Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Year In Marriage Equality

Time for a look back on the year through the eyes of the struggle for marriage equality in the United Kingdom. What a year it's been!

In January, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg came out in favour of marriage equality being the first leader of a major party to do so.

In April I gave up hope for any change, based purely on fact I had no visions of anything other than a Tory or Labour Government being in power after the upcoming general election. I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised to find out how wrong I was, although that was more to do with events rather than being factually inaccurate (I cannot imagine marriage equality being mentioned under majority Governments of the big parties).

In what can only be described as a breakthrough, not more than a week after I wrote the piece above, marriage equality was mentioned in the general election. Sadly it was mainly just a lot of flip floping from the Tories. By the end of the election it was clear that only the Lib Dems supported marriage equality.

Of course we all know what happened in May, with the Coalition coming to power. In June they released an LGBT policy document that finally pushed me to step up my game.

Using every avenue I could find I decided to get marriage equality mentioned EVERYWHERE I could.

I used Your Freedom to create a rather popular policy suggestion. I wrote letter's to Lynne Featherstone, Ed Miliband and David Miliband. I used Yoosk to ask questions of the Labour leadership candidates and Simon Hughes. The response from Simon Hughes got national media coverage, the Labour leadership candidates all eventually came out in support of marriage equality and LabourList agreed marriage equality was now the "next step". At the end of July the Government held sit down talks with "interested parties" to discuss the future of civil partnerships.

It was at this meeting that Stonewall finally made a PR wrong step which would snowball over the summer.  Their inability to make a decision on marriage equality helped bring the issue to a wider audience and created real anger in the LGBT community. This prompted other strange reactions, such as Chris Bryant's weirdly forgetful piece in GT on the subject. A man who told Parliament he doesn't want marriage for same sex couples suddenly claims to always have supported it. Hmm...

Marriage equality became official Lib Dem policy in September and one of the parties new recruits, Stephen Gilbert MP, became marriage equalities champion at Westminster.

In October Stonewall finally came out in support of marriage equality and one of the biggest moves of the year occurred with the Equal Love campaign's launch. Lead by Peter Tatchell the campaign has spent the time since then trying to get heterosexuals civilly partnered and same sex couples married. They are now taking their battle to the courts.

In a nice end to the year, marriage equality was mentioned, by Stephen Gilbert, in the adjournment debate in the House of Commons.

What's the future look like? Rosy, but not certain. The fight must continue. Equal Love UK are doing the hard work but we should all get involved in continuing to push for marriage equality. If we do 2011 might just be the year we've been waiting for.

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Thursday, 23 December 2010

Time For The Coalition (And It's Haters) To Grow Up

I've been asking for an open and honest Coalition since the start. The way Nick Clegg decided to go (to embrace every facet of the Coalition) was one I felt was not reflective of his "big idea" of the "new politics". I wanted the Tories and Lib Dems to be clear that they believed different things and were simply working together on a joint platform in the country's interests.

I know, I'm a naive idealist whose hopes would have been dashed against the rocks of a cynical population, a deceitful opposition and an idiotic media.

But now is the time for the Tories and Lib Dems to stop the "love-in" and remember we are individual parties who care enough about the future of our country to work alongside each other.

As a Liberal Democrat, NOTHING that has been revealed in the last few days by the Daily Telegraph's "sting" has been news to me at all. Did the media really fall for Labour's narrative about the Lib Dems being "yellow Tories"? Did Labour really believe it too? Why is it so shocking that Lib Dem Ministers have Lib Dem beliefs (and don't really like Tories)?

It's time for us to treat the population like grown ups and show there IS division in Government (no more than the not so secret internal war between Blairites and Brownites that we had for years under Labour) and that is actually part of our strength.

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Sunday, 19 December 2010

Porn: The Great Litmus Test Of Freedom

Porn is controversial. It incites a great deal of discussion, from those concerned with protecting children and those protecting women, over it's morality. Governments seem desperate to control it, even in the face of it's widespread popularity. This controversy makes it a wonderful "litmus test" for whether a society is really free.

I've talked about it before in the context of wanting some answers over exploitation in pornography. Now we have Ed Vaizey, the communications minister, bringing it back into political debate after suggesting ISPs should force people to opt-in if they wish to view what the ISPs or the Government regard as porn.

Even if you buy into the idea that it's the Government's job to protect children from pornography in their own homes, I think this policy risks overreach (i.e. blocking sites that aren't pornographic especially regarding sexual health and LGBT issues) and would be nearly impossible to successfully implement. Kids don't "accidentally" wander onto porn sites, and those who want to find them will still find them even if most are blocked. So what does it achieve other than sending a signal to the country that the Government cares more about control and less about leaving people to live their lives the way they want?

A silly, nanny-state suggestion from a Government that was meant to know better.

Hands off our internet!

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Another Spineless MP Comes Out

I remember the first time I held a man's hand in public. We had stones thrown at us. It was pretty terrifying and certainly made my 18 year old self feel reluctant to try it again!

