Ethics and ethnicity

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 June, 2012, 12:00am


A few weeks after Barack Obama came out in favour of gay marriage, a photo montage appeared on my Facebook news feed comparing today's rabid opponents of such unions to supporters of racial segregation in the southern United States back in the day.

'Imagine how stupid you are going to look in 40 years,' blared the headline separating the two images. The only obvious difference between the pictures was that the modern one was in colour. The cowboy hats, the fluttering Stars and Stripes flags and the cruel, hard faces were present in both.

I felt satisfied that progress was being made in this cause. But that was shattered the next day when an acquaintance from Africa posted a series of rantings expressing support for Robert Mugabe's belief that gay marriage is an evil concept from the corrupt West. I posted a comment suggesting the Zimbabwean president should worry less about what consenting adults get up to in private and more about his country's catastrophic poverty, but the comments thread quickly turned ugly.

As this guy had earlier complained about racial discrimination in Hong Kong, I was disappointed that he couldn't see any parallels between homophobia and racism. He may stand out in Hong Kong because of his ethnicity, but not so much for his views on gay marriage. It's obviously going to be a hot issue in the United States presidential election, but it barely rated a mention during this year's jostling for the Hong Kong chief executive post.

To live up to its billing as 'Asia's World City', shouldn't Hong Kong take the lead in a region where religious hardliners can still force the cancellation of Lady Gaga concerts because she encourages young gay people to take pride in themselves?

I'm heterosexual, but that's irrelevant. We should speak out against all discrimination, regardless of whether it's homophobia, sexism or - yes, my African acquaintance - racism.