Has the ASA got in a muddle over sexual orientation?

My thanks to Ruth Gledhill, Jill from Anglican Mainstream and others who have sent me the original advert from Sandown Presbyterian Church, together with the ruling (which you can read for yourself by clicking here). In this post I’m going to examine the advert and the ruling and comment on what the ASA judgement implies for Christian witness in this country.

This is the full text of the advert:

THE WORD OF GOD AGAINST SODOMY"

Last year in the ‘gay pride parade’ a banner stating "Jesus is a Fag" was carried by one of the participants. The supporter of homosexuality was able to walk through the streets of Belfast displaying this offensive placard in spite of the presence of the PSNI, representatives from the Commission and the march organisers. The act of sodomy is a grave offence to every Bible believer who, in accepting the pure message of Gods precious Word, express the mind of God by declaring it to be an abomination. (Leviticus, ch18 v22, Thou Shalt not lie down with mankind, as with womankind; it is an abomination.) This unequivocal statement clearly articulates Gods judgement upon a sin that has been only made controversial by those who are attempting to either neutralise or remove the guilt of their wrongdoing. As a result, we are now witnessing a hostile spirit being exerted against the testimony of Gods precious Word and those who adhere to its teachings. It is imperative that everyone whose faith is centred upon the authority of the divinely inspired scriptures maintain a strong and public stand for the ethical and moral standards that will ultimately exalt the nation. (Proverbs, ch14 v34, Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.)

The issue of human rights is no longer a basis for this parade, as successive governments have legislated for the lowering of the age of consent, the authorisation of civil partnerships and the inheritance rights of a nominated partner. It is a cause for regret that a section of the community desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality, which in certain incidences has provoked the unacceptable and totally unjustifiable response of violence. Such a response, however, must not intimidate the church into silence.

We are obliged under God to publicly challenge the vices of this generation with the divine assurance that the gospel of redeeming grace can change a persons life by making them a new creature in the beloved Lord Jesus Christ. (1st Corinthians, ch6 vs9-11, know Ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but ye are washed. But ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God.)

The message of the gospel is purifying, positive and precious all because the Lord Jesus Christ shed his sinless blood on the cross of Calvary to take away sin. We invite you to join us … as we assemble in the park … for a gospel witness against the act of sodomy. This parade is not a welcome addition to our city, neither is it a positive celebration of a profitable lifestyle flaunting a form of sexuality that generations of men and women have righteously resisted and by Gods grace will continue to resist. Romans, ch1 v17".

OK, let me begin with a criticism of the advert. Sodomy. What does it mean? In modern English (and particularly its usage in the law) we understand the word sodomy to refer to the practice of penetrative anal sex. I don’t think most people hear that word and think it refers to all forms of homosexual activity. Yet, if we look at the specific Bible verses involved in this discussion, the actual specific sexual act is never really covered. We can have a long discussion over the exact meaning of the words in 1 Cor 6:9, but I think we need to begin this discussion with a gentle reminder to my conservative friends that anal sex is NOT the be all and end all of gay sex. In fact, most men who engage in same-sex activity don’t engage in anal sex.

So, either the writers of the advert don’t understand the modern usage of the word sodomy or they are completely ignorant about gay sex. Either way, a little more cultural awareness wouldn’t be amiss.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s explore the judgement.

The ASA received seven complaints:

1. four complainants believed the ad’s content was homophobic and, therefore, offensive and

2. six complainants believed the ad was likely to provoke hatred and violence against the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The second complaint was rejected by the ASA on the following grounds:

We understood that the complainants were concerned because the ad called for an outdoor meeting to be held in protest of the act of sodomy and to voice disapproval of the Belfast Gay Pride parade on the same day as the parade was arranged; they believed this action could be read as an attempt to spread hatred and incite violence against supporters and members of the Pride movement and LBGT community.

