Step forward Iain Dale. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I try to have as little to do with this man as possible, to the point of reminding people to, please God, not retweet his stuff into my timeline. I'm sure he's a nice enough fellow but I've not seen any evidence of that and thus have been perfectly happy to ignore his writings and tweets. But after it appeared in my timeline a few times yesterday I gave in and read an interview So So Gay did with him.
How, then, is the Coalition performing – particularly on gay rights? Before the election, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats made a number of pledges to gay people about, for example, considering marriage equality and deleting criminal records for homosexual ‘offences’. A question about marriage equality draws a quick response. ‘To me, a civil partnership is a marriage in all but name. If the Government wants to call it marriage, fine – but I can’t understand why people get so hung up about it.’
Yes. That old chestnut. He even called me out on it on Twitter asking me what the differences were, and suggesting it was all "semantics". Yes, Mr Dale, it's only semantics when you have your marriage dissolved because you change your gender. Doesn't affect anyone really does it? What an appalling thing to say. I thought I'd let that pass without further comment (beyond sending him a link to the relevant post on this blog), he's of little interest or importance in the grand scheme of things after all.. and then So So Gay printed a little Coalition debate piece today.
Tom Burke, chair of LGBT Labour said:
We are also calling for marriage equality for same sex couples. Civil partnerships were a significant step forward in the legal rights of lesbian and gay people. The time has come to build on this and to give same sex couples the right to get married on a comparable basis as heterosexual couples. It would also ensure that married trans people can transition to their new gender without having to divorce. The government has kicked the issues into the long grass, whereas we think it’s time for action.
A couple of points there:
1) the article is written to suggest marriage equality is Labour policy, it's not. It's just LGBTLabour's only very recently (last year) adopted policy!
2) "The time has come" totally gets my back up. It suggests there is no right to equality. It's all about getting what we can, when we can, at the discretion of others. It's what I was hearing from Labour for 5 years "Now isn't the time to be fighting for marriage equality". How fucking insulting is that? I don't often swear but I think the situation calls for it.
3) "The government has kicked the issues into the long grass, whereas we think it’s time for action." - This issue wasn't even on the Government agenda, LGBT Labour's agenda or anyone else's agenda in the House of Commons this time last year. It was only through the HARD WORK of activists on the ground during the Labour leadership elections and other opportunities, and through wide publicity given by Pink News to the Stonewall troubles and other marriage equality stories that we have even got them to give us a consultation. They aren't kicking it into the long grass and, in fact, equality supporters IN the Government are desperately pulling the issue out of the long grass (too slowly for my liking I admit) from where it had been despatched by New Labour in 2004.
And then it gets worse:
The only reason why gay rights would take a back seat in this Tory-led government is if Cameron and Clegg allowed it to; it would be their choice to let equality slip. Traditionally the Liberal Democrats have been very supportive of LGBT rights, but I know from former Lib Dem members who have joined the Labour party how disillusioned they are with Nick Clegg and with the fact that the Lib Dems in Parliament are supporting Tory policies, and working with people like Theresa May who voted against gay adoption in 2008 and opposed the repeal of Section 28.This is total utter bollocks. An attempt to link the Coalition's troubles with trust (over tuition fees etc.) to the Coalition's record on LGBT rights is a disgustingly partisan attack. There is no excuse. Can you see now why I despise Labour's constant harping on about being the LGBT community's best friend so much? They use us, for political point scoring and nothing more.
The Coalition have, with issues on each move I agree, stopped deporting gay asylum seekers, partially lifted the gay blood ban, begun a consultation on marriage equality and removed the convictions of men for "sexual crimes" that are no longer crimes. Each one of those has not been done perfectly. But then again Labour's record was exactly the same so attempting to point score is pointless. We must continue to press for perfection. For a new blood donation policy that is about sexual health rather than sexuality. For more oversight on what is happening to LGBT asylum seekers, for a faster move towards marriage equality and for a total deletion of spent criminal convictions for things that are no longer illegal. But let's not pretend the Coalition hasn't already done a lot for LGBT people in a very short amount of time. I remain hopeful that with the sensible support of some in Labour this can continue.
It's time the LGBT community started truly speaking up rather then letting these partisan, divisive and out of touch politicians speak for them. I cry out for the day we get a decent LGBT rights organisation working for our rights. And even more for the day it's no longer needed.
If you feel benevolent and particularly generous, this writer always appreciates things bought for him from his wishlist