By all accounts, Gary McFarlane never discriminated against anybody. He delivered relationship counselling to same-sex and different-sex couples alike.
He was training to deliver sex therapy, a second string to his bow. He answered an unexpected and entirely hypothetical question. Would he feel comfortable delivering sex therapy to a same-sex couple?
Sex therapy reportedly involves discussing foreplay and sex acts. The therapist prescribes physical activities for the couple to practise between sessions as homework.
Gary and fellow members of his faith community typically believe that the acts he would likely have ended up having to talk about, are sinful. I dare say sex therapy tends to work best if the couple and the therapist feel comfortable together.
Most people wouldn’t feel comfortable delivering the sort of service that sex therapy is, to anybody. Gary wasn’t at all sure that he would feel comfortable delivering sex therapy to a same-sex couple. I imagine that there might be other people who wouldn’t feel completely comfortable delivering sex therapy to anybody except same-sex couples. I wouldn’t begrudge them such a niche specialisation. Sex therapy is hardly the ideal subject for a “those who can’t, teach” approach. Some sexual acts are (shall we say?) rather specialised tastes.
Gary just blurted out the truth, that he wasn’t sure whether he would feel comfortable. His reasons? Those are irrelevant to the legal arguments that I think should have succeeded, when he took his employer to a tribunal, over what happened next. Relate retaliated by firing Gary from his job.
I cannot see how any couple would be disadvantaged, by being denied the opportunity of choosing as their sex therapist, a particular practitioner, who felt uncomfortable working with them, but couldn’t dare to admit it. I cannot see that weeding out of the sex therapy profession, any trainee who isn’t sure that he will be equally comfortable delivering sex therapy to same-sex and different-sex couples, is necessary (or “proportionate”), in order to maintain the standards of service that the sex therapy profession as a whole delivers to its clients.
Poor Gary wasn’t even allowed to return to his relationship counselling role, in which he had delivered that service to same-sex and different-sex couples alike. Instead, he was made jobless, for a “thought crime” that I think ought to be “decriminalised” without delay.
Is it in anybody’s best interests, for couples unknowingly to receive sex therapy, from sex therapists who are secretly working far outside their comfort zone, under duress? I wouldn’t want to. Would you, dear reader, whether you self-identify as gay, straight, or neither?