While we appreciated the complainants’ concern, we considered that the ad did not in itself incorporate language likely to incite a violent emotional response. We considered that it would be clear to readers that it represented the views of a specific group, which were not universally held, and would be deemed extreme by some. We acknowledged, therefore, that the ad conveyed an opinion that was controversial for some readers but concluded that it was unlikely to provoke hatred or violence against the LGBT community.

On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code clauses 8.1 (Matters of opinion) and 11.1 (Violence and anti-social behaviour) but did not find it in breach.

Quite right too. You simply can’t rule that someone is provoking a violent response unless they are actually explictly advocating or deliberately eliciting (and that is quite hard to prove) such a response. The language of the ASA ruling is very clear – "the ad did not in itself incorporate language likely to incite a violent emotional responsethe ad conveyed an opinion that was controversial for some readers but concluded that it was unlikely to provoke hatred or violence against the LGBT community".

However, the ASA found Sandown Presbyterian Church guilty on the first allegation, that of being homophobic.

The ASA noted the ad prominently stated "Published by the Kirk Session of Sandown Free Presbyterian Church" and recognised that readers would understand that the text was representative of the beliefs of a specific group and indicative of their opinion only. We considered, however, that some of the text used in relation to homosexuality, for example, "… declaring it to be an abomination …", "… God’s judgement upon a sin …", "… remove the guilt of their wrongdoing …", "… a cause for regret that a section of the community desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality …", went further than the majority of readers were likely to find acceptable.

We considered that particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of sexual orientation, and concluded that this ad had caused serious offence to some readers.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clause 5.1 (Decency) but did not breach 8.1 (Matters of opinion).

It seems that this case has brought up an issue that I have raised before, when the initial SORS were proposed for Northern Ireland. Back then (in December 2006) I wrote the following:

My biggest problem with the SOR is I want to know how they will define what a homosexual person is. Will it be defined by biological factors like race or sex discrimination? At the moment without ever meeting you I can take your DNA and tell straight away what sex you are and what race you are. The essence of the discrimination laws of the 1960s and 70s was that these things were natural and immutable and therefore normal variances of human biological development. It is impossible to change your sex (despite chopping bits off or adding them) as your chromosomes will remain XY or XX regardless. The same with race – to change your race you would need to modify every single cell in your body.

When we look at sexual orientation we can’t do the same thing. There is nothing in your genes, your brain or anything biological or biochemical that indicates straight away “yes, this person is gay”. So we’re left with personal identification – i.e. that people are classified as gay NOT because there is some clear biological criteria under which that can be ascertained but rather because they simply claim to be so. Now that’s not to deny in any sense that people are correctly reporting their homosexual orientation (been there, done that – if anybody had told me ten years ago that I was deluding myself about what I was experiencing sexual orientation wise they would have been wrong – period) but it is to point out that the terms under which that identification can be confirmed are different to race and sex. The bottom line is, I would like to see a very clear legal definition of what a gay person is and how it can be clearly identified.

If that happens and the only answer is “someone who engages in sex with someone of the same sex, or who is sexually aroused by someone of the same sex” then we are left with two problems. The first is that the first definition (someone who engages in sex) describes a behaviour separate to orientation and therefore places homosexual activity in the same position as smoking or drinking, both of which are legally discriminated against already (no-smoking zones and bans, alcohol free city-centre zones). To elevate the right to gay sex above the right to smoke is of course blatantly ridiculous.

The second definition (sexually aroused by someone of the same sex) describes a biological response which we can record, but not one which we can source (i.e. we can scientifically observe sexual arousal but we can’t determine prior to the experiment on a fresh subject what that observation is likely to be and why – i.e. the source of orientation). We’re back to the same problem – we can’t adequately, scientifically clarify why sexual orientation is, unlike race or sex.

Perhaps Sexual Behaviour Regulations would be better, but the political problem with that is that it would protect a particular minority behaviour above others.

