Friday, 10 September 2010

Chris Bryant Is A Bit Dim On “Equality”

A while back Chris Bryant called me a numbskull for daring to question his record on marriage equality. So, despite sharing his feelings with regards to a certain Sky News presenter, I find myself feeling a little sympathy for Kay Burley after Mr. Bryant’s comments. And there's still reason to be very skeptical over his support of marriage equality.

This month’s edition of GT (the Gay Times to the rest of us) contains a debate on whether the LGBT population of Britain should support the Coalition. Mr Bryant, unsurprisingly, adopts the negative position. He defends this by rolling out the well used, and not without merit, “It’s the Tories! They hate LGBT rights!!” method of trying to scare people into supporting the Labour party. I’ve used the same arguments before (especially during the most recent election), and I can’t criticize him for stating the obvious.

But then he goes on to criticize the Coalition on their religious civil partnerships consultation and thinks they should just introduce marriage equality. You’d think, as a vocal critic of this consultation myself, I’d be prepared, in the interest of a shared cause, to celebrate this. However I can’t let this criticism pass without comment. I think he’s right to now, belatedly, call for marriage equality. But it’s disturbingly partisan to conveniently forget his party’s (and his own) part in this situation.

The religious civil partnerships consultation is a reaction to recent legislation and is based around working on implementation. The legislation making this consultation necessary was the Equality Act 2010, which was introduced and passed under the last Labour government (of which Mr Bryant was a Minister). It is disengenious of him to criticize the Coalition for introducing a consultation on the implementation of the legislation he voted for!! Did he call for marriage equality? No he did not. Why? “Because he was a Minister”. That was his excuse to me when I criticized him (again conveniently forgetting that he wasn’t a Minister during the Civil Partnerships debates when he quite clearly stated marriage was not what he was after). In effect it’s the old “I was just following orders” excuse.

I do not want same-sex relationships to ape marriage in any sense—several people have used the offensive phrase—because they are different. Although the two share similar elements, they do not have to be identical, so the legal provisions should be distinct. - Chris Bryant 
His criticism of the Government for not introducing marriage equality is also RIDICULOUS.

1) Because the Government that he was part of failed to even discuss it (beyond Brown saying he didn’t support it even after he expressed sadness at Prop 8 passing in California, which seems bizarrely conflicting) in 13 years of power and

2) give them a chance, it’s only been 3 months. The Government introduced this consultation, and has now started to hear calls for marriage equality (calls ignored during the last 13 years thanks to Labour’s reliance on Stonewall). I will step up my criticism IF, after the consultation finishes, they refuse to heed those calls. Until then perhaps members of the last administration might seek to call for marriage equality more respectfully given their own APPALLING records on it. How can we blame the Coalition for not including marriage equality in their agreement when, like Labour, it was not in either party’s policy at the time, and when NOBODY had spent any time making the case for it in the House of Commons? Even I, just a few months ago, was unsure that there was enough of a call for marriage equality (although that didn’t stop me jumping up and down about it ;) ).

I find his sudden support for marriage equality indicative not of a real change of heart but a cold, calculated move based on a feel for the changing political situation. It gets the job done but is not worthy of any great acclaim.

And then Mr Bryant goes on to boo-hoo about the POSSIBILITY the Coalition might not honour the Equality Act (based on no actual evidence). Well, Mr Bryant, not only did this “Equality” Act ignore basic equality by not introducing marriage equality but it contains some incredibly transphobic parts. So rather than holding up this Act as some holy cow, perhaps he might suggest it can be improved on as he’s already clearly unhappy about it’s arrangements for civil partnerships (strange he failed to bring that up when it was going through the House).

Let’s be clear. I’ve be unreasonable about Labour’s record on LGBT rights in the past. Very unreasonable. But that partly stems from comments and articles such as this one in today’s GT. Marriage equality supporters need to start working ACROSS party lines in order to achieve our goals. Sadly I see little hope for that when some use it as a rod to beat other parties with. Yes, I realize this might seem hypocritical given my comments in the past. But I admit I was wrong, I was speaking out of turn because I was angry at how silent many in the Labour party were on marriage equality (for what I perceived, and still believe, were political reasons). That’s changed (although it wasn’t easy, as anyone following my dealings with the Labour leadership contenders will know!), and I’m thus prepared to change my position.

I’ve admitted I was wrong to be unduly harsh to Labour. Will Chris Bryant admit he was wrong to not stand up for marriage equality when he had the chance? And will he state that he is wrong to criticize the Coalition for not doing something he so singularly failed to promote when he had the chance? Doubtful.

Diane Abbott has led the way, and said publicly that she feels civil partnerships were a mistake. Perhaps Chris Bryant might want to follow in her footsteps?

If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist

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