Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Don't Trust Them

A very large part of me finds people like Ken Mehlman and Crispin Blunt disgusting. Feeling like that isn't right, but it doesn't make me stop feeling that way. These politicians have same sex attraction (I don't wish to call them gay as, to be honest, I don't think they deserve that title) yet spent their time in office calling for LESS rights for LGBT people.

For example. Crispin Blunt:

In 2001, Mr Blunt voted against not only the equal age of consent, but also against gay couples adopting. He also voted in favour of the bill designed to make it harder for lesbian couples to have equal access to IVF treatment.

He did not vote on the repeal of Section 28 as he was absent at the time. However, Mr Blunt did vote in favour of civil partnerships and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulation) which prevents discrimination against LGB people in the provision of goods and services.

And Ken Mehlman:

When Mr Bush became president, Mr Mehlman followed him to the White House as political director and later ran the re-election campaign which used the device of citing state ballot initiatives against same-sex marriage to help galvanise conservative voters.
I cannot begin to express the personal anger I feel towards these... these TURNCOATS.

But there is another part of me that says "Calm down Jae, it's only politics". That part seeks to remind me of the personal difficulties these sort of people must go through. It tells me all about homophobia springing from self hatred. It reminds me not to cast the first stone.

So I admit, there must have been so much pressure on both politicians from allsorts of angles. It must have been hard. But this doesn't stop me from using the same argument I used about Penny Wong and Angela Eagle: never, ever, trust a politician who cannot even stand up for their own personal liberty. There's a difference between closeted politicians and closeted politicians who actively work against LGBT rights for themselves and for everyone else. If you can't stand up for your own freedom, if you can't bring yourself to say "Wait a minute guys, I can't be a part of this campaign.", then you won't be able to stand up for others who aren't like you. You won't be able to stand up for those who put their vote in the box next to your name (and those who you represent who didn't!).

So be kind to Blunt and Mehlman. Remember that it must have been hard for them. But also remember they don't deserve positions of power.

Anyway, I apologise for my grumpy tone. I'll not be about so much for a while. Don't worry, my fight for marriage equality is coming offline with me. Today I received a letter from Emma Reed, Head of LGB and T Equality at the Equalities ministry, basically noting my feelings have been included as part of the religious civil partnership consultation. Later this week I shall be sending lots of letters to Stonewall's "corporate sponsors" inviting them to discuss their sponsorship with Stonewall viz-a-viz their inequality stance. Mean spirited, I know, but in keeping with my mood on the subject right now. Play nice children!

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Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Ed Miliband's Last Word On Marriage Equality And The Labour Leadership

Whilst Ed Miliband had come out with some broadly positive wording about supporting marriage equality previously, his article today in Pink News shows his now unambiguous support. Thus all five Labour leadership candidates now offer a much more progressive view on LGBT rights than Gordon Brown. They aren't perfect, and personal positions aren't party policy. But this is brilliant step forward on the road to freedom.

Well done Labour. I think you might be getting back on the right track. Now about your stances on civil liberties....

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Sunday, 22 August 2010

Irish LGBT Activism Still Has Some Punch

Whilst LGBT activism in the UK have descended into mainly being about pride partying (with the occasional misdirected political attack against other LGBT people who you don't agree with, as happened at Bristol Pride this weekend when LGBT Labour decided it was more fun to be bitchy and score political points than be united) or surveys on who is the best role model for LGBT Youth (yes Stonewall AGAIN), in Ireland there appears to still be some people fighting for actual equality.

Last month Ireland's own Civil Partnership Bill was signed into law. But LGBT activists aren't prepared to settle for second best there. LGBTNoise and other groups are taking part in a March for Marriage at 2pm. It is good to see some principled campaigning for equality on these islands, even if it is outside the borders of the United Kingdom.

May their march be a resounding success and help keep hope for marriage equality alive.

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Saturday, 21 August 2010

Yes To AV

You know I'm not one for compromise. Sheesh, it's been 5 years and I'm still bitter over civil partnerships. I like reforms to be bold and as complete as possible. So no, I'm not overly enamoured with next year's alternative vote referendum. I'm a proportional representation supporter and, like many, I support the single transferable vote as the "best" system. Not perfect, I hasten to add, but I think it is the best.

Unfortunately the question that will, if the legislation gets passed, be asked in May 2011 is not about STV, it's all about the Alternative Vote: 
Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the 'alternative vote' system instead of the current 'first past the post' system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?

It's the answer to that question that I (and you) need to decide on. But before we can, there's a lot of controversy over the legislation. The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill is contentious for a number of reasons. The first is the date the referendum is due to be held on. It coincides with other elections, and people feel that the message may be diluted or people confused due to the campaign getting mixed in with others.

On the people getting confused front, I have to say I'm very dubious about this argument. We've managed to run different elections on the same day without confusion (except in some cases where there are different voting systems being used at once). And many US states manage to hold various elections and "referendums" on the same day without anybody screaming "I just don't understand!!!". But the idea that the message might get mixed up with the election campaigns is one that has merit. Alas I think it does make sense, both for turnout reasons and for financial reasons, to hold the AV referendum at the same time as other elections. It's another compromise, but we've already made one massive one (AV over PR!) so why people seem more worried by this than the basic fact PR isn't on the ballot, I don't know!

The more controversial part of the Bill is to do with constituency sizes. The proposal is to bring down the number of constituencies to 600, and to equalise the size of the electorates in each (as far as possible).

