Sunday, 28 April 2013

C4M Leaflets: The Coalition For Mayhaps/Could Be/What If #equalmarriage

So remember the Coalition for Marriage? They are still campaigning away.
Without any hard facts they have now resorted to speculation in their leaflets, all maybes and coulds and very little "This is absolutely the case". Why? Because they know that they can't back up the facts. Let us break down their points.

Education: We're still on the "Oh my God, children might be taught about same-sex marriage!" Last I checked school was about teaching children what to expect in the real world and how to deal with it so completely ignoring something they might encounter would, surely, be a bit silly. And the old "teachers will be sacked" meme has run its course. The Government has stated clearly it would not support teachers being sacked for opposing equal marriage. This is in contrast to some religious organisations who are determined to sack teachers for supporting equal marriage! I know that is a bit inconvenient for C4M's narrative but those are the facts.

Families: This is not a second point. It is again about education. There are quite a number of things parents don't get a right to opt-out of. Feel free to debate this much wider topic rather than suggest this is just an equal marriage issue.

Children: NOT AN EQUAL MARRIAGE ISSUE. There is nothing in the current same-sex marriage bill that affects fostering or adoption. Why? Because that issue has already been resolved. C4M are just trying to cloud the issue we are talking about now with their pet peeves from the past.

Careers: Back to Education again.

Churches: Now realising that churches will have their right not to perform same-sex marriages respected they've moved on to demanding they still be given grants or refused permission to hire halls for church use. Hmm... moving those goal posts again. I look forward to churches renting out their halls for Grindr meet-up at the earliest opportunity.

The leaflet shows one thing. The arguments they've been using haven't been working and they are now down to desperate "What if" scenarios based on a couple of past incidents (that occur, obviously, before marriage equality has been introduced!) and speculation.

Awesomely weak. This gives me hope.

"Smearing" UKIP AKA Showing You One Of Their Leaflets

UKIP is currently very concerned about the LibLabCon conspiracy against them which is smearing them relentlessly. Not only are UKIP candidates tweets and Facebook posts being reviewed but also their "anti-Zionist" rants on forums and, heaven forbid, their leaflets are being published. This sort of smearing is also known as "letting voters know what other candidates actually think". Oh how far our democracy has fallen when opponents actually quote things a candidate has said. UKIP yearns for the days of the dodgy Lib Dem bar graph, obviously.

From this blog's point of view, one of the most interesting smears has been the publishing of the below leaflet.

What is "homosexual education" and how does one promote it?

Anti-equality teachers will be sacked will they? Despite the Government stating that this will not happen and the Catholic church has made it clear they will sack pro-equality teachers, this is one of the main focuses of anti-LGBT people out there. When will they start decrying the evils of the Catholic church sacking people for their conscience?

The age of consent stuff is absolutely bizarre. The age of consent is already equal. Marriage equality has nothing whatsoever to do with the age of consent, police enforcement against child abuse nor in fact child abuse whatsoever. This is simply the typical attempt, however vaguely, to link homosexuality to paedophilia despite what hundreds of studies show.

Then the leaflet complains that marriage equality isn't equal enough!

The cartoon is an absolutely bizarre take on the slippery slope argument. Usually you get polygamy, sometimes incest or, for the truly loony, bestiality rolled out as the next step. But here it is bisexual's rights. I'm concerned that I might make someone cry if I pointed out marriage equality is something that will benefit bisexuals too.

"A child has a right to a mother and father". That is about gay adoption or surrogacy. Those things are already legal. Marriage equality will not change the situation of same-sex parenting rights, or the rights of children, one jot. Not one jot.

Sorry. I'm smearing UKIP again. Oops.

Friday, 26 April 2013

It Is Time To Contact The Lords and Ladies About #EqualMarriage

With the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill heading for its Third Reading in the House of Commons, it is time to start contacting the members of the House of Lords.

Peter Tatchell called for people to start lobbying the Lords yesterday, which was rather coincidental as that is when I began contact the Lords myself. I've already received a positive response from Lord Attlee, and I hope to receive more! The Lesbian and Gay Foundation have also called for lobbying of the Lords to begin.

I second Peter Tatchell's suggestion. We need to lobby the Lords and make sure them see that there is a substantial number of people calling for marriage equality in this country, despite what some might have you think.

You can see how to address a Lord or Lady here and their contact details can be found here. There is a letter/email template text at the bottom of here, but I think it is always best to personalise the letter to make it a bit more obvious you aren't just a robot!

No one really knows how the Lords stand on this issue. Most assume the vote will be tight. So get writing, telephoning or, if you happen to see them and you doing it politely, asking them in person to ensure the members of the House of Lords know marriage equality isn't something the "metropolitan elite" thought up but is something desired by many people across our fair land!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Some More #EqualMarriage Stuff

Further good news from the United States on marriage equality... Rhode Island's Senate has passed marriage equality and, barring some unexpected legislative change of heart in the Assembly, it will become law within weeks and marriages can begin from August 1st.

