Let’s have a gay ol’ time

I have to say I’m really enjoying Prime Time’s new mix of hard-hitting debate and slapstick comedy as provided by the likes of the Iona Institute, and the fact that it is hastening the death of a particularly nasty strain of Irish conservatism is an added and welcome bonus.

For those not aware of who they are, the Iona Institute is a think tank set up to peddle fairy stories from the distant past, from virgin births and resurrections to the fact that gay people don’t deserve the same rights as you.

The recent appearance of Susan Philips – a woman so deluded she thinks your marriage somehow affects hers – on Prime Time is an excellent case in point.

One of her ridiculous diatribes against marriage equality was greeted not by applause, but by guffaws of well-deserved laughter. Extremists like Philips are now making moderate conservatives uncomfortable – after all, would you want to be associated with her?

The Irish Tea Party/Taliban hybrid is fast becoming a parody of itself, and in adopting tactics and rhetoric (not to mention dollars) from fellow zealots across the pond, it’s fighting a losing battle.

As indicated by a recent survey of Newstalk listeners, the Ireland they are trying to conserve doesn’t exist any more.

There are people who say they shouldn’t be allowed airtime, and I’m not one of them; simply because every time they appear on the TV or the radio, that nasty streak of Irish holy-Joe fundamentalism dies a little more.

The more they appear on the telly and make a show of themselves, the sooner we’ll be rid of them forever.

But they won’t go quietly, so here’s a few things to look out for – particularly their love of “redefining” stuff.

1. There’s a lot of talk of changes to marriage legislation “redefining society” from the holy Joes, as if that was a bad thing.

It’s not. Irish society is getting better, but it still doesn’t recognise or respect the rights of many – mostly thanks to said holy Joes.

2. Marriage equality for gay people doesn’t “redefine” anything about my marriage. Or yours. Or anyone else’s. And if you’re so unsure of yourself as to let it redefine you, then you should be asking yourself exactly why you got married in the first place – was it because you loved your partner, or because you wanted to do something gays can’t?

2. They’ll also do anything to “redfine” the marriage argument, usually by saying it’s about children.

Marriage is no more about children than dancing is about architecture, and to try to define it in those narrow terms is an insult to those who cannot have children or who marry late in life for companionship.

(In fact, the holy Joes probably frown on modern couples whose children attend their nuptials, but that’s another issue.)

Because the holy Joes and Josephines cannot bear to be faced by their own prejudice, they cannot bear to think of happy, loving gay people.

Witness the awesomely backward  performance of Philips in the Prime Time clip above as she repeatedly refers to gay people having “friends” and “their relationships.” It’s almost Victorian in its imbecility.

It seems that in her world of male/female marriage perfection there  is only joy; there is no domestic or emotional violence, no unhappy, unloved spouses or children.

There is also no logic at all. Just prejudice. Marriage has nothing to do with children, and everything to do with love and commitment and understanding. Gay people are capable of all that – and in many cases, probably more so than Philips.

3. When it comes to children, they are very quick to “redefine” the role of their church in the rape and persecution of generations of Irish children – the children whom, lest we forget, they are so eager to ‘protect’ from being brought up in a gay household.

A screen grab from Catholic Comment – “try using more general search terms” indeed…

Don’t believe me? A search for the word “Magdalene” on the website of religious reactionary mouthpiece site Catholic Comment returns no results at all – this from a site that claims to be “for the church and the media.”

The brilliant Irish comic Tara Flynn wrote a superb parody of the anti-gay marriage ads usually associated with sites like Catholic Comment and its cousins in America.

In it, she succinctly presents many of the arguments and threats used to deny gay people their rights.

The very fact that Flynn had to make such a video shows that Ireland is still a very conservative place, but thankfully a lot of progress has been made, especially in terms of removing the sense of shame that was previously attached to matters of sex and intimacy.

The hysterical laughter of the Prime Time audience -some of whom share Philips’ views – is a good sign for the future. Ireland has moved on, even though there are still those who insist on yanking at the handbrake.

But soon gay people will be able to marry just like anyone else and we’ll be “redefining” the likes of Philips and the Iona Institute as late, unlamented historical figures from Ireland’s shame-strewn past.