A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests
Strictly Come Dancing made a triumphant return to British televisions on Saturday, as the annual celebrity dance competition teased viewers with a launch show. Slightly overshadowing the glittery launch, the show found themselves amidst a row over ‘family values’ and gender/sexuality.
Two things are going on. Firstly, CJ de Mooi of Eggheads fame (no, I’ve never heard of him either) seems annoyed that he wasn’t picked as a celebrity contestant, so suggested that this was in some way connected with he show not wanting same-sex pairings for dancers. The statement from the BBC that he was never really considered suggests that perhaps the initial row owes more to agent over-promising and client sour grapes.
Yet, what gives the story a bit more legs is a second aspect which a BBC spokesman said: “Strictly Come Dancing is a family show and we’ve chosen the traditional format of mixed-sex couples.
“At the moment we’ve no plans to introduce same-sex couples.”
It is this comment which has offended so many. ‘Family values’ is a term that has powerful social and legal meaning for the LGBTQ community and they responded on social media accordingly. Take Section 28 for example, which banned the promotion by local authorities of homosexuality as a ‘pretended family relationship’. It codified homosexuality as anti-family. Passed in 1988, it stayed on the books until 2003. The great legislative battle of recent years has been the move to introduce same-sex marriage, finally passing in 2013. Not some special marriage-lite civil partnership, but an equal institution (alas, the legislation does not give same-sex couples access tot he same institution).
These legislative changes inevitably fuel the anger of anyone who thinks that it’s being claimed same-sex couples are not ‘family’. It was a stupid thing to say.
Yet at the same time, there is a real challenge here to the show and the extent to which it follows the rules of dance and balances them with the need to be an entertainment show. I don’t think that debate is about any anti-gay policies, I think it’s a genuine tension at the heart of the show, and I’m not sure myself what think. It would make for an important debate.
It’s a debate we’ll have to keep waiting for however. One casual remark from a BBC spokesman has killed the chances of any debate for some time.