The news from Colombia is sadly less upbeat, with a sliver of hope. There the Senate overwealming defeated a same-sex marriage bill. But there the situation is a little more complicated as the Supreme Court has ruled that if nothing is put in place giving same-sex couples all the rights of different-sex couples then they can begin registering their marriages in June. Definitely a country to keep an eye on.

Meanwhile here in the UK, the SPUC is still up to their old tricks.
My favourite argument is that being male and female will become meaningless (everyone will be so confused!) I'm assuming they will be hunting down "evil" intersex children next...

And what is this from our Christian friends in America? A big slice of crazy? Yes indeed.

Yes, because falling in love with someone of the same-sex is exactly the same as cheating on someone you love. And yes we all demand you affirm us and attend Pride parades because that is the law!

The only people sexualising same-sex relationships are our opponents. They don't have a clue how we really feel.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Marriage Equality Marches On Even In The Face Of French Violence

Yesterday France took the final legislative step towards marriage equality when the National Assembly voted it through. It still needs to get through an appeal with the Constitutional Court before the President can sign it into law, but they have already ruled in the past that this issue is in the hands of the legislature not the judiciary so it is likely to successfully overcome this last hurdle (cross those fingers!)

Here are two images from last night showing some of the opponent's reactions to the vote. 

Violence and aggression have characterised the French opponents campaign. Now judging the opposition by their protesters is unfair. Violence and vandalism (on an admittedly smaller scale) did occur after Prop 8 was voted through in California in 2008. But let us not pretend this was just a heat of the moment thing. The opposition's protests have had violence (perhaps not help by the police and their heavy handed approach) for a while now. Just look at this protest with some visible Catholic priests looking rather shocked as the protest turns violent (and trying to put themselves in the way of the police arresting/beating protesters which didn't go down well although kudos to them for trying to protect their flock, even when that flock is being a bit nasty themselves). 

And all this anger over people in love wanting to marry. That is all. I think this picture from a few weeks ago serves to contract the hate of the opposition and the hopes of the pro-equality side rather nicely. 

Love not hate. That is all we want. Peace and freedom to be with who we want to be with and to have our families protected (in shock news LGB people don't suddenly become infertile when we have sex with someone of the same sex, hell there's even a child living in my house and that was definitely not something I was expecting!)

Good news too from Rhode Island where marriage equality successful passed a Senate committee and is now due to be voted on in the Senate today. And in Delaware last night the House of Representatives passed marriage equality too which will now head to the Senate there.

Colombia's Senate, after two postponements, is due to vote on marriage equality today. Fingers crossed it goes through although there the nation isn't really behind this law like it has been elsewhere.

Marriage equality is on the march. There are no guarantees of success, no divine right to win, no "wrong side of history" to rely on. The only thing that will see us through is by pressing the real issues: love and freedom. Our opponents see marriage, couples and children as simply cogs in an unfeeling wheel designed only to serve the state. We see marriage, relationships and families as units held together by love, free will and commitment.

I know which vision I prefer.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Making My Peace With Nationalism

Ugh. It is "St George's Day" yet again.

This blog was, once upon a time, created more as a reaction to nationalism than anything else. I know that is hard to imagine as I moan about marriage equality so often now, but yes indeed the posts I actually received the most response on (including being invited to speak at conferences(!), something I turned down as I'd be absolutely useless) were about nationalism. I explained why I'm a unionist, why you shouldn't call me English, and asked why those who bang on about flags never seem to treat them with respect.

In my personal life, when I lived in London, if you had asked anyone my politics they probably would have answered "He's obsessed about Britishness, just don't refer to anything as English" as they hushed you to be quiet lest I hear. My unionism, more all-encompassing than the most right-wing DUP nutter version, has been a central feature of my life.

But I accept I am in the minority. Wherever I look nationalism is no longer just "on the rise" but is here to stay. I mentioned merging two Wiki pages the other day, one about Latter-Day Saints in the UK and one about Latter-Day Saints in England, as they duplicate information. I've mellowed in my old age and wasn't even thinking about my old "Ugh England" agenda, yet was instantly attacked by someone determined I don't go near the Welsh or Scottish entries and telling me all about the evils of English colonialism (something that amused me as someone who probably despises the concept more than they do). Nationalists are everywhere. Alas.

I must simply accept that my distaste for Englishness (and the other forms of nationalism that prevade our world) is to be a solitary pursuit and leave the nationalists to fight over the bones of our islands. I shan't correct others when they call the UK "England".