So, how about this – I wonder about the legality of refusing to rent your private room (B&B or otherwise) to two men on the basis NOT of their orientation but of their sexual practice. As far as I can see there’s nothing in the legislation to prevent that. I’m dying to see the first test case where the prosecution says “no, it was discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation” and the defence replies “prove the sexual orientation of the plaintiff in the same way that you can race or sex and we’ll give way”.

The problem with the ASA ruling as I see it is that they seem to have confused the issues of sexual orientation and sexual practice. The CAP Code, section 5.1 says the following:

DECENCY

(ie avoiding serious or widespread offence)

5.1 Marketing communications should contain nothing that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or disability. Compliance with the Code will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards of decency.

5.2 Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily conflicting with 5.1 above. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.

5.3 The fact that a particular product is offensive to some people is not sufficient grounds for objecting to a marketing communication for it.

The important point to note here is that the decency criteria cover sexual orientation, not sexual practice. But go back to the advert, and read the relevant sections cited by the ASA ruling, and you will see that all of the quotes are to do with sexual practice and not sexual orientation.

Let me demonstrate. The first quote is "… declaring it to be an abomination …". The full context of that quote in the original advert is as follows:

The act of sodomy is a grave offence to every Bible believer who, in accepting the pure message of Gods precious Word, express the mind of God by declaring it to be an abomination.

Very clearly the advert refers to a sexual activity and not a sexual orientation. Therefore this sentence cannot fall foul of section 5.1 of the CAP Code since the CAP Code does not cover sexual practice.

The next quotes in the ruling are "… God’s judgement upon a sin …" and "… remove the guilt of their wrongdoing …". The full context is as follows:

. (Leviticus, ch18 v22, Thou Shalt not lie down with mankind, as with womankind; it is an abomination.) This unequivocal statement clearly articulates Gods judgement upon a sin that has been only made controversial by those who are attempting to either neutralise or remove the guilt of their wrongdoing.

Once again, the advert refers to a sexual activity as sinful and not the desire to commit that sexual activity. Therefore section 5.1 cannot apply because the sentence in context clearly does not address the issue of sexual orientation.

Here’s the final quote – "… a cause for regret that a section of the community desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality …". The full context is as follows:

It is a cause for regret that a section of the community desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality, which in certain incidences has provoked the unacceptable and totally unjustifiable response of violence.

Firstly, this is a passage that unequivocally denounces homophobic violence. However, the text "a perverted form of sexuality" is what’s really at issue here. For me this is the point at which the ASA’s case is at its strongest, but once again I would argue that given the rest of the advert, it might be reasonably assumed that "perverted form of sexuality" refers not to a same-sex orientation but rather specific sexual activity, especially given that the previous sentence refers not to sexual orientation but ages of consent for sexual activity and the freedom to assign inheritance rights to civil partners. Unless you are to argue that only same-sex oriented couples may enter a civil partnership (and such a presumption does not exist in the law in the same way that a marriage does not necessarily have to be desirously consumated to be valid) then you cannot argue that the paragraph is contextually about same-sex orientation rather than activity.

I think it’s fair to point out at this point that I am uncomfortable with the words "a perverted form of sexuality", but I don’t think such words necessarily refer to sexual orientation. I personally wouldn’t use them to talk in a non-christian environment about same-sex activity, but that’s a separate matter.

That aside, it appears to me that the ASA has got itself into rather a muddle here, by confusing sexual orientation and sexual activity. Unless you are to assume that being same-sex oriented means that you have no option but to engage in same-sex activity (and I have argued recently that such an assumption has no ground and runs counter to most historical sociological understandings) then the ASA case falls apart. It is painfully clear that three of the four examples the ASA ruling gives for the advert failing section 5.1 of the CAP code do not in any sense breach the code because they have nothing to do what so ever with sexual orientation. The fourth example can only be taken to breach the code if the quote is read out of context of the rest of the advert.

