February 16, 2013

Icon“Gay couples can’t raise children” says Tory MP. Or does he?

10 days ago the Government struck a historic victory for gay rights by passing a bill that would legalise gay marriage in the UK. But barely a fortnight later, the Conservatives are back to their ‘nasty party’ homophobic reputation, with a senior Tory MP announcing that gay people make unfit parents and shouldn’t raise children.

It’s a neatly packaged story, and one that the press are happy to run away with, but it’s not necessarily true.

Explaining his views on gay marriage – which he voted against – to ITV Wales, Welsh secretary David Jones said “I regard marriage as an institution that has developed over many centuries, essentially for the provision of a warm and safe environment for the upbringing of children, which is clearly something that two same-sex partners can’t do.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, his comments provoked uproar from all corners. Responding to the fierce criticism, Jones then issued a further statement to explain his views:

“I did not say in the interview that same-sex partners should not adopt children and that is not my view. I simply sought to point out that, since same-sex partners could not biologically procreate children, the institution of marriage was one that, in my opinion, should be reserved to opposite sex partners.”

Jones is naive – growing up as a child with married parents is no guarantee of either a warm or a safe environment. He’s also illogical – his premise that marriage should be reserved for heterosexual people, because they will biologically procreate children, ignores those straight married couples who are infertile, past childbearing age, or just have no interest in children.

So he’s naive, illogical and – based on the number of follow-up statements he’s had to make – a terrible communicator. But he’s not a homophobe that thinks gay people shouldn’t be parents. He’s simply a homophobe who thinks gay people shouldn’t marry. A subtle distinction, but accuracy is important in these matters.

It’s not helpful for newspapers like The Guardian to gleefully publish headines like “Top Tory: gay people can’t raise children”. While it’s not anywhere as bad as The Sun’s recent tasteless frontpage regarding the tragic death of Reeva Steenkamp, shot in Oscar Pistorius’ house, both headlines are sensationalist and put the newspapers’ agendas ahead of public interest.

Jones’ opinions on gay marriage are scandalous enough, we don’t need the media overreacting and putting words in his mouth. And let’s face it, it’s only a matter of time before David Jones or another of the anti-gay-marriage MPs says something else anyway.

Or perhaps he won’t – it would appear that Mr Jones is A Friend Of The Gays after all. Sadly he couldn’t stretch all the way to the cliche that some of his best friends were gay, but he did rather weakly bleat that he had “people in my life who are important to me who are gay”. Judging by the depth of his knowledge on gay issues, what he probably means is that he sometimes watches Will and Grace.

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Milly Shaw

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