Tuesday 11 February 2014

Stupid Is As Stupid Does: Breda O'Brien and Homophobia

Breda O'Brien

In the wake of the "Pantigate" controversy, Breda O'Brien gives the following defence in her Irish Times column against accusations that she is homophobic:

 "I supported the decriminalisation of homosexuality, did not oppose the protections afforded by civil partnership and am in favour of guardianship rights in specific cases where two gay people are raising children. For this I was declared homophobic? Or because I said that every child has a mother and father, and that legislating to make that irrefutable reality irrelevant needs major debate?"

While I would have preferred that she wrote this article weeks ago instead of taking censorious legal action, it is better late than never. Let's examine the defence though.

Firstly, the phrase "did not oppose" in relation to civil partnership is curious. Does she mean that while she did not campaign against civil partnership legislation, she does not in fact approve of it? Secondly, if she believes that giving adoption and reproductive rights to gay couples makes biological parenthood "irrelevant", then surely she believes the same is true for married heterosexual couples who must adopt or use sperm/egg donors in order to start a family. If not, why not?

 Most importantly though, O'Brien rather deftly avoids an important question: does she agree with her church's teaching that homosexuality is a disorder and that gay people ought to remain chaste? If she does agree, then while it may be true that she does not hate gay people themselves, she does believe that homosexual sex acts and homosexual relationships are wrong. Essentially, she is saying to gay couples, "I don't hate you, but your life together is immoral."

 Maybe Breda O'Brien has transcended the Yeatsian conundrum and can truly "know the dancer from the dance", the agent from the action, the homophobe from the homophobia. I'm not so sure myself. For people like O'Brien and her friends at Iona, I prefer Forrest Gump's explanation:

 "Stupid is as stupid does."

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