I believe that were Sandown Presbyterian Church to take this ruling to judicial review and to argue upon these lines we would get a very important ruling that would begin to lay down the interpretation of the law in this area, not just in regard to advertising and public declarations but also in connection to the SORS and other related legislation. We need some clarification exactly what does and doesn’t constitute discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and it seems to me that this is a good case to begin with, as the quoted texts involved refer very clearly to sexual activity.

I’d be grateful for your thoughts. Do you agree with me that the ASA seems to have confused sexual orientation and sexual activity? If not, why not? If you’re new to the blog, please make sure you read the commenting policy before posting.

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19 Comments on “Has the ASA got in a muddle over sexual orientation?

  1. Thanks Peter.  Other than the ‘sodomy’ point (which I’d not given any thought to) your comments on the wording of the ad reflected my gut reaction.

    Unless you beat me to it I’ll try to email a link to the church concerned so that they can ponder your thoughts.

    In Christ,

    JF.

  2. As a resident of the glorious Northern Ireland, I want to make one point, which is pedantic, but significant to Christian life in NI – it was Sandown FREE Presbyterian Church, not any Presbyterian Church in NI. Now I think about it, it’s not pedantic!!! Thanks for the good work, Peter.

  3. Thank you for this excellent post, Peter, but one small point from (I hope) a ‘conservative friend’ – you assert confidently that ‘in fact, most men who engage in same-sex activity don’t engage in anal sex’.  But 35% of new diagnoses of AIDS in the UK last year are from men who have sex with men – so, from such a small proportion of the population, it would seem that most of them do!  (The Terrence Higgins Trust tells us that anal sex is the most efficient way of transferring the virus.  I don’t want to get too biological on your nice blog, but I can!)

    But I don’t wish to sidetrack!

    • I’m afraid I don’t follow Jill’s reasoning here – surely one would have to know the number, not the percentage, of new AIDS cases from men who have sex with other men and compare it with the total number of men having sex of some sort or other with other men (or rather a guess at such a figure) before you could even begin to use it to guess the percentage of men who specifically have anal sex. Or am I just revealing my hopelessness at maths?

    • Jill,

      I’m afraid there is no direct mathematical connection between the percentage of those in the UK who are infected with HIV last year being gay men and the prevelance of anal sex amongst men who have sex with men. It simply doesn’t follow that just because 35% of Group X (those who contracted HIV) is sub group Y (men who have sex with men), therefore over 50% of sub group Y are sub-group Z (men who have anal sex with men), even if sub-group Z are more likely to have contracted HIV than non sub-group Z. Robert is absolutely right.

      You need to produce research data that actually details the specific level of anal sex amongst men who have sex with men and that level amongst those who contract HIV, otherwise you are making a controversial assertion with no evidence to back it up.

      • Well, I’m totally hopeless at maths, and never managed to grasp even the basic rudiments of algebra (ugh!) so will not attempt any rationalisation of this kind – I was merely trying to point out that it is highly unlikely that ‘most gay men do not engage in anal sex’.  Even the Terrence Higgins Trust admit that cases of HIV being spread through oral sex are unusual.
        Just for information purposes, the number of people living with HIV in the UK has trebled in the last 10 years.  Out of 7,700 new diagnoses in the UK last year, 2,700 new diagnoses are among men who have sex with men, and 3,500 among people from black and minority ethnic communities (no gay/straight breakdown given here, or details on whether or not the previous category includes minority ethnic MSMs.)  Source: http://www.worldaidsday.org/hiv-facts-and-stats/hiv-statistics.aspx 
        As it now seems possible that we will all be required to give details of our sexual ‘preferences’ on the next census, perhaps more accurate data will be forthcoming.  But as I hope that everybody in the land will put ‘other’ against their sexual choice, as I shall be sorely tempted to do, perhaps it won’t.  Even if it did, being cynical, what is the betting that unattractive figures linking AIDS and gay men will be buried.
        Jay, how refreshing to read a post that doesn’t go down the road of ‘you hate gays’ which I usually get when I make posts like these.  Because of course I don’t, I don’t hate anybody.  What you say about other homosexual practices is not for the likes of me to judge; you have to discern from scripture what God requires of you, which you obviously have done already, or alternatively listen to people like Peter who are good at discerning!  You obviously do not belong to the San Francisco bathhouse culture, nor (I assume) would you be party to anything like the revolting Folsom Street Fair spectacle, so you have to admit that your personal experience is somewhat limited!  As, of course, is mine.  I can only go by what I read, and my concern is that the culture of permissiveness (epitomised by Peter’s post) will lead to further increases in disease and early death caused by reckless sexual practices while policy makers witter on about gay ‘rights’.  Bring on the ‘right’ to be properly informed, I say.

