DebatableLast night, I went to a debate on gay marriage hosted by the Phil in college. (The Phil and Hist, or Philosophical and Historical societies, are the debating societies in Trinity. They are, for all intents and purposes, interchangeable). The topic was "This house believes that gay marriage would do Ireland no harm".
Now, I don't go to these debates often, even though I quite like debating and debates. The thing is, many people involved with the two societies are horribly up themselves. Really ridiculously. I was at a Law society debate with an actual high court judge and everything a while ago, and everyone there was far more down-to-earth than the Hist/Phil people. There was one particularly dreadful specimen last night; in the rather over-crowded room I was sitting right behind the society president, and I would swear that at one point the president reached over to restrain the dreadful specimen. Some of the people in these societies get funny ideas...
The proposition had the USI LGBT rights officer, Stephen Conlon (no comment), Senator David Norris and the head of the Dublin gay theatre festival. Norris was, as always, wonderful, and the theatre festival person was also very articulate. There were also a few random students speaking.
The problem with debates on this particular subject is always finding a credible opposition, and so it was last night. First, there was Richard Waghorne (who I'd heard of before, from his blog, which is notable in that it employs CSS to change the cursor into something silly when above a link. I have no idea why. The blog itself is very good, however). He is also, apparently, the political commentator for the Irish Daily Mail; I had no idea that such a paper existed before yesterday. Anyway, he was actually very convincing, although I disagreed with some of his premises.
The next opposition speaker was of the opinion that civil marriage should be abolished completely. There's always one of these at gay marriage debates.
But they saved the best for last, oh yes. A Baptist preacher. Which, in itself, didn't guarantee disaster. But oh, what a Baptist preacher. His points included that legalising gay marriage would lead to population decline (because people, given the option, would prefer to be gay, presumably, but only if they could be respectably married), and, amazingly, that it would be the end of friendship. Because you couldn't have male friends, you see, in case people thought you were going to gay-marry them. Or something. Now, I'm a homosexual, and yet I have male friends, both homosexual and heterosexual. I would assume that people don't think that secretly I'm having sex with them, and if gay marriage was legalised tomorrow I highly doubt that I would marry them all. And, of course, he rolled out the heterophobia card. The gays will take over the world, you see! The whole speech seemed like something that might have a place in one of the more sensationalistic right-wing tabloids, or possibly on Sky News. It was not, though, really suitable for people who could tie their own shoelaces, and there was hysterical laughter throughout. Whether he misjudged his audience or he actually believed the nonsense he was spouting I don't know.
Afterwards, there was a drinks reception. I must say, the Phil/Hist, by dint of their superior funding, are able to outdo most other societies on this! Brand name beer (Tiger)! Imagine! (For reasons unclear to me, everyone starting college joins both and never goes to anything. This guarantees them a ready revenue stream without the obligation to actually spend much). I ended up talking to exactly the same people I always talk to when I go to these things (they're not even people I regularly meet elsewhere, really).
And then, when I got to the DART station, I remembered another reason I don't go to many debates. They seem to be timed to end during a period of nearly an hour in which there is no DART to Sutton. Grr.