No escaping same-sex marriage debate

TV and Radio with Brendan O’Regan

I’m getting really sick of it. The promotion of same-sex marriage in certain media quarters is relentless, but beginning to smack of desperation.

Last Friday afternoon on The Ray D’Arcy Show (RTÉ 1) Colm O’Gorman, a pro-same-sex marriage campaigner, talked about how “children’s privacy is incredibly important”, but this was just after he had brought his daughter Safia to the studio where she extolled her family situation, being raised by two gay men.

She was articulate and came across as very sincere, but it wasn’t just a ‘nice’ human story for casual afternoon listening – no, she took several opportunities to plug “marriage equality” and, of course, there was no challenging her position from presenter D’Arcy apart from the perfunctory question about what she had to say to those who said a child had a right to a mother and father.

Safia thought that opponents of same-sex marriage were casting aspersions on her actual family, which is an understandable but unnecessary taking of offence. Such opponents are merely suggesting what is, in general, the ideal situation in relation to marriage and children and that social policy must be decided rationally and with the broadest common good in mind. It’s highly unlikely of course, it would upset the lack of equilibrium, but if RTÉ were to air an interview with a child who had a bad experience of being raised by a gay couple, would we be meant to conclude that such family situations were generally a bad thing?

But that wasn’t enough for one week. On Friday evening’s Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1) solicitor Muriel Walls of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) was interviewed on the legal issues relating to same-sex marriage and civil partnership. But this wasn’t just an objective legal analysis as predictably she explicitly declared herself in favour of same-sex marriage. And this was largely another challenge-free zone for proponents. One thing it did show, unintentionally I presume, was how little some activists are really committed to equality. There had been no pleas for ‘civil partnership equality’ when that was introduced – some had suggested that it be inclusive, to accommodate those who lived together (e.g. elderly brothers and sisters) and wanted to sort out their legal affairs. Now the suggestion was that, if same-sex marriage is passed into law, civil partnership might be phased out or opened to all.

But even that wasn’t enough for one week. On The Saturday Night Show (RTÉ 1) one of Brendan O’Connor’s guests was footballer Conor Cusack, and he also declared at length in favour of same-sex marriage. O’Connor didn’t challenge his views, and specifically said he wasn’t going to get into the arguments, but got Cusack to accept that others who were not present on the show would disagree with his views. Crumbs!

Newstalk’s coverage of the issue has been just as one-sided. Last Friday’s Breakfast Show interview with the Dustin Lance Black, the American screenwriter of the movie Milk, was embarrassingly soft, unchallenging and even supportive.

Black didn’t seem aware of the irony as he complained about outside interference in the referendum on same-sex marriage in California, where it was defeated.

Interviewer Chris Donoghue made a partisan point when he made out that the referendum proposal had nothing to do with children – a hotly-contested point. At the end, Ivan Yates declared that Black was “clearly advocating a yes vote” (duh!) and that Newstalk would have a balanced approach, with Bishop Kevin Doran coming up on Monday’s show.

And so that came to pass, but this time Donoghue’s questioning was very robust and challenging. I’d have no problem with this if the approach was applied equally to the other side, but commitment to ‘equality’ seems rather selective these days.

One could nit-pick some of his analogies, but I thought Bishop Doran came across as reasonable, thoughtful and moderate as he made some crucial points about equality, parenting, and homosexuality in general.

So there I was, thinking that the balance had been partially restored, but then Newstalk’s Lunchtime show had Colm O’Gorman ‘reacting’ with mostly unchallenged invective to the bishop’s interview.

He thought that the bishop was ‘fundamentally dishonest’ for not admitting that his true motives in opposing same-sex marriage were from heartfelt religious conviction (O’Gorman can see into people’s minds it seems), and called his arguments ‘bizarre’, ‘nonsense’ and ‘short sighted’. I await further re-balancing.


Pick of the week

Songs of Praise

BBC 1, Sunday, March 15, 5pm

As we approach St Patrick’s Day we hear from Eamon Martin (pictured), the Archbishop of Armagh and spiritual leader of Catholics in Ireland.

Mass for Saint Patrick’s Day

RTĖ 1, Tuesday – St Patrick’s Day, 11am

Mass for the feast of St Patrick from Ballintubber Abbey, Co. Mayo.

Life and Death Row

RTĖ 1, Wednesday, March 18, 11.30pm    

Telling the story of capital punishment through the eyes of young people whose lives have been shaped by it.