    • This isn’t based on any type of data.  However, when I got to college and finally got to befriend gay men, I found that a lot of the stereotypes an assertions I had heard about them were false.  This was especially true about sex.  I had assumed that anal sex really was all they did, but most of the friends I know said it’s not that common, or it’s something that they’d have tried once or twice but didn’t prefer (and yes, I really am bold enough to ask people about their sex lives; somehow I get by with it).  I know, personally, it’s not something I would likely have ever done, even if I wasn’t celibate.  However, I’m with Peter.  Just because I wouldn’t do that sex act doesn’t mean the other sex acts homosexuals do aren’t sinful.  They are.  It’s not because of the act itself (or issues of “plumbing” as many Christians say), but because of the genders of each.

      I do wonder if Christians stopped seeing gay sex as equivalent to anal sex, reactions might be a bit better.  Many people can get “grossed out” by the latter concept, while things such as oral sex (which are more common) are done by heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.

  4. I wonder about the prevalence myself, because I do hear people saying it is not common; or that large numbers do not.
    I have a feeling that anal sex is indeed “the” method of having sex preferred by the sexually active; but that is just a feeling.

  5. Hello Jill.  Well, I don’t think I would belong to any gay culture, really.  Like Peter, I am a conservative man who happens to be same-sex attracted, but I am celibate (although I have admittedly stumbled; I had a boyfriend last year, for instance).  So I don’t think I would ever accuse a Christian who holds to a traditional view of sexuality of homophobia (because then I would be homophobic myself).

    I do, however, think I can use my experiences as a fringe member of the gay community (and I think most post-gays are) to help broaden minds and dash away unhelpful stereotypes that hinder the Christian mission to GLBTs.  I think one of those unhelpful stereotypes is that gay sex is intrinsically unhealthy, harmful, and disease-spreading.  As I said, this just isn’t true for many gay men, since not all participate in anal sex.  If we are going to be a witness, we need to make sure we understand the realities of the people we are witnessing to.

  6. Thank you, Jay.  We can all stumble; no-one could think any the worse of you for that, but that is not the issue. 

     
    You talk of unhelpful stereotypes, but you yourself are stereotyping to some degree, with talk of broadening minds.  Most Christians (not all, I agree) are pretty broad-minded towards same-sex attracted people.  Most of us know ssa people, or have them as friends or family, and love them just the same.  But we must not be blinded to uncomfortable truths, and the truth is that gay sex in its extreme form – i.e. through anal sex and other practices which violate the body (as well as violent ‘straight’ sex) IS harmful, unhealthy and disease spreading.  It is simply not true to say that it isn’t.  The figures I gave earlier speak for themselves.  Gay websites, or at least the more responsible ones, are awash with AIDS information. 

     
    The culture as it stands at the moment (the case cited in this blog being a case in point) is forcing us to look away from these uncomfortable truths, to silence any opposition on clinical or moral grounds, to pretend they are not happening.  But they are, and this is a betrayal of the very people most affected.  It is no coincidence that cases of HIV/AIDS have risen so dramatically; the current government having lulled gay men into a false sense of security, and passed laws designed to punish dissenters.  This is bad, bad for gay men, bad for the rest of society, and bad for freedom of speech and religious liberty.

