Title: Off-Centre: DOMB and Extremism Credit: Craig Young Comment Friday 6th January 2006 - 12:00pm1136502000 Article: 1069 Rights
Why was there such a backlash against Gordon Copeland's same-sex marriage bill? A British feminist political scientist provides one answer. Anna-Marie Smith wrote a fascinating work on 'New Right Discourses on Race and Sexuality: 1968-1990' which dealt with Enoch Powell's anti-immigrant racism in the United Kingdom in the late sixties, and the infamous UK Clause 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which prevented schools from 'promoting' homosexuality, whatever that means. Her most useful concept is 'strategic centrism.' "Strategic centrism' is another name for triangulating a political strategy, and goes something like this. If you want your particular measure to look centrist, define it in relation to political extremes. Thus, Clause 28 was 'centrist' in relation to two 'extremes' in the United Kingdom in the late eighties. One wanted recriminalisation of homosexuality altogether, while the other was the contemporary British lesbian/gay movement, which wanted anti-discrimination laws. Clause 28 was packaged as providing a constricted 'private' space for lesbians and gay men, while refusing to cede any public space under anti-discrimination laws, but also not eradicating the right to constricted private space through recriminalisation. How did it work here? The goalposts have clearly shifted, and toward our side of the field of political debate. Here, the 'extremes' were as follows. On the far right side, there was talk of removing anti-discrimination protections on the basis of marital and family status altogether- Copeland had included Stephen Franks' Supplementary Order Paper 336 from the closing stages of the Relationships (Statutory References) Act debate in February 2005 for that purpose. Added to which, the Bill of Rights would have been amended to provide that outcome. On the other extreme were LGBT same-sex marriage advocates, who didn't exist at the time. In the centre was opposition to same-sex marriage bans on the basis that the Marriage (Gender Clarification) Bill went too far. Facts of life. And, incidentally too, a lesson for LGBT same-sex marriage proponents about jumping the gun. Same-sex marriage is still an option for the intermediate future when public opinion has shifted to permit it. Recommended: Anna Marie Smith: New Right Discourses on Race and Sexuality: 1968-1990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1995. Craig Young - 6th January 2006    
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