The March of Equal Rights

This week it was announced that Scotland, Vietnam and New Zealand are beginning the walk towards equal rights for all sexualities to be married. The Catholic and Anglican Churches of England are in full rout, barely able to take a stand for more than days at a time. President Obama of the US has come out in support of equal marriages as state after state brings their laws up to date. What began with a leak in the wall of Church-lead prejudice in the Netherlands has turned into a tidal wave as the Christian Churches fold yet again.

And yet even as Christian opposition in the developed world collapses, driven by falling numbers in church attendance crippling their political clout, Muslim states are upping the public violence and persecution of homosexuals across the Islamic world. The line is being drawn between the developed world and the developing, the secular and the Islamic, and the voices either side of the line are becoming louder. Championed by the lobbying site “” LGBT allies are creating a global lobbying clout with which to pressure states into pushing through progressive reforms or dropping conservative ones. On the other side of the line Saudi and Iranian public executions are becoming a public declaration that homosexuality is never to be tolerated in the fiercely Islamic states, and ex-Soviet and sub-Saharan African states legislatures are actually pushing further towards the illegality of homosexual acts to the point of death sentences and banning the word “gay”.

The lines are drawn. Ten states list homosexual acts as grounds for the death penalty or life imprisonment. Ten states recognise marriage equality. It’s a tie. But when only ten years ago only one state was in the second category, the tides are clearly turning.

In 1948 a black man could only marry a white woman (or vice versa) in under half of US states. By 1967 only the American south was holding out. On the 12th of June, 1967 these last states were forced to stand down by a court decision branding inequality of marriage between races as unconstitutional. That was only 45 years ago, and yet now the concept of a white man being able to marry a black women as being illegal is a concept which only bears serious consideration in a few lonely farms hundreds of miles from civilisation.

In 1913 many suffragettes were locked behind bars for their protests to grant equal rights to women to vote. In the 1950s and 1960s equal rights for blacks in the US to escape discrimination and regain the right to vote  shook America just as in 1967 homosexual acts were no longer threatened with criminality in the United Kingdom. Now lies one of the last major fights for equal rights in the developed world after a century of progress.

It is with this background the next step is being taken. Equality laws enforcing a lack of prejudice is already commonplace in developed states so that companies and governments cannot discriminate based on colour, creed or sexuality. Marriage is simply a facet which was left untouched due to a deference to religion which is swiftly fading.

This progress, which has come across in leaps and bounds through the last century, is the true clash of civilisations which Huntington attempted to theorise in the 1990s. As a battle between modern liberal secularism and equality of all before law, and the forces of conservative prejudice and violent tribalism it has in some way or another defined politics of the last several hundred years. First the English civil war, and the collapse of absolute royal power in the state which would go on to spread its ideas across the world. Then the revolutions of the 1700s cracked the divine right of Monarchies over the rights of their subjects, a cause Napoleon spread by musket across Europe, breaking the tyranny of the European dictators as he marched. The idea of master race rose its ugly head with the Empires of Europe: European slavery and white supremacy leading to conclusion with the gas chambers of Nazi Germany where all minorities shared the same fate. With the collapse of empires in the 1950s and 1960s came the collapse of white supremacy and the first signs of a coffin for institutional tribalism.

The fight continues today as the beginnings of intolerance towards intolerance, of entire societies in which intolerance is banned by law and intolerant societies are no longer respected. It is in this atmosphere that the rulers of Europe began the second decade of this millennium declaring multiculturalism dead and integration as the way forward. This was not a declaration that other cultures were not welcome, quite the opposite, it was a welcoming of others into the fold, but only as long as they showed an equal welcome to those cultures they joined. No longer would the Islamic subjugation of women and hatred of other faiths be tolerated, no longer would hard-line Christians be able to push for the illegality of homosexuality, no longer would nationalists be able to call for the ejection of immigrants, but in turn those immigrants would have to play by the rules of the societies they joined.

As this doctrine of integrated melting-pots of Europe has begun to take hold, so have the liberal and equality values spread. The north-eastern and western US states, South America, South Africa, the Pacific Islands and South East Asia have all begun to push in the same direction. Northern and Central Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia are becoming increasingly isolated in their rhetoric and acts of intolerance. The Arab Spring was the cumulation of escalating pressure on established elites immune to the rule of law to concede power, and the results have refuted the most critical of observers. In Libya liberal parties have seized elections as in Tunisia and Egypt moderate Islamists have confronted fears of a tumble into the intolerance of Saudi Arabia of Iran by promoting liberal reforms, strong constitutions and working with liberal parties to ensure freedoms for women in the newly democratic states.

Gay rights are a symptom of something deeper and more permanent than simply a happily married gay couple moving in next door. It is a symptom of a success in the fight for equal rights and liberal values we have been battling towards for centuries. It is a sign of the collapse of intolerant ideologies and the march of freedom before law across the world, from the Netherlands towards the Islamic World. It is a step by step process and everywhere you look there is conflict marking the battle for every step.

So before you stand against the image of two porcelain men holding hands on top of a wedding cake, rewind to the beginning of the process and scroll to the top of this page. Go back far enough and those men were blasphemers, blacks who disobeyed their masters, women who were raped, Jews, adulterers, barons who stood against the dictatorship of kings and peasants who could not afford to give away their wheat. Before you stand against gay marriage think about whether you are in a minority, whether that be religion, ethnicity, place of birth, being left handed, of different skin or hair colour, and how if you are one amongst them maybe you would have been swinging from those ropes for a petty crime. Those are the values you would have stood for decades and centuries ago, the values where those unlike you do not deserve to stand at your side as an equal.

Then look to the places where gays swing from the gallows, and see that intolerance must be met with intolerance.

Originally published on A Third Opinion.


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