Life: Left of Centre

Equal Marriage – “People are People. Marriage is Marriage”

Posted on: April 16, 2012

This is important. It’s important not just because two people of the same sex who love each other should be able to have that love recognised in law; nor because this same battle (and make no mistakes in many countries this is just that) is taking place in countries across the Western world, and we are increasingly an example – a test case – to them; but because in Britain today gay (or LGBT: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people should have the same rights and recognition as their heterosexual counterparts. Full stop.

In the tolerant and accepting society we live in today, that is increasingly progressive on important social issues like women’s rights, health and social care and the rights of the young, the British government should take action to equalise the right to marry. As an out and proud gay man I know I deserve that same right as the next person – that discrimination, either blatant or wrapped up in the form of some other culture or belief system, religion or creed, should no longer be a barrier or even a stumbling block to positive social change on this, and other issues.

That’s why I’m adding my voice to this debate, as you should too. It’s time for gay marriage. We’ve waited long enough.

As many of you will know the government launched its consultation on the introduction of ‘Equal Civil Marriage’ – or ‘Gay Marriage’ as it’s come to be known – this Spring. With a deadline of 14th June for responses. The key measures include the right to have a civil marriage, the retention and opportunity for conversion of civil partnerships, the continuing option of opt-in ceremonies on religious premises and the provision for a partner to change their gender yet maintain their partnership/marriage. The consultation can be completed here, and I strongly encourage you all to do so.

Lynne Featherstone MP

But what is different here, as probably less of you will know, is that the government’s Equalities Minister: Lynne Featherstone, has leant her full weight to the proposal, stating that the policy will invite comments only on its ‘practical implementation’ – and not on the policy itself…

“There is no rolling back whatsoever. The essential question is not whether or not we are going to introduce same-sex civil marriage but how.”

Strong stuff, especially for a minister. But do the proposals go far enough? No, of course they don’t. After all this is a government of the Right, with some centrist window-dressing provided by a sprinkling of Lib Dems – and a ‘yellow Tory’ at the top: Nick Clegg.

Civil marriage should be allowed on religious premises, not just partnerships, and it’s high time that this ludicrous, discriminatory opt-out was ended. Why should religious groups be able to bar gay people from having their ceremony performed in a church or other religious building? Why should religion trump sexual orientation? The answer is simple: it shouldn’t – and don’t forget to mention that when you respond to the consultation.

Love - what else matters?

My reservations stop there. I’m not a religious person. I don’t believe in a god, the God or any other god for that matter, but for those Christians, Jews, Muslims and those of other religious faiths, I know who are gay we should support them in their fight for their religion to recognise their sexuality, not as a sin, but as a blessing. For – to take the Bible for a moment – are we not created all as equals in God’s eyes? “But isn’t there an ‘abomination’ quote in there somewhere??” I hear you say (Leviticus 18:22). Well perhaps, but I also recall some passages in there condoning Slavery (Exodus 21:7), putting to death those that work on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2), and condemning those who touch the skin of dead pig [eg all rugby players??] (Leviticus 11:7). Perhaps it’s time to stop taking religious texts written thousands of years ago literally, and completely out of social, political and cultural context.

You didn't think I was going to reproduce the actual advert now did you...

On a more recent and topical note, the homophobic bus adverts that oh so nearly went up on London’s buses across the Capital today, are a clear signal that religious groups are determined to restrict and challenge the rights of gay people everywhere. Whether wrapped up in the pseudo-science of the ‘Core Issues Trust‘ for the above, or in the guise of the more slimey and slippery petition against the government proposals put forward by the ‘Coalition for Marriage’ group, do not be in any doubt that the cause of equality  has a fight still ahead against the voices of hate and discrimination.

I’m delighted to close this post with a word on the Stonewall campaign for Equal Marriage. As an organisation I’ve worked with and supported before I recommend them to you as a voice for gay rights in Britain, a strong campaigning arm for LGBT people and a beacon for those in need of support, advice and often just a friend.

There are so many other organisations out there doing great work, and if you’re reading this and looking for help or support, or perhaps feel able to donate, then I recommend all of the following:

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) group for LGBT people in the United States.

The Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) promoting and defending good sexual health.

The Elton John AIDs Foundation (EJAF) on sexual health.

The ‘It Gets Better‘ campaign – fighting homophobic bullying and discrimination against young people everywhere.

The ‘Stand Up‘ foundation, founded and championed by former Rugby player Ben Cohen, fighting against homophobic bullying in the United States.


1 Response to "Equal Marriage – “People are People. Marriage is Marriage”"

Really interesting article peter,thanks for sharing. For me, the marriage, relationships and legality issues go further. Isn’t it also ridiculous that relationships are also managed by national boundaries. Why should a couple, no matter their sexuality, be seperated as a result of the colour of their passport. It makes no sense in a globalised society. Unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to come from two of 27 European Union member states.

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