Part of this controversy centres around some claims that this is "gerrymandering", ignoring completely that the Government will not actually carry out the boundary review but simply set the rules for it. I will not address these concerns as they are, quite simply, partisan attacks.

The more sensible and considered criticism of this reform is that the boundaries may cross natural borders and local Government jurisdictions, a headache for candidates, campaigns and electorates. Also there's issue with the speed of this reform (taking place just before a census), and with it's ability to calculate the number of electors in a region. There's a good piece on this on Open Democracy. I'm not going to answer these criticisms because I wholeheartedly agree with them and hope that these can be worked out in the debates and votes in Parliament *chortles merrily to himself about the idea that MPs might focus on sensible considerations*

So whether the Bill gets passed is still up for argument. Let's imagine if it does. I think there will be a few camps in the AV referendum including:

For the Yes vote:

  • Those who favour AV as their system of choice
  • Those who favour PR but are putting their faith in AV as a "step in the right direction" 
  • Those who favour PR, know we're not going to get it just yet, so are supporting the campaign as a last resort (that's me included)
  • The "liberal" partisans of the Coalition who see this as just another battle against anti-Coalition sorts. 
For the No vote: 

  • Those who favour FPTP as their system of choice (right wing Tories, some Labourites) 
  • Those who favour PR and are NOT going to compromise (they have my sympathies, but I suspect this will be a very small, invisible grouping) 
  • Tories who are outraged by the Coalition and wish to thumb their noses at it
  • Labourites and other anti-Coalition "lefties" who wish to "hurt" the Lib Dems because of their "betrayal" 
I think those who favour FPTP are actually a small group as the status quo really doesn't really inflame one's soul. So, based on where I think the various camps sit, the strength of cohesive, passionate argument certainly seems to fall on the pro-AV side. The danger is allowing "politics" to get involved. 

We all saw and felt what happened in the country during the expenses scandal. A dislike of politicians generally and an urge among a lot of people for change. This is what helped create the "Clegg bubble" that so excited us all during the election (even if it came to nothing but a small increase in the Lib Dem vote). People were desperate for "another way". The AV campaign must embrace that feeling, and try to be as sensible, unpartisan and creative as possible. 

I live in a constituency where a Tory being elected is as predictable as the Sun rising in the morning. That shouldn't be the way politics works. The majority of us who didn't vote for the Tory should still get a say in our representative in Parliament. It's so simple a message, and it's the one major argument that I see getting people onboard with the Yes campaign. It needs to focus on FPTP's role in corruption (across the parties), in it's inability to shift MPs of certain parties in certain areas, and it's lack of choice. 

That's why I want AV (I'm under no illusions it's a "stepping stone" to PR). I want the right to be able to say that if my first preference doesn't win by more than 50% of the vote (and neither does anyone else) then my vote can go to someone else (who might not be my favourite but is preferably not a Tory). So I'll be voting Yes in the AV referendum and I'll be happily campaigning for the Yes campaign here in Folkestone and Hythe. 

If we can avoid it becoming a partisan issue, once (and if) the relevant legislation is passed, and get support from sensible pro-AV people in all the parties, we can win the argument. Because the arguments for FPTP aren't up to much. The only thing that stands in the way is if the referendum becomes a referendum not on our electoral system but on whether you like the Government or not. If that happens, it will be a great stain upon our political party system, and a great shame for democracy.

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Damian Collins Would Be A Republican

Welcome to Folkestone and Hythe in 2010, where we have elected a Tory MP who thinks he'd be a Republican if he lived in the USA.

I can't decide what's more concerning: his ignorance that the Tory party is probably more left wing than the Democrats, or his ignorance of what the Republicans actually stand for.

If he really is a Conservative because he wants to be "free", then his support of a brutally socially conservative American party seems completely bizarre. Let's see some Republican fun:

So does Damian Collins wish to get rid of the NHS, deny climate change and overturn the Race Relations Act?

I think those are the questions we in Shepway need to start asking.

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Thursday, 19 August 2010

Stonewall Need To Sack Their Public Relations Director

I apologise for my recent absence. I can assure you, it's for the right reasons. I am back in paid employment and making myself useful. Once I've got into the swing of things I'll be back ranting and raving about marriage equality, Tories and my (reserved) love of the Liberal Democrats.

In the meantime we've had a rather interesting list of comments from various LGBT rights organisations on the issue of marriage equality published by Pink News. Interesting both in that all support marriage equality, and that Stonewall (one of my favourite groups to criticise) refused to give it's opinion.

Stonewall have given their opinion to me and, out of fairness, I'll repeat what they said: They are not against marriage equality, they just don't think it's a priority. This is a position I find bizarre. And one it seems more and more are finding strange too.

Check out Zoe's journal and Stephen's Liberal Journal for more.

Normal service shall resume this weekend.

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Sunday, 15 August 2010

Links Of Interest

With a new job beginning tomorrow I'm in no mood to write a blog post. Instead I present a few links to articles I've liked today:

An Open Letter To The Labour Party - I like. A lot.

The roots of '8: The Mormon Proposition' - Mixing marriage equality and, my current obsession, Mormonism. Can't lose!

"The Abominable and Detestable Crime Against Nature": A Revised History of Homosexuality & Mormonism, 1840-1980

Why gay marriage is a fundamental right - From a Tory. The times, they are a-changing.

