Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday 23 September 2007

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders changes his tune on gay marriage

I read about this gentleman's change of heart a couple of days ago; OK, so a Republican mayor of a major city in the US decides to change his public stance on 'gay marriage', which he had formerly been opposed to. When campaigning in 2005 he had stood on a platform which included support for 'civil unions'. Here in the UK we have what are called 'civil partnerships', so I think that for at least some people outside the US the significance of the debate on the ways in which gay 'relationships' should be treated is not always fully understood. I don't profess to understand it fully myself. In any case I decided then that I had other things to think about than yet another Republican in America deciding to change his views on how to treat homosexuals.

Now I have decided to write about it, for reasons which will become clear if you care to read further. My immediate reaction when I read the original story was that someone with at least partially-negative views about homosexuality (he had supported 'civil unions' but opposed 'gay marriage') had changed his views because he was faced with a situation where he knew someone close to him, his daughter, who is homosexual and he had to confront the clash between her happiness and his own views. Of course I don't scorn his change of view (on the contrary, I welcome it), but I am somewhat cynical that he is brought to this change only now that he realises that his own daughter is 'one of them'! I well remember some years ago a neighbour and good friend (now dead, sadly) voicing very negative views about homosexuals, during which he said he had never met a homosexual. Perhaps he had never knowingly met one, although I thought even then that the level of naivete he was displaying was quite extraordinary; I wrote him a letter, which I'm forced to admit (neither with sorrow, nor with glee) that I did not hand to him - he was an old man in ailing health with an equally ailing wife, also now dead. I bit my tongue and remained silent. The implication from what I have written is that I am not fully 'out', which is the situation, although I suspect that many of my friends and acquaintances and certain members of my family have a pretty good idea of the situation and I know that a few read this blog from time to time.

Moving on. Here in the UK we have had 'civil partnerships' for the last few years. These provide, in legal terms, effectively the same levels of priveleges and obligations that come with 'marriage' for heterosexuals and a marriage is no different, legally, whether it is conducted in a church or registry office, or in recent years in any other place authorised to conduct marriages, mainly hotels and the like. The status granted by marriage or civil union is recognised throughout the entire UK, wherever it is conducted. The UK, whilst techincally a Christian country (and religion is protected and privileged in one way or another throughout the country), handles its religion in a fairly low-key manner. Politicians, except in Northern Ireland, are not in practice obligated to declare some kind of religious affiliation - generally speaking it is a matter of little or no account to most people.

In the US the situation is quite different. It is almost impossible to imagine a prospective politician not having to declare some kind of religious faith. The country may officially be 'secular', but 'In God we Trust' is the country's motto and appears on its banknotes. A lot of voters in the US appear to care deeply about religion and politicians have to bear this in mind, whatever their own inner beliefs might be - although I do not wish to imply that the beliefs they do profess are 'fake' in most cases. I am sure they are not.

Another difference is that in those [relatively few] places that allow 'civil unions' (or the even fewer that allow 'gay marriages') the extent of the rights that they grant is generally quite limited and certainly does not carry any weight outside the State where they took place. They give no right to any Federal benefits. The term 'marriage' in the US is linked in most people's minds with religion, even though civil marriages take place there, too. A far greater proportion of people in the US than in the UK claim some kind of personal religious faith.

I think it is in this context that the short speech given by the Mayor of San Diego needs to be viewed. He is I believe coming up for re-election relatively soon; it will be interesting to see how he fares, if he stands again. In any case the Governor of California, also a Republican, has consistently vetoed any attempt to make gay marriage state-wide, however 'moderate' he is said to be; it's nice to be accepted locally, I am sure, but if that acceptance stops at the city or State limits, then it's not really enough, any more than is the lack of access to Federal benefits. Call me a complete cynic, but I was rather disgusted by the level of emotion the Major displayed when making his speech - frankly it made me feel quite sick! I saw the video below on Jae's blog come back to what you know; he remarked that it did not require any comment (so I am left not actually knowing what he thinks about it - although as he is lucky enough to live in a committed relationship with a partner it is probably obvious). As this post shows I think it requires a great deal of comment, though - frankly I wanted to throw a cup of hot, scalding coffee over my computer as it was playing as a wild variety of emotions was swirling around my head! See what you think:

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