Any Colour as long as it’s Black

Henry Ford famously said of his ‘Model T’ car: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”.

A century later the British courts seem to be following his lead by supporting freedom of speech, just so long as you’re saying the things the culture finds acceptable.

Yesterday, the High Court ruled that Transport for London bosses “were right to ban a Christian group’s bus advert suggesting gay people could be helped to change their sexuality.”

The advert in question read “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!” and was posted on London buses in response to an advert by the gay rights group Stonewall saying “Some people are gay. Get over it!”

So we have to ‘get over’ our prejudices but they don’t have to get over theirs? So it’s OK to be proud of being gay but not of being heterosexual? Or as a friend put it on Facebook “it’s okay to come out, but not to go ‘in’ again.”

I agree that we shouldn’t say offensive things to or about others, but the advert was very carefully worded in order to follow the same form as its Stonewall counterpart – so how could one “’cause grave offence’ to those who were gay” while the other doesn’t (apparently) cause grave offence to those who are not gay?

If someone goes around saying ‘I used to be blonde but now I’m brunette, and I’m proud of my new hair colour’, it would take a particular kind of paranoia for a blonde to feel that that was offensive to blondes and could exacerbate the prejudices already common against blondes.

Or what about all those adverts where people say they used to be fat but are now thin, or they used to use one kind of shampoo, but now use another, or they used to have sensitive teeth but now they don’t? Why aren’t those ads banned?

They’re not banned because we believe that thin is better than fat, that clean, glossy hair is better than dull, greasy hair, and pain-free mouths are better than painful ones.

It is hard, then, to avoid the conclusion that society considers homosexual relationships to be better than heterosexual ones, or at least to be worthy of greater support and encouragement than heterosexual ones.

We’d never see an advert promoting obesity, because some choices are not as healthy or laudable as others. It seems that the law of the land has deemed which choice of sexuality is the healthier or more laudable choice, and even to suggest that an alternative is available is “offensive” and “homophobic”.

Any person may make any lifestyle choice he (or she) likes, so long as it’s Stonewall’s.


3 Comments On This Topic
  1. Father Stephen
    on Mar 24th at 10:05 am

    I beg to disagree with you. The Court’s ruling was (to continue with your analogy) that no cars should have been produced at all. Mrs Justice Lang said was that the bus adverts from the British Humanist Association and Stonewall were ‘highly offensive’ and ruled that they breached Transport for London’s advertising policy. She also ruled that the advert placed by the Core Issues Trust, fell foul of the policy too and for that reason was legitimately barred by Transport for London.

    So the ruling was that both adverts should have been banned. However, as I understand it, the action taken by Core Issues Trust was not about the rights or wrongs of the advert but whether there had been ‘an interference with the right to freedom of expression by a public body’ i.e. Transport for London. This is where the matter gets really convoluted. TfL has a policy. The ads. have not been shown to break any laws but they have breached the policy of the provider of the space where they were posted. TfL therefore were bound by their own rules to ban both ads. Failing to ban the first one did not give them the right to ignore their policy for the second one.

    Mrs Justice Lang considered that the complaint against TfL was of such fundamental importance that she has given leave for Core Issues Trust to appeal.

    The question that must now be considered is whether a public body has the right to implement policies that infringe on the rights of others. It seems to me that if the appeal goes against TfL it will mean that the provider of advertising space will be unable to regulate what is displayed, so that something that is clearly offensive (but not necessarily illegal) would have to be permitted until a complaint is made to, and upheld by, the Courts.

    • Jennie Pollock
      on Mar 24th at 10:14 am

      Oh, interesting. I hadn’t realised that. I stand corrected. Thanks!

  2. emmaoreilly
    on Mar 25th at 3:22 pm

    But I wonder if the offence is taken more with the ‘ex-gay, post-gay’ rather than with the ‘not gay’ and ‘proud’ beacuse I think then this is a different argument to promoting one sexuality more than another. I don’t know any details about the background of the ad and if it has been supported by people who are ‘ex-gay’ or ‘post-gay’ but I’m sure we can all agree that most gay people would aruge vehemently that this is not a lifestyle choice that they can change like their hair colour. As a heterosexual Christian I can still understand the offence taken and whilst I agree that the Christian group of course has the right to respond to the original advert I’m not sure I agree it was the wisest choice of words.

    Interesting post Jennie 🙂


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