Judge us on five years, not a 100 days - Some guy called Nick Clegg talking about cooperation and getting on with fixing our country's problems. I don't know who he thinks he is, some upstart third party leader with delusions of grandeur. ;)

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Saturday, 14 August 2010

The Mormons

Long time readers will know a little about my love of "alternative" religions (some call them weird, but I think ALL religion is weird and thus don't approach any with a particular prejudice). Well I'm back on my Latter-Day Saints trip right now and think you should watch the following awesome PBS documentaries. Absolutely fascinating overview of Mormon history.


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Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Prop Ruling #prop8

Ruling here

None of the factors the court weighs in considering a motion to stay favors granting a stay. Accordingly, proponents' motion for a stay is DENIED. Doc #705. The clerk is DIRECTED to United States District Court For the Northern District of California enter judgment forthwith. That judgment shall be STAYED until August 18, 2010 at 5 PM PDT at which time defendants and all persons under their control or supervision shall cease to apply or enforce Proposition 8.

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Prop 8 Trial: Same Sex Marriages Can Go Ahead #prop8

Following last week's ruling that California's Proposition 8 amendment to it's Constitution was unconstitutional, we now have Judge Vaughn Walker's response as to whether or not same sex couples can marry in California pending any appeal of his decision.

Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were the first to marry in San Francisco City Hall in 2008

It's been agreed... marriages can proceed! This is very good news for those couples in California desperate to gain the status they deserve. However it makes the battle for marriage equality in California that much more dramatic as, if Judge Walker's decision is overturned, it might lead to an annulment of the marriages made from today onwards.

Let's celebrate the personal joy Judge Walker's decision today brings to many thousands of couples (such as Eric Ross and fiance Doug). And hope that American justice comes down in defence of individual liberty rather than in defence of the rights of a majority to enforce it's own personal morality upon others without legitimate reasons.

In related marriage equality news, but on this side of the pond, the Lib Dem Conference marriage equality proposal has been published and I thoroughly approve of the wording and intent. My concerns regarding it's intent to get rid of civil partnerships were without merit, and it has gone even further proposing we recognise international heterosexual civil unions. Very, very good.

Mexico's Supreme Court has ruled all Mexican states must recognise marriages conducted in the Federal District (that's Mexico City for you and me). And Costa Rica's (a country I have an unreasonable fondness for based irrationally on the Jurassic Park books) has ruled that there can be no majority rule on individual liberties (in this case civil unions), a result which is eerily similar in justification to Judge Walker's original ruling.

All in all... a good few days in the marriage equality fight.

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Stonewalled - The Strange Case Of The Charity That Doesn't Care

LGBT rights are, thankfully, in the best state ever in our country. The dark days of the 1980s and 1990s, when early gains seemed to be just a false start, are long gone. That doesn't mean we're quite at the point where we can all go our separate ways and congratulate ourselves on a job well done but it's a positive place to start this particularly depressing blogpost.

Now, of course, LGBT rights aren't exactly at the top of the agenda for the Government (silly little things like wars, depressions and partisan attacks keep getting in the way) but you'd think those who claim to speak for the "LGBT community" would still be championing the current "big issues".

Stonewall has been there fighting for just about every major LGBT (I'm going to keep mentioning the T, but Stonewall DON'T campaign on behalf of transgender people, a mark against them in my opinion especially when they dare use the name "Stonewall"!!) piece of legislation announced under the Labour Government (let's pretend Labour did that all out of the goodness of their heart to avoid arguments). See their own website for examples. All very commendable. So why have they taken their eye off the ball just as the endgame becomes visible over the horizon?

Of course, there's always been plenty of criticism of Stonewall. Peter Tatchell was criticising them in 1994 for perceived complacency. Chris Morris considered them part of the real gay mafia. There was controversy over an award nomination for Julie Bindel (a campaigner who has made some very controversial remarks about transgendered folks). And let's not forget this year's controversy over David Laws.

Perhaps these examples illustrate that they never had their eyes on the ball in the first place. Chris Morris' 1999 article above is pretty damning. But let's pretend they did, and give them the benefit of the doubt. Let's try to forget all the criticism and see what they are concerned about right now.

Think about a list of current British LGBT concerns. I've tried it myself (the order given no way implies "priorities, I think all are as important as each other). As you can imagine marriage equality is the top of my list. Followed by the gay blood donation ban. Then there's also homophobic physical and verbal violence, homophobic bullying at school. Employment issues are also a factor but I think that's slowly coming under control. Plus a whole raft of transgender issues, including employment discrimination, that I think are of huge importance.

So what has Stonewall been focussing on? Well they do have a campaign about homophobic bullying in school. And they spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with (and ranking) employers. Strangely you need to pay for that service, which I don't think is at all charitible (I notice Stonewall also trades as a company). They have a guide on how to report homophobic crime (and domestic violence). But both the school bullying campaign and the homophobic crime campaign seem lacklustre, without any sort of drive or determination to solve the problems. Just a quick glance at their "Stonewall News" on the front page of their website shows no mention of any recent crimes. Instead it talks about Will Young supporting them at a concert, about their sponsorship of Black Pride, recent surveys on TV portrayals of LGB people and what's the most gay friendly sport. And they announced their 600th diversity champion! Woo... that's more money for them then...

The earliest story on the front page is July 12th. Shall we see what's happened in the the real LGBT world since then? A man in Leeds was knocked unconscious in an attack, Stonewall attended a meeting with the Government about the future of civil partnerships, police released details of another homophobic attack in Bottle and AA Gill insulted Clare Balding. What has Stonewall said on these? Nothing that I can find.