But don't you dare call me English. I may not be able to convince you of the worthiness of unionism as a political concept, but at least respect who I am. I still treasure the parting gift I got upon leaving the first London job I had. It was a drinks coaster that said "Kentish First, British Second, European Third". My colleagues knew me well.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

It's Alright, It's Okay, Another Gay Sunshine Day

You know it has been a long time since I've been out on the scene or even been to watch a Pride march (let alone be in one). And since leaving London I don't even have a work LGBT group to conspire with attend. With my singular focus on the fight for marriage equality, my views of LGBT normality have become somewhat skewed as I wade through the hate thrown at us by our opponents. Thus it is good to sometimes get my head out of the mud and remember that being LGBT is fantastic.

Thankfully this is helped by scenes like the one seen in New Zealand's Parliament today when they successfully passed a marriage equality bill.

What a wonderful moment and a touching celebration of love. And that is what this is all about. Our love for those we love and our wish to ensure their full protection under the law should the worst happen to us.

Well done New Zealand, with Uruguay also passing marriage equality and France nearly there it has been a busy month! We've equaled the best year ever for equal marriage (2010) with 3 countries legalising it (yes I'm counting France early, shame on me) and the serious prospect of a few more to come, including if we're lucky England and Wales plus Scotland!

Onwards and upwards!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Another Test For Freedom: Protesting Funerals

Having introduced an unpopular tax, been hanged in effigy and seen an unprecedented series of protests during their time in office, some were still taken aback when plans were announced for protests at the recently deceased leader's funeral. Thinking Margaret Thatcher? Wrong.

Massachusetts Lt. Governor Andrew Oliver died in March 1774 just a few months after the tumultuous events of the Boston Tea Party (and a few years after his official, if not personal, support of the Stamp Act which helped lead up to it). Samuel Adams, who would go on to become one the USA's Founding Fathers, was taken aback at plans to honour Oliver at his funeral and at Oliver's funeral a contingent of the Sons of Liberty (including Sam Adams) turned up and cheered as Oliver's body was lowered into the ground.

Many years later the country Samuel Adams fought for so earnestly has faced a new wave of uncomfortable and disturbing funeral protests from a small but vocal group. The Westboro Baptist Church has become infamous for its protests since the 1990s. They came to international attention, especially among LGBT people, in 1998 when they protested at the murdered Matthew Shepard's funeral. And they didn't just stop there, finding even greater notoriety (something the WBC appear to thrive upon) in protesting the funerals of soldiers of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

So abhorrent a concept as protesting someone's funeral has been rightly condemned almost universally. This group that protests at the funerals of everyone from gay men to "true American heroes" is one that managed to breakdown the barriers between the Culture War opposing camps and allowed those camps to join together in shared disgust. And this widespread feeling was not slow in being acted upon by local, state and national authorities.

In a test for the right to free speech these authorities have for years tried to restrict and, occasionally, even ban the WBC from protesting at or near funerals. Just this week Florida has expanded its restrictions. But ultimately the courts have upheld the right of the Phelps family and their followers to freely protest even when that protest may be extremely distressing.

I've very mixed emotions over the concept of protesting at funerals. Just thinking about someone doing so makes me upset and angry. I cannot begin to imagine how hurtful and distressing these protests must be for the families of those who have died. And yet, when the Phelps were banned from visiting the United Kingdom, I wrote in their defence. Like many other things, such as porn for example, you may not like what you see or hear but the Westboro Baptist Church have a right to protest just as anyone else does.

Which brings us to next weeks funeral for Margaret Thatcher. Rumours of protests are floating about, and have been long expected. I'm no fan of Margaret Thatcher. She is often held up as a strong defender of freedom yet her Government never really lived up to what I'd expect freedom to mean. But even so I don't think she deserves the reputation she has been given nor does anyone deserve to have their funeral protested. Be they a young murdered man or an elderly former Prime Minister, a funeral is a time for someone's passing to be mourned. So talk of protests saddens me greatly.

But... the police, media and supporters of Thatcher must understand there must be a right to a peaceful protest, no matter how abhorrent it might be. No matter how disgusting, creepy and downright inhuman those who protest a funeral might be, they must have rights too. I hope that right is respected on Wednesday, although I hope ultimately those planning such crass acts see sense beforehand.

Remember protesters you share a tactic with the Westboro Baptist Church. Stay classy.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Greg Mulholland's Amendments To The Same-Sex Marriage Bill Might Be Just What We Need

I'm very wary of amendments to LGBT rights related bills. During the civil partnership debates we saw a lot of "wrecking" amendments that were unhelpful at best. But I am of the opinion that the Same-Sex Marriage Bill very much needs amending.

