Friday, January 26, 2007

The usefulness of Occam's Razor

Having quietly simmered all week over the gay adoption row currently enlivening the op-ed columns, I think the application of Occam’s Razor is called for.

Let’s peel away the first layer of superfluity: this row takes place within the context of an Act which does not legislate on adoption per se, but on the unacceptable presence of discrimination against lesbian, gay and bi people in the provision of goods and services in general. The Act, and in particular the proposed Regulations, state that, broadly speaking, refusing to offer any service of any kind to anyone on the basis of their sexuality will be illegal. That is the wider context of this particular row.

Applying our honed blade to the next layer, it becomes apparent that the Churches’ choice of Church-based adoption agencies as a stick with which to beat the Act is very deliberate. Adoption is an obviously emotive issue even if you remove the sexuality complication — it involves vulnerable children and all kinds of imaginary threatening demons are being conjured up by using it as the particular locus for discussion. The implication is that predatory people of the worst kind would be able to adopt children if the Act’s provisions removed the Church’s trusty protection of proper values in its own adoption agencies.

Why is the Church arguing on this issue? Is it that they genuinely feel the chalice of religious freedom will be dashed to the ground by the Act? If so, why do they not argue so publicly and ferociously against other laws?

The Razor says: they do not wish to be forced to act impartially towards people of different sexualities, and this is because they are homophobic.

Homophobia is the vein running under everything in this row; it is the vein which sustains the row. The question at issue is whether an organisation should be exempted from having to observe human rights because it is, to a greater or lesser extent, institutionally and traditionally homophobic.

The point of the legislation is that there is no place for homophobia in the ethics of equality. The Churches which raise objections do not do so out of a regard for the welfare of children. Their distaste for gay people is their motivation, and this should not be sanctioned by the law of the land.

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