Sunday, 29 January 2012

Common Ground With Archbishop Sentamu?

“Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” says Dr Sentamu. “I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.
“We’ve seen dictators do it in different contexts and I don’t want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way.
“It’s almost like somebody telling you that the Church, whose job is to worship God [will be] an arm of the Armed Forces. They must take arms and fight. You’re completely changing tradition.”
So said Archbishop Sentamu in the Daily Telegraph this week.

I find his Armed Forces comments rather bizarre, and the general tone of his discussion fairly obviously comes from a position of hatred. But then again this is a man who believe in virgin births and men who walk on water, so I think it's important we don't judge him too harshly.

I think it's important we start building bridges with our opponents. We are NEVER going to convince people who believe in the stories from one of the earliest known examples of fantasy fiction that same-sex relationships are benign, let alone that they are acceptable. Yes, my phrasing may be offensive to some believers, but it's time to start talking frankly. They think my love for a man is a sin. I think their belief in the reality of fictional characters is silly. If we can be honest, we can move forward.

Dr Sentamu argues that the state should not define marriage. I absolutely agree. If the state was not already defining marriage I wouldn't even be campaigning for marriage equality. Take the example of Mormon polygamy (a current favourite topic of mine). Most practioners don't want their relationships recognised by the Government. They just want to stop being criminalised. I find that position very principled and practical.

Before civil partnerships blessing ceremonies were very common in same-sex relationships. But that hardly seems acceptable in a world where marriage affects practicalities such as taxation, benefits, immigration, child custody, possessions etc. Hence the battle for civil partnerships and now marriage equality.

So if the Government were to back off from defining marriage and offering these protections, then the cries for marriage equality would disappear. Problem solved. We all go away happy.

And I agree with his implication that the state shouldn't dictate to churches who they can and can't legally marry. If it left those arrangements up the church and the individual, so that churches who want to marry same-sex couples can and those same-sex couples can contract with each other to cover certain eventualities then again there would be no problems.

But none of this is the case and, until people like Dr. Sentamu stop supporting the status quo rather than offering alternatives for reform, won't be for the foreseeable future. If Dr. Sentamu wants to fight the powers of the state over the individual I'll be there right by his side, but his blinkered version where the state supports his preferred type of relationship over another makes a mockery of his argument. "The Government should not dictate anything unless Dr Sentamu agrees with it" is not a very convincing position. So I must instead fight with those demanding at least equal treatment from the state their taxes fund.

Marriage equality or marriage reform. That's all we ask.

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Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Tories and their Nasty Brigade #legalizegaymarriage

The Tories have a problem. They have made leaps and bounds in the last few years on the LGBT rights front. Here we have a Coalition consisting primarily of Tories liberalising the blood ban and supporting marriage equality. We need to give them some props for that. Excellent work. But fundamentally, at the very heart of the party in Parliament, there are still the hardcore right-wingers.

A coalition of evangelicals, Catholics and grumpy old people, these right-wingers have not gone away and their hatred of LGBT freedom is clear to see even when they are so desperate to hide it, as they did over the recent attempts to undermine religious civil partnerships.

All parties in this country consist of a wide coalition of groups, some with totally different ideas of what direction the party should go in. But it's only in the Tories that the loony fringe common to all parties seems to have really maintained it's grip in Parliament. That's because until the late nineties, that fringe WAS the Tory party.

The latest shenanigans, led by David Burrowes, to rebel against the civil marriage equality legislation which is on the cards show that whilst this fringe doesn't have the power to defeat this legislation (thanks to the liberal Tories, the Lib Dems and the saner members of the Labour party giving it a good chance of success) they still have the power to give voice to the homophobia that is common among certain classes of people.

And that's why I could never, ever bring myself to vote for the Tories. They cannot pretend this fringe doesn't represent a sizeable component of their supporters. They may have tamed their crazy urges, but it'll only take a bad election defeat of the liberal leadership under Cameron for them to regain command again. 

We must be sure to keep pressing the reasonable members of Parliament to support marriage equality (both civil and religious) to ensure they take the matter seriously enough to keep it on course. The risk of a derailment is small but these guys aren't going to miss the vote and we need to make sure our side don't either!

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

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

How To Lose A Referendum Part 1

David Cameron and the British Government have been playing silly-buggers with our Union and it's pissing me off. We all knew, after the election victory of the SNP last year, that a referendum on Scottish independence was inevitable in the next few years. And if you're a grumpy old unionist like me, then you've known it was on the cards ever since Labour's poorly thought out devolution (I favour a clearer, federal structure). Given this, I think it's a little thoughtless for the British Government to turn around and tell the Scottish Government when and how they can hold this referendum.
In a statement to MPs, Mr Moore said the government's "clear view" was that the power to hold a referendum was "reserved" to Westminster under devolution laws passed in 1998 and that the Scottish government could not authorise a referendum on its own.
Do they have any idea on how that comes across? It might be the legal situation left thanks to Labour's rubbish future planning, but that sounds like just the sort of soundbite that plays straight into slippery Salmond's hands. We need to show the Scottish people why they should vote to stay in the Union not give them good reasons to resent interference from Westminster!

And lest you think this is a Coalition foul up, Labour appear to adopt the same sort of attitude. Here's what you do, accept the Scottish Government's date, make sure the question asked is clear and fair and then fight like mad to show all the benefits of being together rather than living on this island apart from each other. Is it really that hard?

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