So I appreciate that coming out and being honest about yourself is not easy. I came out during the late nineties when things were becoming easier for LGBT people to be who they are, but when things were still pretty difficult. So I can only imagine what bravery and guts it took the men and women who came out before me, or whose attitudes were formed in that dark past. I'm sure being from that generation makes it extremely difficult for many.

So now I've got that out of the way, let's talk about the spinelessness of one Nigel Evans, Tory MP for the Ribble Valley.

This is a man who voted more times against LGBT rights than he has voted for. Hell, he's been absent more times than he has voted for.

He was only trying to protect the children of course, bless him, from dirty people like... HIM!

Yes. He came out. Supposedly due to threats of being outed by a former Labour MP

‘I could not afford it to be used as leverage against me. I couldn’t take the risk. I don’t want any other MP to face that kind of nastiness again.

‘I am sure there are other gay MPs who would like to be open about their sexuality but are fearful of the consequences. I hope this new group will help them to do so.’

So 1) he didn't come out because he was now comfortable with his sexuality, instead it was to continue to protect his career. 2) he seems overly concerned with helping others feel secure in their sexuality yet in the past voted to keep an unequal age of consent and Section 28 thereby causing many young LGBT people to suffer continued hurt.

As I've said before: Never trust someone who will vote against their own rights just for political advantage and partisanship.

We should not welcome this announcement as another victory for LGBT people but should instead hang our collective heads in shame that yet another LGBT person has come out as an "ex-homophobe". Here's a song I think is most appropriate for this situation. You do it to yourself, you do, and that's what really hurts.

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Thursday, 16 December 2010

The End Of Child Detention

It's taken a little long than I would've liked (a year by the time it's completed) BUT finally the Coalition have overturned Labour's policy of imprisoning children. It's something that it has been very important, for me, to see implemented and I am glad we can finally see an end to this disgusting abuse of minors.

Now we must hope that control orders are axed by the Government in the New Year. Write to your MPs!

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Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Alright Labour, If You Insist On Our Help

Petulant children. That's what Labour call those of us who turned our noses up at the idea of helping THEM develop THEIR party's new policies.

Well, if they are so desperate to get our input (perhaps they are really struggling for inspiration?) who am I to deny them? So here is a list of my suggestions for some radically new policies for the Labour party.

1) No more torture.

A real headline grabber this one. It's going to be a hard sell within the Labour party, if their last term in Government is anything to go by, but I think this might be a really positive step forward. It's pretty simple really: the Labour party just needs to promise (and keep said promise, I know don't follow Nick Clegg's example on this one!) NOT to torture anyone or aid in the torture of anyone.

Some, in the Labour party, will say this is impossible. That something so radical can be barely be contemplated. But I really think NOT torturing people might work. Let's just give it a go, see how it works out? Go on. Try something new!

2) No more killing innocent civilians just because your weirdo Christian fundamentalist friend in the USA thinks it's a good idea.

War is Hell. We all know that, and I think it's probably near impossible NOT to kill innocents (i.e. civilians) during wartime operations. Now Labour here's where things get complicated so let me spell it out to you:


Indeed the fact they often get caught up in the crossfire means that going to war needs to be a decision made for the right reasons, at the right time and in the right way. Getting it wrong and saying sorry doesn't quite cut it. Killing people with real lives, real families, real hopes, and real dreams for the wrong reason isn't something you just get to say "oops" about. So the new policy would be "No more unjust wars". This is a hard one, and perhaps you might want to get rid of some of the people in your party who still have blood on their hands. It really puts those of us with a conscience off dealing with you at all, knowing you've got killers in your midst.

3) Do not think that your drinking buddies represent entire groups of people

When your drunken friend, who happens to fall in love with members of their own sex, leans across the bar and slurs "You know, not all lesbians want marriage. I think you should set up some sort of unequal civil union instead." don't take this as representative of the entire LGBT community. Perhaps ask around (and not just your friends like David Miliband did), or (crazy idea here) consult your fundamental party values and ask the question "Is this right?". What are fundamental party values, I hear the Blairites cry. *sigh* I'll see you after the lesson.

4) Balance the books

Yes, I know it's fun to hide balances here, there and anywhere and sell off parts of public property to private business but pretend you haven't. BUT trust me this sort of fun always comes back to bite you in the bum. Perhaps work out how much money is coming in, and work out how much money is going out. Then you need to balance those amounts. Yes, it's elementary economics and perhaps an oversimplification of how possible (or desirable) that is at a national level. But promising to keep it in mind this time might go some way to rebuilding trust with the people paying the bills (i.e. the electorate).

5) Don't treat your citizens like criminals.

Relax. Calm down. Breath. Terrorism is not new. It's not something that's going to stop. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be vigilant and we shouldn't try to stop it from happening but perhaps you might want to start balancing freedom and security a bit more sensibly. When the police start stopping people in the street who are simply taking photos, you know you've got that balance wrong. And let's be honest... Labour has that balance really wrong (also see torture and murder, these things are linked). Remember: the public are not here to do your bidding. Your there to do the public's bidding.

Just a few little tips to start you off. Finding a heart or soul may also be of benefit. Any questions please feel free to ask someone who thinks you might actually do even one of the above.

