The word ‘straight’ isn’t homophobic. Now can we get on to the stuff that matters, please?

by Stephen Tall on July 8, 2012

Two significant events this week in the campaign for equal LGBT rights…

First, as we reported this week, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg asked that the ‘Pride flag’ be flown from Whitehall to symbolise Government support for Saturday’s rally in London. As The Sun’s political editor Tom Newton-Dunn tweeted:

(The picture show here was taken by Verity Harding: you can follow her on Twitter here.)

Secondly, Nick Clegg voiced his personal support for religious gay marriage for those which wish to recognise and celebrate a same-sex union:

… in an interview with the London Evening Standard to mark the World Pride event, Mr Clegg said: “This is a personal view at the moment, but I think that in exactly the same way that we shouldn’t force any church to conduct gay marriage, we shouldn’t stop any church that wants to conduct gay marriage. I don’t see why two individuals who love each other and want to show commitment to each other should not be able to do so in a way that is socially recognised as being marriage.”

A couple of weeks ago, Nick recorded this message — described by Attitude as “a really passionate, well-articulated support for equal marriage” — for Out for Marriage:


(Available to view on YouTube here.)

And then there was a third event… one of complete insignificance, apart from what it tells you about partisan politics. The Lib Dems won a by-election on Thursday in Kingston, defeating the Conservatives. It was a close contest, and the margin of victory was a slender 23 votes.

How did the Lib Dems draw voters’ attention to the likely tightness of the result, and that every vote would count? Well, we have two stock phrases, used up-and-down the country: “it’s a two-horse race” and “it’s a straight fight/choice”. In Kingston, we chose the latter for this leaflet:

ConservativeHome’s Matthew Barrett accused the party of a “hypocritical and dirty campaign” which was “just another example of how dirty and underhand the Lib Dems can be”. A predictably OTT response from the party of Clause 28, which was quickly refuted by Kingston Lib Dem leader Derek Osbourne:

“It is nonsense. I doubt any of us knew he [the Tory candidate] was gay. It is just an expression that we use in our leaflets and have been using for a long time – because it is a two horse race. Homophobic? Bizarre beyond belief.”

Still, if the Tories believe use of the word ‘straight’ is intrinsically homophobic, I hope they — and Stonewall’s Ben Summerskill — will try and be consistent, and condemn all such uses in political literature, regardless of party. That means condemning Tory leaflets which use the phrase, and Labour leaflets which use the phrase.

I’ve just linked to a couple of examples, but if you’re feeling especially geeky then you can trawl all such uses of the term ‘straight fight’ by each major party using this handy Google search-return.

Or you could instead do something of genuine significance, and promote cross-party campaigns such as Out4Marriage which may actually achieve something for a more equal society?

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.