Whether you support or oppose the core values of UKIP, the ability of the party to provoke controversial debate has enticed most of us to want to know more about Farage and his merry men (and women - although UKIP have the worst ratio of male to female candidates). The party have succeeded in pushing sensitive topics to the forefront of political debate, with their views on same-sex marriage arguably being one of their most provocative.
There is an inherent homophobia within UKIP which has been voiced by varying UKIP councillors. Most notably was UKIP councillor David Silvester who blamed the floods at the beginning of this year on gay marriage. David Cameron's decision to support same-sex marriage was seen by Silvester as "acting arrogantly against the gospel" as he stated that "no man or men, however powerful, can mess with Almighty God". Although Silvester was eventually expelled from the party, his obscene comments have been followed by other UKIP councillors who have aligned themselves with homophobic views.
UKIP's by-election candidate Roger Helmer has recently claimed that the NHS should fund 'gay-cure' therapy and has further stated that "homosexual behaviour is abnormal and undesirable". He is joined by Tamworth UKIP candidate Robert Bilcliff who, on the day that gay marriage was made legal, tweeted "sad day for all us straight people", by UKIP councillor Iain McLaughlan who claimed it was a "tragedy" that Section 28 was ever repealed because "children need to be protected from the promotion of homosexuality" and by UKIP councillor John Lyndon Sullivan who wrote on Facebook ""I rather often wonder if we shot one "poofter" (GLBT whatever), whether the next 99 would decide on balance, that they weren't after-all? We might then conclude that it's not a matter of genetics, but rather more of education."
It is evident that homophobia is prevalent within UKIP but is it rife in comparison to other parties? To put it bluntly: are UKIP becoming media scapegoats while other parties escape any accusations of offensiveness? Although the coalition government have ensured the legalisation of gay marriage, the rift this has caused within the Conservative Party has caused some lifelong Tory voters to switch to UKIP. From this perspective, a high proportion of Tory MP's and voters continue to be opposed to gay marriage yet have escaped the wrath of negative media reporting UKIP have endured.
Ironically, UKIP's ability to dose out crude media headlines have merely pulled them further onto a controversial stage and it is this very stage that is winning them votes. People are tired of the false promises and scandals that have become saturated into our current political system. UKIP's inability to be 'politically correct' has become their USP and this is something the current government should take note of. It has become evident through the growth of UKIP that people would rather hear the gritty truth than be fed media-trained assurances. Farage's ability to throw his hands up to any criticism has indeed made him 'one of the people'; a political leader who isn't at all deemed out of reach.
Nigel Farage continues to defend UKIP's opposition to gay marriage as defending the rights of religious 'majorities'. He says that the UK's legalisation of same-sex marriage "risks an action going to the European Court of Human Rights that would make churches be made, under anti-discrimination laws, to carry out services that are anathema to millions of people".
Farage's ability to link almost any topic to the 'problem' of the EU is impressive in itself but fails to really address UKIP's stance on homosexuality. The church has been marrying all kinds of 'sinners' in recent decades; from divorcees, to non-virgins, to 'temporary' church-goers, to wearers of mixed fabrics (yes, this is considered an abomination in the Bible: see Deuteronomy 22:11). So why is it that the case that same-sex couples are still considered 'exceptions' to all other kinds of 'sinners'?
UKIP isn't protecting faith groups though opposing gay marriage, there are merely using them as an excuse to get their inherent homophobia on the political agenda. Although they may have unfairly been thrust into a media spotlight for the comments made by some of their most ignorant councillors - with other parties escaping this wrath - it has unfortunately only worked to their advantage.
UKIP's newly elected MEP for Scotland, David Coburn, is now being used as a pawn in UKIP's political game. As a gay man his presence in UKIP allows the party to declare that they are, in fact, not homophobic at all. Alongside this Coburn's declaration that "same-sex marriage breeds homophobia" and that "civil partnerships should be enough" only serves to give greater credence to UKIP's opposition to same-sex marriage. When asked if gay people are welcome in UKIP, Farage replied with "well we've just had a gay person elected as one of our MEP's...I think that answers the question". Unfortunately it does not; it merely allows for the question to be avoided.
Within the storm of normalised homophobia UKIP have created, it is easy to forget the thousands of young LGBT people who are yet to 'come out'. A sixteen year old Christian who is coming to terms with being gay is likely to be severely affected by the comments made by UKIP councillors, particularly when using the Bible as a platform for hate. This needs to change and it should not be used as a tool to endorsing a discriminatory political agenda.
We need to keep talking about 'gay issues' to increase public awareness of the immense struggles many LGBT people still face today and to combat the ignorance exemplified by UKIP. Their lack of sensitivity towards gay people is best summed up through the words of sociologist Michel Foucault when discussing the power of discourse: "people know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does."
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