I decided to look at another LGBT charity, the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, who also offer some for profit activities just like Stonewall. Their website is filled with issues, including about those mentioned above. They have a major campaign called Enough is Enough going on to combat homophobic violence, and they asked the readers of their website (not just those who support them!) to give feedback before the marriage equality/civil partnership discussion that they attended along with Stonewall. The comparison between these two organisations shows how starkly they differ and how far Stonewall has fallen behind.

The problem with Stonewall is it openly "prioritises" issues. Replies to myself and others have often said that their policy isn't against marriages, but they just don't think it's a priority. So what do they think is a priority? Taking money from businesses for consultations? Doing surveys about television programmes and sports? Aiming to get celebrity sportsmen to come out?? Is that what their priorities are?

Whatever good Stonewall have done in the past, and I really think you should read those criticisms above, they no longer represent the LGBT rights movement. They are out of touch, dangerously, and simply do not respect the community they were meant to protect. Worse, when they are criticised, they often respond in a very defensive manner (not dissimilar to how a business would respond) and rarely appear to even take the criticism onboard, let alone act upon it. For example they were sent a letter following Ben Summerskill's ill-thought out commentary on the David Laws scenario (I was one of the signees). Their response was badly written, rude and really quite awful. And we're not the only one's who seem to be "Stonewalled" when voicing an opposing opinion, as seen here.

The worst part of it all is that any criticism of Stonewall is often strongly denounced by celebrities or ordinary folk (even you, Dear Constant Reader, will no doubt tell me off for this piece!) who continue to maintain a nice view of this organisation thanks mainly to the deference shown to Stonewall in the media and by politicians and seem not to notice how unresponsive and insular it is. It cares little for those who defend it.

It's time we woke up and realised there are other organisations out there fighting for LGBT rights AND for non-violence. Stonewall must not be held up as some sacred cow, beyond reproach from any criticism. We must ask tough questions of it. And I would suggest that given it gets £2000 from each corporate member, we might be better sending our money to one of the other LGBT groups out there and helping them raise our concerns instead.

**UPDATE** As if by magic... check out the comments at Pink News on an editorial on marriage. It's really quite sad.

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Tuesday, 10 August 2010

It's Not Homophobic. It's Just Plain Bad Manners

'Homosexuals not welcome' say couple who want to foster

A former vicar and his wife are considering legal action after being barred from fostering children because of their Christian beliefs on homosexuality.

John and Collette Yallop, from Blackburn, told Lancashire County Council they would not want gay couples hoping to adopt, to come to their home.

The Yallops claim they've been refused because of their faith.

They have two children of their own and have been trying to foster since March.

They insist they're not homophobic and say inviting gay couples into their home for the handover process would be detrimental to their family life.

The pair don't believe gay couples should adopt a young child, and they wouldn't let a same sex couple wanting to adopt a child they were fostering interact with that child in their home.

But Lancashire County Council says foster carers must be open to working alongside anyone.

The Yallops say they'll challenge the decision on behalf of other Christians.
Let's be clear, this couple have said they will agree to meet with homosexual couples at council offices rather than their own home. They are not suggesting they would interfere in the adoption process.

However their attitudes are typical of so-called "Christians" who fail to appreciate the message of love brought by Christ and instead insist on being all "Old Testament" about things. I'll quote from this excellent article on Christian hospitality:

The biblical demand for hospitality, Pohl shows, is clear in both Old and New Testaments. The people of God are aliens and strangers whom God has welcomed into the "household of faith." In turn, God's people are to "make room" for the stranger, not only in the community of faith but also in their own personal households. This is the biblical meaning of hospitality—making room for the stranger, especially those in most acute need. Such care must not be reduced to mere social entertaining nor may it be self-interested and reciprocal; instead, biblical hospitality reaches out to the abject and lowly and expects nothing in return. Hospitality is not optional, nor should it be understood as a rare spiritual gift; instead, it is a normative biblical practice that is learned by doing it.
Hospitality is implicitly subversive in the way it shatters social boundaries, especially those boundaries enforced by table fellowship. When we eat with the lowly and welcome strangers and "sinners" to our table, we topple social expectations and bear witness to the kind of love God has for all his creatures. It is not coincidental that Jesus perhaps most scandalized his critics in his practice of table fellowship. "He eats with tax collectors and sinners"—this was not a compliment. And it was precisely the radical nature of Christian hospitality, Pohl shows, that characterized the early church, helped spread the Gospel, and healed the dramatic social barriers that initially confronted the church as the Gospel permeated the Greco-Roman world.
The connection between hospitality and Jesus is indeed rich and mysterious. As Pohl shows, in New Testament perspective Jesus is simultaneously guest, host, and meal. He is guest whenever we welcome and care for the stranger and the broken (Mt. 25:31-46). He is host, for example, when he hosts the Last Supper, during which "we . . . celebrate the reconciliation and relationship available to us because of [Jesus'] sacrifice and through his hospitality" (p.30)—and when he will host the Great Supper in the Kingdom. And he himself, as our paschal sacrifice, is the meal we eat, not only in Communion but in ongoing Christian experience as we feed on his life to nourish our own.
I think this couple would be wise to remember these lessons.

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In Defence Of Iain Duncan Smith? *shudder*

The anti-Coalition folks (I'm slowing moving back to supporting the Coalition mainly because of the partisan attacks against it)  have got their panties in a twist again, this time over benefit cheats. Work and Pensions (the department headed by my least favourite Tory leader ever, Iain Duncan Smith) are planning to outsource finding benefit cheats to some credit firms. Let's face it, this can only be a good thing. Benefit cheats are inflating the cost of the welfare state and making the right-wing arguments against benefits more convincing. If we can root them out as thoroughly as possible, we are in a much more secure position to argue for a decent support structure for those in real need.

