the firemen shouldn’t have distributed the literature as part of their jobs.
But, I want to raise some issues at this point for folks to consider:
- Would the firemen who objected on moral grounds had a legitimate complaint if the stand had in anyway deliberately and visually supported gay pride? I think if this had been the case then the firemen would have a valid reason to not be there, in that they would have been asked to take sides on what is still for many a matter of conscience.
- Taking the argument to the extreme, would we having the same fuss if a bunch of left-wing firemen had objected to handing out literature at something like “Red, White and Blue”, the BNP annual summer party? (For those outside of the UK, the BNP is a small “Anglo-Saxon Nationalist Party”, considered to be on the far right wing of UK politics). You see, the issue involved in supporting the handing out of leaflets at Pride Scotia is not one of “gay rights” but actually generic human equality. If, as a civil servant, your personal opinion on a subject is NOT relevant to whether you should perform your public duty to every single citizen, then surely the same people who complained about the firemen refusing to hand out literature at a gay pride march would also want to discipline any fireman who complained about handing out literature at a BNP rally?
- You might want to object to my second point by saying that sexuality is like race or sex (i.e. a given) and not like a political persuasion (i.e. far right views which can be molded and changed) and therefore it is a matter of intrisic equality rights, but my response to that would be “show me the biological test that shows homosexuality”. Sexuality is not like race or sex, because it cannot be identified as an intrinsic biological state in the same way as race or sex can. You can look at a chromosome or other genetic material and identify easily someone’s sex or race with absolute certainty without seeing face to face the person involved, but so far we don’t have a single biologic, biochemical or genetic test that could in any way identify someone as being “homosexual” independent of observing the person’s behaviour patterns. Until that day comes sexuality must be treated for equality’s sake in the same way as any other ingrained behaviour pattern (like for example extreme right-wing views).