Greg Mulholland, North Leeds' Lib Dem MP, is proposing to take legal marriage away from the religious organisations. I haven't seen the full details yet so my support is currently lukewarm, but it would seem the proposals would mean religious couples would have a civil ceremony followed (or preceded by I suppose!) a religious one (which is how I understand most Muslim couples do it at the moment anyway). And he is also proposing to repeal the Civil Partnership Act which would at least make sense even if that might prove a little controversial among LGBT folks.

Sure these things wouldn't solve all the issues I have but it would certainly help this bill start to make a lot more sense and improve our marriage law by removing the concepts of adultery and consummation.

I doubt these amendments will get anywhere but it is nice to see someone offering sensible amendments and perhaps beginning an open debate on the flaws of the bill that we are being offered.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

So I've Renewed My Lib Dem Membership

Since the turn of the New Year, I've been wondering whether I should renew my Lib Dem membership. Ever since the disappointment that was the failure of attempts to reform the House of Lords I've been sailing towards apostasising from the church resigning from the party. The recent spring conference controversy over secret courts and Nick Clegg's (formerly beloved round these parts) appalling reaction (or lack thereof) has done little to make me sing the party's praises.

But being a political independent doesn't sit right with me. I'm an idealist and political independence has a powerful and romantic draw. But what would it achieve? Very little I suspect. And the, serious, political alternatives just aren't really alternatives. The Conservatives have been doing a lot to appear more attractive to classical liberal sorts, but the crazy backbenchers show me all I need to see on what the party is really about. And Labour. Do I even need to spell out all of Labour's faults? I don't have the time nor the inclination. Short version: hypocrites (they don't get that when, perhaps rightly, they scream "Hypocrites" at Lib Dems they are actually being hypocrites! I'm being a hypocrite aren't I?), dreamers, warmongerers and plain old crazies. I just read the Guardian every time I start to feel like I might be getting nostalgic for old Left-Wing Jae.

So no thanks, they aren't for me. So why stay with the Lib Dems?

Loyalty is a big part of it. Tribalism, even my own honest sort, is a malignant but powerful force. But there are also all the good people I know who are members of the Lib Dems. Some of the most intelligent political thinkers with whom I have personal acquaintance tend to be in the Lib Dems (and even the ones I like outside seem to somehow end up in the party. My own bias? As if.). I've always been more interested in social issues and civil rights over economic matters so the Lib Dems social liberalism attracts me, but so does the success of their income tax allowance policy. If I imagine who I'd prefer in charge of the country out of the big three parties (don't get me started on UKIP...) then there is no confusion. A Lib Dem Government would be my choice without a shadow of a doubt.

I don't pretend there aren't major problems that I now have with the party. I'm no longer going to take party promises on face value. But they aren't anything compared to the problems I have with the other parties.

So yes. I'm a Lib Dem for another year. It'll be 10 years in the party in 2014. Scary huh?

Monday, 1 April 2013

Have those opposing the same-sex marriage bill actually read it?

I've not tried to hide my deep disappointment with the Government's same-sex marriage bill. Having read it, it is quite clearly not the marriage equality I, among others, had been hoping for. Don't get me wrong, this would be a great leap forward. But it'd certainly leave me unsatisfied.

You'd think that once the bill was published our opponents would have breathed a sigh of relief. This bill would, if passed, see the creation of a new concept that we can call "gay marriage" (the same approach the South Africans have taken). It would not "redefine" marriage. It'll be a separate institution.

But alas. As Lord Carey made clear in his article over the weekend, some who oppose marriage equality haven't even realised this bill is significantly different to that proposed in the Coalition's consultation document (Lord Carey still thinks the Government is trying to create a separation of "religious" and "civil" marriage, which is what was proposed originally, but that is no longer the case). Instead of grasping this compromise and laughing all the way to the wedding chapel, they are hell bent on defeating the bill in the House of Lords.

It would please me to see the Government's bill passed. But it might actually please me more to see it defeated. Why? I hear you cry...

1) Defeating the bill in the House of Lords will definitely give the pro-equality side a great cause to rally around. We'd become the "injured party" (something the anti-equality side have been desperate to show themselves as) and a new "narrative" could be weaved. And it might cause just an itsy bit more resentment towards the House of Lords which would please this reform supporter greatly.

2) It would give us a chance, regrettably delayed I know, in the next Parliament for a better marriage equality bill to be created and fix all those annoying problems a great many of us have with the current bill.

As I see it the anti-equality folk are now in a lose/lose situation. But they have a chance to put this issue to bed and come out of it with a small victory. Because the next version of this bill would be far less careful to avoid rocking the boat.

I'm not hoping that the bill gets defeated in the Lords. I'm hoping it gets amended. But if it does get defeated I'm pretty confident that it'll only be to our benefit, and not the other sides.

Remember to get lobbying those Lords!!