Sure I'm a little sceptical of the use of private enterprise to solve public sector problems, but I'm generally supportive of the concept of rooting out those who abuse our benefits system and give a bad name to those on benefits legitimately.

Is there anyone out there willing to argue that benefit cheats should be left to get on with what they are doing?

Of course, the left, generally see attacks on benefit cheats (i.e. liars) as an attack on benefits in general which is a little bit like saying arresting criminals is an attack on citizens in general. There are also those that state those who commit benefit fraud are desperate and worthy of our sympathy. Of course some of them will be! But that doesn't excuse their actions any more than those who steal to feed their drug habit.

The left have gotten grumpy today as they want more tax loopholes to be closed, quite rightly, to stop the very wealthy taking their profits from this country without paying their "fair share" in taxes. I wholeheartedly support this. But what they seem to be suggesting is we mustn't attack benefit cheats until we've attacked tax cheats.

I say: we should do both. Last time I checked (please correct me if I'm wrong) the Department of Work and Pensions does not generally deal with tax cheats. Isn't that the job of HM Revenue and Customs? You can't seriously attack the DWPs suggestions because they don't include something that another department looks after.

By all means criticise the means (i.e. using credit firms) and keep up the pressure on the Government to close the tax loopholes. But let's not criticise a policy that makes sense to us moderates who want a cost-effective benefit system that truly helps those who need it.

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Monday, 9 August 2010

Some Wonderful Prop 8 Smackdowns

I don't know what's happened since Judge Walker announced his ruling in the Prop 8 trial, but I like it. Suddenly the pro-marriage equality types have found their legal voice and in polite ways are destroying the anti-marriage equality arguments. Here's a two on-screen examples:

Ted Olson on Fox News

David Boies on Face The Nation:

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Damian Collins Blocks Quite A Few People On Twitter

Following on from my May post regarding the block on Twitter that Damian Collins, my local MP, has set up against me, it would seem he's done it to quite a few other constituents.

Given Tory MP for Esher and Walton Dominic Raab has been caught saying he doesn't want to receive emails from his constituents, perhaps this is just how Tory MPs like to communicate with their electorates.

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Sunday, 8 August 2010

Lib Dems Equal Marriage Proposal "Test Of Coalition"?

The Independent today reports on the proposals, to be debated at the upcoming Liberal Democrat conference, (as reported by me here) to make marriage equality party policy. They suggest that it might "highlight the divisions between the members of the coalition". Hmm.. is that really the case? I mean, we are DIFFERENT parties with DIFFERENT policies so how it will highlight, any further than now, that we are DIFFERENT I really don't know.

Is it me or are the media totally obsessed by fictional Coalition wobbles?

Anyway, I'm (as you can imagine) very much in favour of the proposals although I am concerned by this bit:
a motion backed by the leadership will advocate civil partnerships being "converted" into full marriage. It would also allow couples to remain legally married when one partner undergoes a sex change.
I'm not so keen on forcing conversion from civil partnerships to marriage (rather prefer an "optional upgrade" as carried out in New Hampshire before they too made it compulsory). The civil partnership deal has been done and we can't start upgrading people's relationships without their consent. Some heterosexuals want civil partnerships to avoid the "marriage" word. So I support making both gender neutral. But it's a minor quibble and something that can be ironed out at legislation stage when we get to that point (I feel it's still a long road to get there).

Anyway, fingers crossed that this proposal is adopted at conference and that we can make movement on the blood donation ban on MSMs as soon as possible.

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Saturday, 7 August 2010

Disabilities Might Annoy You. Get Over It.

Sometimes I wonder about people, I really do.

Apology after disabled man told to leave Medway centre

"A council has apologised to a disabled man who was told to leave a sports centre because he was making noise.

Laurence Morgan, 20, who suffers from tuberous sclerosis and autism was asked to leave Strood Sports Centre after a member of the public complained.

The genetic disease causes tumours to grow on his organs, including his brain, and he communicates through sounds, some of which are high pitched."

Sounds pretty meanspirited already doesn't it? Well just wait:

"Mr Morgan had been waiting for his lunch at the leisure centre, where he has a weekly hydrotherapy session, when the duty manager asked him to leave.

Ms Richardson [his mother] said: "She approached him, pointed at her watch and said 'Twenty minutes, don't you think that's enough of that noise? Take him outside.

"'We've had complaints from the public take him outside'."
Right, so you're a duty manager and a member of the public comes up to complain to you that "that man over there is annoying me with all his noise". Do you

1) explain, politely, to the member of the public that unlike "nuisance" noise this probably can't be helped?


2) wander up to man and demand he leaves as he's getting on everyone's nerves?

It's a no brainer. Disregarding the man's disability, basic tact would've meant a polite enquiry at the very most rather than a demand to leave. Patience is a virtue when dealing with others, and I am truly appalled that someone can be a "duty manager" without that particularly important attribute.

I will forever be thankful that I was brought up to treat people with dignity in my daily dealings.

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Friday, 6 August 2010

I Agree With Conservatives... Shocker...

Watch this video:

Is there anything in there you can really, fundamentally, say is worthy of note? Two conservatives who believe in equality, but by different means. They don't support one man/one woman only marriage. But Queerty felt the need to talk about them with such derision I felt I needed to make a blog post to point out, some of us lefty-liberals agree with the Tea Partiers on this!