     

  7. Jill,

    The issue I think Jay and I want to raise is that “gay sex in its extreme form” (i.e. anal sex), is simply not that common amongst men who have sex with men as you are implying it is. It is quite a minority choice, so to continue to emphasise the dangers of it is to run the risk of being seen to be out of touch with the reality of the sex lives of gay men.

    HIV infection rates have increased in recent years amongst gay men in this country (the UK) because of a decrease in the use of protection (condoms etc). I’m not sure that has anything to do with the Government per se and rather has probably more to do with a generation of young gay men who are growing up in a different social environment to the late 80s, when safe sex and dangers of AIDS were paramount in people’s thoughts.

  8.  Jill,

     Many heterosexual couples (including christian couples) have anal sex so I don’t think it’s fair to say that the act itself is dangerous and disease spreading etc.   Who decides what constitues “extreme” sex anyway?  No liberal would deny that penetration is high risk for HIV in a way oral sex is not so that’s something of a straw men. Most gay men – however “extreme” or active – obviously don’t have HIV.   Didn’t HIV rates amongst *straight* people rise in the last decade too?  I am appaled at some people’s blase “I can take a pill” attitude to HIV but such attitudes are  hardly the result of some sort of PC conspiracy to lull gay men into a false sense of security. 

  9. Hello Peter and all,

    would like to answer your original question, Peter – I’d like to suggest that it’s not the ASA that’s muddled over sexual orientation, but Sandown Presbyterian Church’s ad. It seems to me it’s not well written – not just in the sense that it uses ugly, finger-pointing language (‘sodomy’ etc) but in the sense that it doesn’t seem consistent or well thought out. The heading refers to ‘Sodomy’, which as you say for most people means anal sex and so might be thought to refer to gay men. But later there’s the reference to “a section of the community” – should this ‘section’ be taken to include lesbian women? Perhaps yes, given the talk about civil partnerships in the previous sentence – but then why use ‘sodomy’ in the heading and quote Scriptures which, whatever the debates about precise meaning, only refer to acts between men?
     
    Seems to me the ASA’s ruling is quite fair given the way the ad is worded. Note also that the ad opens by referring to a placard that said, ‘Jesus is a fag’ and uses the phrase “supporter of homosexuality” – two more references to sexuality and not just a sexual act. I think that phrase, “It is a cause for regret that a section of the community desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality” should be read as a reference to sexuality not a particular sexual act – after all if “a section of the community” refers to what many would call ‘gay people’, that would seem the right reading, given that the gay community doesn’t identify itself by any one sexual act. Read as a whole, the advert slides between referring to sexuality and a particular sexual act – I’d suggest the muddle lies here, as the ad’s authors don’t make a clear distinction between act and orientation, just as they don’t seem clear on whether they’re also talking about lesbian women.
     
     
    At the risk of tedium – cos I’m sure I’ve said this before – there are ways of objecting to same-sex sex, and/or suggesting that homosexuality is pathological or disordered in some way, without the use of the kind of language Sandown’s ad employs. It seems spurious to me to argue that ASA guidelines and other regulations, are infringing Christians’ freedom of speech in this area (I’m assuming, I hope fairly, that Sandown and maybe others – eg the Christian Institute – would argue this).

    in friendship, Blair

  10. Hi Blair,

    I want to suggest to you that while you might have a good point about parts of the advert from Sandown Free Presbyterian Church being not “consistent or well thought out”, I would still want to argue that the specific quotes cited by the ASA in their judgement do not, in context, fit the charge of being discriminatory on the grounds of sexual orientation. While there are references to orientation in the advert, it is not these references that the ASA picks up on, because I don’t think that the references to orientation are themselves (on the whole) in and of themselves offensive.

