Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Misunderstanding Labour's Position On Marriage Equality

Last night there was a lot of confusion over Labour's position on marriage equality caused by a recent article by Peter Tatchell entitled "Why has Labour failed to vote for marriage equality?" 

This caused many on Twitter to assume Labour had voted against marriage equality. Now, as much as I dislike Labour and fear their conservative instincts on many issues, I can't see how anyone could imagine a situation where they would vote against such an obviously progressive measure. 

Of course they've been against marriage equality in the very recent past. Gordon Brown answered a question on this here:

In response to Downing St online petitions to introduce same-sex marriage, it was stated that the "government has no plans to introduce same-sex marriage", because it has to "balance the right to live free from prejudice and discrimination with the right to freedom of speech and religion". In what ways does same-sex marriage affect freedom of speech and religion? Andrew Archer
"At the moment there’s a distinction drawn between civil and religious unions, and when civil partnerships were being introduced they took the same form as a civil union which a heterosexual couple would have. We later made it illegal to discriminate on partnership status – so it is illegal to treat someone in a civil partnership different to a married person. That makes no practical difference in terms of rights and responsibilities, but does recognise that religious groups have the right to a certain degree of self-organisation on questions that are theologically important to them, including on the question of religiously-sanctioned marriage. So the provision of ‘marriage’ as opposed to the provision of same-sex or heterosexual civil unions, is intimately bound up with questions of religious freedom."
And Chris Bryant made his opinions on this very plain during the civil partnership debates

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.
So there is a reason to be cautious over their approach but since the rather slow progress we made with Labour during the leadership elections last year it's become far more common to hear Labour politicians supporting marriage equality (well civil marriage at least). At last night's Stonewall fringe event at the Labour conference, Yvette Cooper also reiterated her support for marriage equality.

Given how undemocratic Labour's internal workings are, this is probably as close to policy as we're likely to get this side of an election manifesto. And we should be pleased Labour has managed to make this progress.

So no... Labour no longer vote against marriage equality. My only concern is remarks such as Cooper made last night suggesting she'd always fought for marriage equality, a statement I've yet to see backed up by any evidence whatsoever. It's great you're supporting it now, but please do not attempt to rewrite history just to cover-up Labour's complete lack of leadership on this subject.

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

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