Thursday, April 22, 2010

clause 28 (slight return)

The election is putting microphones in front of all kinds of Conservatives who would otherwise remain unquestioned. The ones who haven't been to Cuddly Dave's School of Touchy-Feely.

So three weeks ago we had shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling on his hind legs declaring that proprietors of bed and breakfasts should - in defiance of the law - be allowed to turn away customers for being gay.

I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences.

Presumably someone who dislikes serving black or Jewish people should be allowed their own conscience too.

Grayling's comment echoes David Cameron's extraordinary stammering performance to Gay Times, defending Tory MEPs backing homophobic votes and saying Tory lords shouldn't have a whipped vote on 'these kinds of issues'.

Fast forward to this week. Another day, another senior member of the Conservative shadow cabinet coming out with homophobic ideas for laws.

Julian Lewis says that the age of consent for gay men should be 18, two years above the straight age of 16. He says this is because men who have unprotected sex are 'at risk, and potentially at risk of their lives' due to HIV.

And this one's no Grayling said-in-secret thing. Lewis is happy to repeat this in public.

In Lewisland, unprotected straight sex would be allowed even if the man knowingly had HIV, but two young men who've tested HIV negative and are using condoms would be criminal.

In limiting this to under 18s, he's resurrecting an idea used to justify the 30 years of unequal age of consent after legalisation of homosexuality. They said that younger men would be subjected to predatory older men. They said that young men might not have made their minds up that they were gay and get tempted into a life of it, whereas if they were left alone for a couple of years they'd get over this experimental phase and be happy lifelong straights.

It implies a belief in the stereotype of gay men as paedophiles. It presumes that heterosexuality is the natural state and homosexuality is some aberration that may mutate from it. It presumes being gay is worse than being straight.

Lewis is also clinging to another anachronism, the idea of HIV as a gay disease that is a death sentence. For many years now people have been able to live full, long lives with HIV thanks to modern drugs. There is even PEP, a month-long 'morning after pill' for people who've had risky contact.

But we know that Julian Lewis' real concern is not about HIV and public health. Lewis also voted against gay adoption.

Then again, so did some very senior Conservatives indeed. Johann Hari talked to David Cameron about his homophobic record and, once again, he crumpled as soon as he was off the script.

Cameron denied voting to ban gay people from having the chance to provide an adoptive home for children in care. When I showed him the vote in Hansard, he mumbled, 'That's not my recollection'.

Even now, he can't get over it all, saying that straight couples make better parents, and gay people should be an also-ran backup in case there aren't enough straight couples around.

the ideal adoption is finding a mum and a dad, but there will be occasions when gay couples make very good adoptive parents.

They just can't help themselves, can they? Just like the party he leads, Cuddly Dave struggles to appear tolerant and inclusive but the truth keeps on bursting out.

David Cameron is Margaret Thatcher

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