Perry Vs Schwarzenegger: The Facts Of The Ruling

The "findings of fact" seem to be the most compelling part of Judge Walker's ruling in Perry vs Schwarzenegger, and are worth reading. Here are the best:

1. Marriage is and has been a civil matter, subject to religious intervention only when requested by the intervenors.

2. California, like every other state, doesn't require that couples wanting to marry be able to procreate.

3. Marriage as an institution has changed overtime; women were given equal status; interracial marriage was formally legalized; no-fault divorce made it easier to dissolve marriages.

4. California has eliminated marital obligations based on gender.

5. Same-sex love and intimacy "are well-documented in human history."

6. Sexual orientation is a fundamental characteristic of a human being.

7. Prop 8 proponents' "assertion that sexual orientation cannot be defined is contrary to the weight of the evidence."

8. There is no evidence that sexual orientation is chosen, nor than it can be changed.

9. California has no interest in reducing the number of gays and lesbians in its population.

10. "Same-sex couples are identical to opposite-sex couples in the characteristics relevant to the ability to form successful marital union."

11. "Marrying a person of the opposite sex is an unrealistic option for gay and lesbian individuals."

12. "Domestic partnerships lack the social meaning associated with marriage, and marriage is widely regarded as the definitive expression of love and commitment in the United States.
The availability of domestic partnership does not provide gays and lesbians with a status equivalent to marriage because the cultural meaning of marriage and its associated benefits are intentionally withheld from same-sex couples in domestic partnerships."

13. "Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages." Source

For why the facts will be important for the battles ahead, see here.

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Law Bans Marriages Between People Who Don't Love Each Other

New Law Would Ban Marriages Between People Who Don't Love Each Other

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Hilarious - An overview of the same-sex marriage debate

Via here, h/t here

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Thursday, 5 August 2010

What can the Prop 8 fight teach us in the United Kingdom?

California and the United Kingdom are completely different in both social and legal terms. The fights for marriage equality in the two different jurisdictions may as well be held on different planets. In California it is organised and “militant” against powerful, organised opponents. Here in the United Kingdom it's disorganised and... well.. most gay men, lesbians and bisexuals don't really care, it's brutally honest I know but we must not deceive ourselves. Despite what the loony homophobes might say, the LGBT “community” in the UK is not “militant” and is quite happy to just get on with life. The hurt wounds have been bandaged over the last decade and few have much fight left in them. Our opponents are weaker than in the USA and, perhaps, more unready for any fight.

Which gives those of us still fighting for equality a pause for thought. What can we learn from California's Prop 8 campaign in 2008?

It's not about getting an organised campaign in the same way as California. I just don't think there's the groundswell of feeling necessary for that. And it's not about money. What it is about is knowing what the opponents of marriage equality will do in order to keep equal rights from those who want them.

In California, Prop 8 supporters (as evidenced by this recent report) were quite willing to fear-monger and spread lies to get their way. If we are to ensure that their allies don't try the same here, during the run up to any legislative action to get marriage equality, we must be prepared to pre-empt and counter these lies.

The main lie was all about religious freedom. In California Prop 8 advocates claimed, erroneously, that marriage equality would force religious organisations to hold same sex marriages on their premises. Of course, as the treatment of divorcees in the Catholic church shows, this is patently untrue. Marriage equality is, however, a religious freedom issue; there are now several religious orders that want to conduct same sex marriages. The Government's ban is what is hurting that freedom, not the prospect of marriage equality.

Another tactic is the “won't somebody think about the children” defence. In California the following advert was used to support the ban on marriage equality:

As you can see it works on the basis of appealing to the residual fear and prejudice in even the most kind heterosexual parents. “Your children will be taught it's okay to be gay. Homosexuality is a choice. Your child might turn gay.” It is important we get out and say that this is not an education issue. Homosexuality is not a behaviour that can be taught. This is an issue about the freedom for adults to marry who they wish. It's a message that must be clear and must be heard loudly.

It is important we ensure our Parliamentarians are contacted NOW so that these issues are clear in their minds. That is why I keep going on about writing to your MPs and other representatives. If you really support marriage equality then you simply must do it. If we don't tell them our side, you can be damn well sure the Churches and other religions will tell them theirs.

It is also important to rebut arguments. Don't let these arguments stand, be it in newspaper adverts or on comments on blogs. Respond and correct, politely of course, wherever you encounter erroneous arguments. Don't delay or think someone else will do it.

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Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Prop 8 Decision: Overturned!!

Firstly, take a look at this analysis of why California's Proposition 8 was passed in 2008. Very interesting stuff, and worth bearing in mind should the marriage equality debate heat up further in our country.

Today we have a result from a court case brought in an attempt to overturn Proposition 8 and the ban on marriage equality (to see the background to this see here and here).

Here are some quotes from the trial from the pro-marriage equality group and the anti

That result is that Prop 8 has been overturned. This is not the end of the journey. But it's a damn good day!

UPDATE: Confirmed!

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Social Housing: Time For A Discussion

At last a topic I have frontline experience of. Social housing. It's difficult to describe how hard it is for some social housing tenants, who have to put up with cramped and, if in temporary housing because of lack of social housing, AWFUL conditions. It's even more difficult when you are working on that frontline dealing with those people knowing there are plenty of decent homes in your stock... but they are full (or not so full) of well to do people whose lives have already been improved by social housing and now live there because it's cheap. They have the money to do the place up and keep it nice. They aren't living in squalor like others.

