Rory O’Neill took part in a discussion with Caroline Farrow of Catholic Voices and Brandon Ambrosino, a gay writer who supports gay marriage but, in his own words, wants to “open up the conversation. I think when we throw out a label like ‘homophobia’ we stop the discussion before we can even have it.”
Later he added “I’m not saying ‘let’s throw out the word altogether’, but I’m saying ‘do we have to be so quick to use it?’ I think that there certainly are people – I mean, in my country we have the Westboro Baptist Church, those people are hateful, and bigoted, and discriminatory, and if we want to use the word ‘anti-gay’ or ‘homophobic’ we can apply it there…
But to use the same word of the Westboro Baptist Church, and to apply that to Caroline, or to apply that to my parents, or to apply that to Pope Francis himself, seems a little bit absurd to me.”
Caroline Farrow cited a poll carried out in the UK last year finding that only 50% of gay people supported gay marriage, with 25% opposing it and another 25% not sure. She added that “(my husband and I) were delighted to welcome gay couples to our wedding. That is not the action of somebody who hates gay people, who wishes to exclude them… what we’re saying is that marriage is a child-centric institution.”
O’Neill accused Farrow of being “uncomfortable about what you think I do”, and repeated his argument that it is impossible to be against gay marriage without being homophobic. He said “I would suggest that really, what it (oppositiont to gay marriage) boils down to is homophobia. I think that’s honestly the way it is.”
The discussion was overall quite nuanced and reasonable, and gave the substantive issues some breathing room. It was the kind of discussion it’s impossible to have when one side are being demonised and shut out of the debate.