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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Thanks Mr Miliband But... No Deal

Ed Miliband, realising what an authoritarian tribe he now leads, has called for Liberal Democrats to assist with his policy review. Perhaps we might even join the party, given how our Ministers have "betrayed" us.

Well Mr Miliband, I'm afraid that if we are going to start pointing fingers over betrayal, let's take a look at the past betrayals of Labour Ministers. They colluded with and allowed torture, which I'd say is a betrayal of human rights. They joined a war in Iraq based on false premises which lead to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, which I'd say is a betrayal of life itself. You don't get to say "Sorry" and make it alright there. They betrayed electoral reformers by ignoring a report they commissioned suggesting AV+ be used. They betrayed the LGBT community:

"Mr. Chope: Will the Minister answer the question about why the Government are not legislating for homosexual marriage? If they did that, the problems that I have described would not exist.

Jacqui Smith: As we said on Second Reading, our approach to the legal situation is to say, ''Let us devise a 21st century way, a new legal relationship, which recognises the legal difficulties and sensitivities that perhaps not everybody in this Committee may share but certainly many people with religious views would share, about the particular historical traditions of marriage that might make it inappropriate for there to be same-sex marriages.'' We have identified where the mischief stands, as the lawyers describe it, and that is the legal invisibility of people in same-sex couples. We are attempting to remedy that through the Bill, and our approach received widespread support throughout the consultation period. Stonewall, for example, recognises it as the 21st century, modern way to deal with that particular problem.

The second reason for the Government's approach is our view that for opposite-sex couples marriage is the best framework for stable family relationships. I think the hon. Gentleman would agree with that. The irony of his position is that he would want the state to sanction another form of legal relationship for opposite-sex couples that could be seen only as being in direct competition with marriage. It is a deep irony that those people who hold marriage so dear and consider it to be so important at the same time argue for a legally recognised, state sanctioned relationship in direct competition with it. The Government do not want to do that." Source

So excuse me if I laugh, guffaw and perhaps shed a tear at the sheer disgusting audacity of what Mr Miliband has suggested. Given his party had a majority when it helped kill, maim, torture and betray civilians in several countries, I think I can deal with (even if I'm not happy about it) the compromises of the Liberal Democrats in Government.

What I want to know is why more Labour party members haven't resigned in disgust at all the blood on the hands of those still in the Parliamentary party. I suspect they'll say "We're staying inside to help change it" which actually translates into human as "We're don't really give a shit about some foreigners who died, we just hate the Tories and their collaborators!"

Such is the state of the Labour party.

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Sunday, 12 December 2010

Conservative Home: Not Talking Bollocks For Once

I know, I know, it's hard to imagine Conservative Home posting anything but paragraph after paragraph of idiocy and anger. But lo! Like the old "thousand monkeys" old wives tale, they've actually done a whole blog post that seems sensible! If you don't believe me, you can read it here:

Seven Steps To A Liberal Democrat Recovery

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Saturday, 11 December 2010

I Agree With Nick

Nothing turns my stomach more than seeing Lib Dem MPs turn against a personal pledge (rather than a manifesto promise) and vote with the Government on tuition fees. Whilst I may now be persuaded by the economic and political arguments about the need for tuition fees, I still cannot understand such a flagrant disregard for a personal promise.

Perhaps I'm just old fashioned and believe an oath to be binding. A pledge of loyalty to a cause should not be broken so easily. And that's why, in a really messed up way, I still agree with Nick.

During the heady days of Cleggmania (remember those happy times?) I stood there at rallies in Watford and Blackheath and supported Nick Clegg's revival of our party. After the Coalition was formed I had reservations, though I was initially supportive, and then declared neutrality. My criticisms then still stand. But that doesn't mean I don't support what Nick Clegg is trying to do. He is trying to make this "brave experiment" of Coalition work. Our party has been in opposition (in various forms) for nearly a century. Clegg has rolled the dice. The worst that can happen is we remain an irrelevancy. The best is that he can prove liberal values, are good values. That we are above petty left-right squabbling and can work with other parties for the benefit of the country. That's a goal worth risking our necks for.

I must say I do find it amusing when Labour supporters scream "You're going to be out of Government for decades, an irrelevant footnote of history!". Have they not been paying attention? That's what we've always been. I know power for the sake of power is important to the Tories and Labour, but the loss of power is not likely to send Lib Dem activists into a collective depression! Perhaps this time, things can be different.

The preamble to our party Constitution states:

"The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which noone shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives."

I still agree with that. And I still agree with Nick.

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Sunday, 5 December 2010

Things I'd Say If I Had More Time (And Brains)

I started a new job this week so have been somewhat too busy to collect my thoughts on some of the pressing issues of the day. Instead I've decided to simply send you off to see other's writings which I, broadly, agree with.

Andrew Rawnsley: Nick Clegg's unexpectedly swift journey from idol to hate figure

Dan Carlin (podcast): It's All Bismarck (RE: Wikileaks)

Millennium Dome: Day 3622 (again): On World AIDS Day… Some People SHOULD be Ashamed


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