Of course one of the most important things that needs to be done to help this is increase our social housing stock. We should not need to be keeping people in private landlord's badly kept houses at extortionate prices whilst we desperately try and find a decent home for a family or individual.

But the other problem is that social housing just isn't geared up to help improve people's lives. We dump people in them and leave them there. The organisation I worked for was championing a "progressive" approach in getting people into social housing, helping them improve (mentally, financially and socially) and then helping them move on to BETTER accommodation where appropriate, even offering a "ladder" to ownership, allowing tenants to purchase 10% of the house, then another, then another. It hoped by doing this it could create more mixed communities and help fund further home building.

So I'm not entirely displeased by David Cameron's latest statement on the future of social housing and a more "means tested" approach. I'm also not won over, at all, by the kneejerk reaction of some on the left who see any attempt at modifying how social housing works as a "Thatcherite attack".

Cameron's approach needs to have a great deal of sensitivity regarding succession and when it's appropriate to move a family on to a different type of housing. And it cannot work with the limited housing stock we have now. But this is a discussion that's long overdue. Social housing isn't working. It's failing the most vulnerable. Investment is lacking too. We need to talk about it. The situation needs to change.

Let's keep our beady eyes on what the Coalition's next step is, and cry havoc if it's not in the interests of the most vulnerable, but let's not decry any attempt at change when we have people living in conditions I wouldn't want my worst enemies to live in.

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Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Christian Institute Teams Up With.. Bideford Town Council

Here is the news story from the BBC:

A Devon council embroiled in a row over Christian prayers being said at meetings has taken legal advice.

It follows a High Court application by the National Secular Society (NSS) for a judicial review.

The NSS claims Bideford Town Council is discriminating against other beliefs and non-believers, breaching human rights and acting beyond its power.

A Manchester law firm which offered to represent the council for free has had its offer taken up by the authority.

Continue reading the main story

The NSS action was prompted by Bideford atheist councillor Clive Bone, who failed to have the prayers stopped.

The society claims holding prayers before council meetings is an "archaic practice" which is "not appropriate in modern-day Britain".

Aughton Ainsworth solicitor Tom Ellis contacted Bideford's Town Clerk after reading about the legal threat in the media.

"Although it might be a local issue, the implications are national," he told BBC News.

"There are also possible ramifications for any organisation with a religious connection."

Mr Ellis said he had been instructed to inform the High Court of the council's intention to contest the claims made by the NSS.

George McLaughlan, Bideford Town Council clerk, said: "The solicitor was down here talking to us last week.

"He will work with the Christian Institute to defend the case.

"He has until Friday to file his intent to contest proceedings and then if permission is granted by the High Court for a judicial review to go ahead, we will have to supply further detailed evidence."

Firstly, I think any sensible person can agree that in a society that values individual freedom no religious services should be held before, during or after council meetings.

Secondly, council's have a duty to their electorate to NOT work with groups that hold offensive views.

So why is Bideford Town Council so eager to defend a pointless exercise and to ally itself with the Christian Institute? An institute that offers a literal interpretation of the Bible, the same book that calls for my (among many people's) execution.

This is an atrocious waste of taxpayers money to defend an outdated practice and get help from a conservative pressure group. Bideford Town Council should be ashamed.

The National Secular Society would be happy to receive donations to help it fight the good fight in this case.

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Transphobia Isn't Going Away

The Equality Act was, sadly, a mess. In the hopes of getting everything "Equality" into one bill, things were missed and odd things were allowed through. I knew this because of my "interest" in Lord Alli's amendment to allow civil partnerships to have a religious character. But it would see, sadly, there were even more unsettling things lying in the Act.

A.E.Brain reports something rather unsettling has been introduced to the Equality Act, and perhaps more unsettling is that no one seems to have mentioned it before. Questioning Transphobia has more on this here.

It exposes something in our system that seems completely unfair. In this country one can legally change their gender. But, as we see here, whilst their gender may now be legally changed they are still treated as somebody "different" and "scary". That's disgusting.

Transphobia seems to be the prejudice that's not just legally sanctioned but socially acceptable. Nowadays someone in the media spotlight can't even suggest that they'd made a homophobic comment in the past (let alone make a new one) without an internet uproar and probably worse.

However, just the other day Julie Bindel was "honoured" with a position on the Independent's Pink List. But let's look at what she ideologically believes about transsexual people. And here. This is hardly surprising given her views on marriage and her inability to understand civil partnerships are not marriage.

So instead of being put on the naughty list that the Pink List has got this year, she is lauded as a leading light within the LGB "community"... obviously they didn't mention the T, so there was no need to bring up her meanness.

And the issues go on. In consulting on religious civil partnerships, did the Government consult with any transgender campaigners? Not to my knowledge. Why? If Parliament cared so little for transsexuals in April, is it really going to start caring now? Just as I have concerns on the current civil partnership consultation, my concerns about the proposed consultation on transgender/transsexual rights are growing. Can we trust them to be thorough? Or will they just throw out another sop to keep people quiet whilst not really doing much?

The LGB "community" has been quick to dump our trans brothers and sisters (and those of us who still want equality) at the merest sniff of legal rights. It feels like we've given up the fight and have begun a cleaning up operation (fighting homophobia at work and in schools through education and training). Well the fight isn't over for me. I'm not stopping until we ALL (straight, gay, trans, queer, etc.) have the freedom to be the individuals that we wish to be, without persecution or impediment.