  11. Evening Peter,

    …but the ASA does quote the bit about “a cause for regret that a section of the community desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality”, and as I said I think that can’t only be read as referring to ‘sodomy’ given the context (civil partnerships and inheritance rights in the previous sentence) and the fact that the gay community wants to be known for being gay, not for having anal sex, and is campaigning for human rights as such, as the advert says (beginning of 2nd para). The ASA also says “for example” before their list of quotes, so presumably isn’t claiming to be exhaustive (perhaps it should have been).
     
    yours, as tediously argumentative as ever… :)

  12. I think I’d want to argue that in order to assume that “a perverted form of sexuality” is specifically linked to civil partnerships and inheritance rights, you would first have to show that civil partnerships are only intended to active homosexuals to enter. Such an assumption would run counter to the original intent of the Act, which is not intended to be discriminatory in that manner (i.e. it is perfectly possible for two “straight” men to enter into a civil partnership). It’s a moot point, but I think legally the ASA is simply not thinking through its ruling.

    As for the “for example”, well yes, but when all the examples clearly don’t fit the sexual orientation criteria (3 of the 4 examples have absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation – they are criticisms of sexual behaviour), you might stop to ask whether the ASA ruling really is well thought out.

    Don’t get me wrong on this Blair – I think there are issues with the Sandown Free Presbyterian advert, its just I don’t think they are the issues that the ASA raises and for that reason I think that the Church has good grounds on which to go to judicial review.

  13. Hi Peter,

    re your first para: I don’t think you’d need “to show that civil partnerships are only intended to active homosexuals to enter” – I’m just taking it that the ad’s authors (and readers) assume that gay people will enter civil partnerships. Granted, it’s possible for 2 straight guys to form a CP but I think it’s highly unlikely that most folks would read it that way (…and that 2 straight guys would form a CP). And as I keep saying, that sentence with the phrase about “a perverted form of sexuality” is also referring to what the gay community want to be known for – which is being gay, not a particular sexual act.

    Having typed that I can’t help thinking it’s not much use us cavilling about particular parts of the advert, much as I like indulging my pedantry :)  Wanted to ask you out of interest, what’s your take on the ad’s use of the word ‘sodomy’ – do you think it’s justified?

    in friendship, Blair

  14. Hi Blair,

    I still think you could reasonably argue that “a perverted form of sexuality” refers to sexual behaviour and not sexual orientation. If that is so, then the ASA’s ruling looks even more ridiculous. Remember, my critique of the ASA ruling is not that the advert should be allowed, but rather that the grounds the ASA cited for rejecting it don’t actually fit the evidence they present to support such a rejection. I really want us to think about the orientation versus behaviour question as regards legal interpretation of equality legislation, rather than getting bogged down as to whether Sandown Free Presbyterian Church are a bunch of homophobes (which I don’t think they are).

    As for “sodomy”, well I just don’t think that in 2008 the word is used in its correct form anymore. Rather, I think most readers would understand “sodomy” to be used in this advert in a perjorative sense to cover certain sexual behaviours. I certainly wouldn’t personally use the word when discussing homosexual practice, even that which is technically sodomy – it’s just too loaded with negative and derogatory conotations, and anyway, it’s used far too liberally as a perjorative on websites that claim to have some “virtue” to them but are actually quite homophobic.

  15. Hello again Peter,

    might have to agree to disagree about how to read that line about “a perverted form of sexuality”. Agree with you entirely about the use of ‘sodomy’ though.

    Am not trying to argue that Sandown FPC are “a bunch of homophobes” (although if they aren’t they have a funny way of showing it…). Fair enough that you want us to “think about the orientation versus behaviour question as regards legal interpretation of equality legislation” – I’m just not sure that this ad and the ruling about it, are the best hooks to hang that on so to speak. Granted that the ASA’s argument for their ruling isn’t the best, but then if they were challenged I imagine they could find other phrases from the advert that would back it up (and yes, which they should probably have quoted in the first place). Some of those could be ones I quoted in earlier comments…

    in friendship, Blair

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