Mar 7, 2024

A new Government definition of extremism could be used to label those who disagree with same-sex marriage as “extremists”.

That’s the warning being given by some in the Cabinet about Michael Gove’s latest plans. The new definition apparently includes any group or individual that promotes an ideology that “undermines the rights or freedoms of others”.

The definition is to be a benchmark standard used by public bodies and others to determine who they work with and who they fund. It is non-statutory. Yet it will inevitably become the extremism definition across Government policy and public life.

A Government spokesman insists it “would absolutely not affect lawful expressions of beliefs”.

But prominent Tory figures aren’t convinced. Miriam Cates MP pointed out that “one person’s extremism is another person’s sincerely held and lawful belief”.

It is perfectly legal to believe that marriage can only be between one man and one woman. Yet that hasn’t stopped public bodies and others from punishing marriage supporters (see examples below).

This proposal for a loosely worded extremism definition will inevitably be misused. It would be a stick to beat traditional marriage supporters. It’s reported that the definition could be finalised soon.

There’s a realistic danger that C4M and its supporters could be labelled extremists simply for believing marriage is between a man and a woman. But it’s been the view of the overwhelming majority throughout history and remains so globally. The new definition of extremism needs a rethink.

Recent history has many examples of supporters of traditional marriage who have been punished for their views:

  • Felix Ngole was kicked off his university social work course for his belief in man-woman marriage. This was ruled unlawful by the Court of Appeal.
  • Adrian Smith was demoted and given a 40 per cent pay cut for saying – on his personal Facebook account, outside of work time – that gay weddings in churches would be “an equality too far”. This was ruled unlawful in the High Court.
  • The McArthur family, owners of Ashers Baking Company in Northern Ireland, were taken to court by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland for declining to decorate a cake with the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’. It took a four-year legal fight before the Supreme Court ruled this was unlawful.
  • Church was blocked from renting a room because of its Christian beliefs on marriage by Scotland’s second largest grant-making trust. The same trust also dismissed its own CEO, Kenneth Ferguson, for believing in real marriage.
  • Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, had a series of venues for an evangelistic speaking tour cancel his booking because of his views on same-sex marriage.
  • The late Mario Conti, then RC Archbishop of Glasgow, was reported to the police by Patrick Harvie MSP after he spoke out in support of traditional marriage in a sermon.
  • Bryan Barkley was axed as a volunteer by the Red Cross for holding up a sign saying ‘No Same Sex Marriage’.
  • Maureen Martin, a former mayoral candidate, lost her job after supporting real marriage in an election leaflet. She subsequently won a substantial payout from her former employer.