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Monday, 2 August 2010

WikiLeaks, Pakistan and the Prime Minister

David Cameron is coming under increasing pressure over his comments, made last week, with regards to Pakistan. He said:

"We should be very, very clear with Pakistan that we want to see a strong, stable and democratic Pakistan.

"We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world."

Whilst some may argue it wasn't diplomatic, I'm somewhat concerned people appear to be siding with Pakistan over the very basic facts.

Cameron's comments follow on from the recent WikiLeaks scandal. In the "WarLogs" released by WikiLeaks, there was plenty of evidence showing the US is concerned about Pakistan's actions.

The criticism of Pakistan has been wide ranging and from vastly different quarters (India, Bangladesh, Iran, and the USA). Can we perhaps have a bit more "Let's look at the evidence" and a bit less "who cares about state sponsored terrorism, let's just bash David Cameron for being a loudmouth"?

Of course Pakistan deny the truth of what has been said (as the US likes to over attacks on Pakistani territory by it's war drones) but are we really shocked that the country that helped prop up the Taliban might be the same one still helping them? We must talk plainly to them, perhaps more privately than Mr Cameron has, and we should not shy away from holding them to standards we'd expect of any country, especially a nuclear weapons owning one.

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LabourList Has A Sensible Article For Once

Though LabourList is in my reader, I've stopped paying attention to their articles due to some real idiocy in the past (the defence of civil partnerships was without any sort of balanced debate on the actual differences between civil partnerships and marriages, for example).

But today's article is one that needs to be read by everyone. Coalition politics might not be here "to stay" but it's certainly here in this Parliament right now. Want to stop the Coalition from doing something you don't like? Then it'd be best to follow the advice in the article below:

In the coalition politics era Labour should court, not vilify, the LibDems

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Sunday, 1 August 2010

Letter To The Prime Minister

This will, with amendments to address and sign off, be winging it's way by snail mail to number 10 later.

To the Rt. Hon. David Cameron, Prime Minister,

I write following your article in the Independent on Sunday today.

Soon the leaders of both the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party will personally support marriage equality. Your Coalition partners will in fact be voting on adopting this issue as party policy at a federal level during their upcoming conference. Of course, like any party, I’m certain the Conservative party is not in the habit of adopting policies just because the other main parties have adopted them but that’s not to say it shouldn’t adopt this particular policy.

A smaller Government means empowering individuals to take responsibility. This Government can help this by getting out of people’s personal choice of partner and allowing them to form equal marriage contracts regardless of gender.

I note from your remarks that you are continuing to promote “religious civil partnerships”. These are often touted as an advance in individual and religious freedom. They are not. True freedom would be for the Government to stop dictating who can and can’t get married. Many religious organisations now wish to carry out marriages for same sex couples. The Government should allow them to, instead of offering them a new institution instead.

Her Majesty’s Government also plans to run a review of transgender rights in the near future. How can we continue to have gender specific partnership legislation in a country where we are able to legally change our gender? It does not make sense. One great step forward would be to make these institutions gender neutral so that those in a marriage aren’t forced to divorce in order to change their gender (a provision that seems both unfair and cruel considering the issues arising at the time of transitioning from one gender to another).

And you say you wish to have the UK’s civil partnerships recognised abroad with greater frequency. How do you propose to do this when there is no internationally agreed concept of civil unions? Might I suggest that marriage is more, if not completely, universally recognised and it would thus be of greater effect if same sex couples were allowed to marry. Then internationally more countries would understand and accept their partnership (of course not all will do so).

I cannot conceive of any reason for not allowing marriage equality except for a very limited religious view held by members of certain religions. Of course no religion which doesn’t support same sex marriage would be forced to hold those marriages. So their criticisms are pretty irrelevant in a country supposedly empowering individuals and groups to take charge of their own lives.

If you really believe in a “Big Society” you’d be for true equality (rather than the sham Labour created). If you continue to support separate but equal institutions, than your words will ring hollow.

Yours faithfully

Jason Kay

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David Cameron On Marriage Equality

Today, the Independent published it's Pink List. We'll ignore the fact that Joe McElderry somehow managed to get on the list (despite only being out as gay for a day) and focus on the related comments from our Dear Leader David Cameron. When I say focus, I meant to say "focus on the bits I don't like". Of course there's plenty to be thankful for in seeing a Conservative Prime Minister offer his support to the LGBT cause. But he's not winning me over with this:

I know there is one other subject that the gay community is particularly interested in: marriage. As someone who believes in commitment, in marriage and in civil partnerships, my view is that if religious organisations want to have civil partnerships registered at their places of worship that should be able to happen. Last week the Equalities Minister held listening events with faith groups and representatives of the gay community, as we consider what the next steps are for civil partnerships and how we enable religious organisations to register same-sex relationships on their premises if they wish to do so. I think this is an important step forward and we will help to make it happen.
He says nothing about marriage. He talks instead about religious civil partnerships, which I have criticised before. This is not marriage, and his note that it's a "step forward" again betrays the stupidity of the "step by step" approach. You take one step, trying not to annoy your opponents, and next time you'll take a smaller step and then another even smaller step until you are practically there (but not quite!). This is the political way, so I am often informed. Well I have one thing to say: Stop playing politics with my life! Principled positions have no place in our politics it would seem, which is to the detriment of our country.

As I said on Thursday, if you want marriage equality, you'll need to fight for it! It's not going to happen unless we get our voices heard.

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