This Equality obsession is mad, bad and very dangerous
The great doctrine of our time is pursued at all costs – but it reduces our freedoms
By Charles Moore8:08PM GMT 01 Feb 20131612
Last week, I appeared on the panel of the BBC’s Any Questions? in Guildford. We were asked whether we thought women should be allowed to take part in full front-line combat roles in the Armed Services. I said I didn’t think that it would be an advance in human civilisation if women abandoned their traditional association with peace and started killing people as men do.
This did not please the questioner, an intelligent student from the politics department of Surrey University, or her supporters sitting with her. They thought that the only question was the ability of the woman – if she was fit to fight, fight she should, and no one should stop her.
Afterwards, I reflected on the oddity of the situation. It did not seem that the student and her colleagues were particularly interested in military matters in themselves. They also did not seem the sort of people who, in other circumstances, would be at all keen on people killing people. I could imagine them protesting against militarism. Yet here they were, pushing for a woman’s right to kill.
Why? Because of Equality, of course. It gets you into strange situations.
I put a capital e on Equality because, more than we recognise, it has become the public doctrine of our time. If you believe in big-E Equality, you are not merely saying, as most would, that people should try to make life fairer for all. You are making Equality the all-conquering principle of social organisation and human life. It is like a religion but, unlike actual religions in the West today, it is backed by the full force of law. Since 2009, when Labour’s Equality Act consolidated all previous bits of legislation, there have been seven strands of Equality, the creed’s equivalent of the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. They are: race, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender reassignment and religion/belief itself. In this seven, the last is the odd one out: I’ll come back to it. Through these seven channels, the grace of Equality must be poured.
What would the suffragettes be fighting for today? 25 Jan 2013
When David Cameron set out on his quest for gay marriage (and exactly when he did is a matter of some interest, since he denied any plans for gay marriage three days before the last general election), he probably saw this as a simple matter of being nicer to homosexuals and making the Tories seem less unpleasant. But now that the Government has moved to actual law, and will debate the Bill in Parliament on Tuesday, he is well and truly trapped by Equality.
In recent months, officials drafting the Bill have struggled to fulfil Equality’s aim of making same-sex marriage identical to marriage as the world has known it for most of human history. They have come across an insuperable barrier. It reminds me of the moment when, in trendy Islington in the 1980s, I was summoned by the health authority for a cervical smear. Some things just cannot be done.
The drafters have belatedly realised that, since there is no procreative act which defines homosexual behaviour, there can be no consummation, or non-consummation, and no adultery. These will not, therefore, be grounds for gay divorce. If your gay husband offers you no nookie, or if he avails himself of large amounts of nookie elsewhere (or both), he gives you no legal cause to divorce him.
So what they have ended up offering, strangely enough, is a law of marriage with no sexual element whatever. This has never happened before (although there have been plenty of sexless marriages). There is nothing in Mr Cameron’s new law to say that same-sex marriages must be between homosexuals. If I were a bachelor, I could marry a straight male friend just to get whatever tax advantages, travel deals and insurance discounts might be going. Incestuous marriage remains forbidden, but I don’t see why, in Mr Cameron’s vision of same-sex marriage, a mother could not marry her daughter or a sister her sister or a father his son. No sexual act is expected of them and even if – distressing thought – it did take place, it could have no genetic consequences. Why should such pairs not just agree that they fancy the married couple’s exemption from inheritance tax, and hurry down the aisle? How long before a same-sex, keep-it-in-the-family couple tries to make a fight of it, and wins a case against the British Governmet at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)?
This is the real point about Equality. Because it is now considered both a sacred and a legal principle, it is heaven on earth for lawyers, if for no one else. Just as the Jewish Beth Din, or rabbinical court, has endless work precisely interpreting exactly how the Torah applies to real life, so our own courts are starting to do the same with their Torah, Equality.
This in turn means that Mr Cameron’s promises, however sincere, that religious objections to same-sex marriage will be protected by the Bill cannot be fulfilled. Although religion is one of the seven “strands” of Equality, it is only one, no more important in Equality’s great scheme of things than gender reassignment. And so, although, under the new law, an Anglican priest remains free to marry only people of the opposite sex, if he is also chaplain of a hospital, the hospital will probably be entitled to dismiss him because his “homophobic” views about marriage break their “public sector equality duty” which the Equality Act lays down. On similar principles, a church might not be allowed to hire a public hall because of its views on marriage and a Christian, Jewish or Muslim teacher could be dismissed for refusing to teach that marriage was what Equality said it was.
None of these results is certain. Where would the legal fun be if it were? But what is certain is that such things will be legally contested, that they will be expensive, exhausting and dangerous, and that, by taking the matter to the ECHR, complainants will be able to go to a place where Mr Cameron’s promises are void.
If you stand back to look at how Equality works, you notice three things.
One is that it undermines freedom. It specialises in attacking ways of living which people have developed for themselves, often using the law and even the police to do so.
The second is that it undermines institutions. The bulwarks of a free society are not atomised individuals, but businesses, families, schools, clubs, churches, charities, sports teams – the Big Society we seem recently to have stopped hearing about. Equality is the government’s instrument for nationalising them.
The third is that Equality makes everyone (except lawyers and other activists) very unhappy. No one knows where she or he (you see!) stands, what law he might inadvertently be breaking, what “inappropriate” remark he might have made. And those who invoke Equality to advance their collective cause, far from being pleased by what they have won, are in a semi-permanent state of rage about any remaining imperfection. They are trained to identify grievance, so naturally they are aggrieved.
There is one additional point. The doctrine of Equality is mad. Like extreme post-Reformation Protestantism, it perverts a good inclination and turns it into a lunatic theocracy. Some of the Anabaptists who swept through Germany in the 16th century enforced Christ’s teaching that one must be as little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven by running about naked and babbling like babies. It is surprising that their modern equivalents will be found on the Conservative front bench next week.