It was a calm, sunny Friday afternoon in London, but on Facebook there was a storm brewing. The magazine Country Life, which owned by IPC Media, a Time Warner subsidiary, had run an ad in its latest issue paid for by the organisation Coalition for Marriage.
The Coalition is supported by the anti-gay group The Christian Institute, a propaganda website that twists any story it perceives as pro-gay to show that traditional thinkers are being persecuted and their rights taken away. One its spokesmen, the MP David Burrowes, declared last month that in the same-sex marriage debate, it was the people who defended traditional marriage who were the victims. “I have also received a demand from some to not speak up for marriage,” he wrote in the Telegraph, a newspaper that tends to report the claims of The Christian Institute without question. “Hate filled messages of bigotry, intolerance, and violent threats (including death) have strengthened my position that this debate is as much about freedom for people to express their belief as it is about equality.” The bigots, the intolerant types, are those who would lobby for equal marriage, Burrowes thinks, and so plays the role of victim. The right to be a bigot, he seems to think, is his, and his alone.
The Coalition is also supported by CARE (Christian Action Research and Education), an organisation that believes in the “gay cure”: in other words, if only those people would try hard and stop choosing to be gay! So they offer to mentor “the sexually broken”, and provide interns to government, of which Burrowes is one of the lucky recipients.
And so Country Life ran an ad in which Coalition for Marriage claimed that 70% of people did not want the definition of marriage changed, which is based not on a recognised poll, but on one they had commissioned. (A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times found 43 percent in favour; it also found 15 percent opposed, with 32 percent in favour of civil partnerships but not marriage. An ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph showed 45 percent supported marriage equality.) And there was a backlash on Facebook and Twitter.
The Country Life fan page on Facebook contains a litany of complaints against the magazine for its decision to run the ad. I saw one lone voice who supported it. It hardly seems the place to guage the debate on equal marriage, this weekly property magazine aimed at the rich and white, with a circulation of 38,000. Of course, it is hard to say what the general readership think based on the reactions on the Facebook fan page, but it is encouraging nonetheless.
On another angle, this is what Helen Evans, advertising manager for the Women’s Insitute magazine told the Coalition for Marriage, as reported in the Daily Mail (of all places): “we are a national campaigning charity and your campaign doesn’t fit with any of our resolutions first and foremost. As WI Life is the national membership magazine, any promotion of your campaign could be seen as an endorsement to members. We do also welcome all women to the WI and this campaign could offend many of our members.” That is precisely how it should have been handled.
Why not sign the C4EM petition, the Coalition for Equal Marriage, to show that there are other voices, or add your voice the Equal Marriage Consultation run by the Home Office. And if you subscribe to Country Life, write and tell them what you think.