I am no scientist, but I seem to remember my father explaining to me how, for every action, there has to be an equal and opposite reaction. This was Sir Isaac Newton’s third law. The essence of this law is short and sweet – probably why I can still remember it. It seems to apply to a lot of things and as I seek balance in my life I know that if I want to increase one activity, I have to find a way to decrease something else. Basic stuff really.
I suppose I had hoped that there was an occasional area in which this law allowed a little leeway. If I gain more love in my life, do I have to lose something to make way for that love? If I gain an increase in my salary, do I lose something else? Politicians seem to be bound to Newton – as they gain power they all too often seem to lose integrity! Proof surely that there is no escape!
The area in which I had hoped to escape this law the most was that of equality. Here in the UK we have just seen the law change to enable gay couples to marry. Yes – I can finally call someone my wife, should I wish to and were I to find “Mrs Right’. It feels like a huge step forward in normalising gay relationships.
And yes – I do realise that there is discussion to be had around why normalising means we have to take on heterosexual constructs like marriage. But i think the big rush to say ‘I do’ means that old fashioned marriage is exactly what a huge number of gay couples do want – heterosexual construct or not! So I will not get side-tracked on this issue for the time being. Or the fact that marriage for gay people in the UK is still not equal to that of heterosexual people – what do they mean gay people can’t commit adultery?!
While we celebrate in this country and watch with joy as other countries and more and more states in the US accept the marriages of gay couples, old Newton’s law is working overtime. Often in a direct counter to increasing liberalisation, we see anti-gay laws being introduced, tightened and cruelly enforced. I used to think that I could travel to most countries in the world – now there are many that I would not travel to if you paid me. In many of these places, it is religion that leads the way in spreading extreme homophobia. The irony that, in many countries, it is the religion spread by Western missionaries that now points its damning finger back at the liberal West is not lost.
The new (-ish) Archbishop of Canterbury has publicly stated that he dare not lead the Anglican church further down the path of accepting gay equality because of the persecution that could be unleashed on African Christians. I was shocked at this statement! To use that argument as an excuse for refusing to end discrimination in this country seems ludicrous to me. What about places where the colour of a person’s skin is still reason for so-called God-fearing folk to treat someone less equitably? Does that mean Christians in this country shouldn’t campaign for racial equality? In some countries people are persecuted because of having particular health conditions or disabilities. So the West should not be heard condemning such attitudes?
It would appear that Newton’s law holds true. As I gain more equality, another lesbian in another place becomes less equal. But I am not happy with that and I’m going to call Newton’s law invalid. I’m kicking physics into touch! Well – not quite. You see, I know that the laws of physics apply to particles and ‘things’. But I am a human and I believe that people are more than things. I don’t have to comply with the law of things because humans have something – call it a spirit, call it humanity – that is beyond things. Just as I choose not to go to war, or to steal from my neighbour, I choose not to accept the inevitability that as one country becomes more equal another becomes less so. Equality isn’t a ‘thing’ – it is part of being human.
So, Mr Putin, Archbishop, Mr Mugabe and everyone else out there who thinks that gay people can be treated like second class ‘things’ to a greater or lesser degree, you’re backing a loser. Gay equality is about being human. Newton’s law does not apply!