In the last 48 hours, Maria Miller, the equalities minister made an announcement, which I argue could be the defining moment of her career. She courageously outlined the government’s plans for the bill to legislation for equal marriage. This is a massive move by a party which largely condemned the repeal of Section 28, the equalisation of the age of consent and Civil partnerships. The road for equality for the LGBT community has been long; and Maria Millers insistence to backbenchers that Equal Marriage should be celebrated, and not condemned is one that I am many applaud.
The evening before, I was searching online to see how MPs are likely to vote, and on the conservative home website, I noticed that Richard Fuller MP, of my home town Bedford and Kempston was going to vote against the measures – he’s cited that the reason was he didn’t think that it was important enough.
First of all, it IS important. The consultation period had amassed over 228,000 responses, including 19 petitions with a collective 500,000 signatures. As the consultation pack was very detailed – for all these people to take the time to pass on their opinions to the government is very significant.
Through the power of social media, I decided to write an open letter to Mr. Fuller and even though I did send it to him directly I felt it was important that my thoughts were not brushed under the carpet – the letter was liked and shared and seen, in the end, over 190 times since it was released – which isn’t bad considering it wasn’t celebrity gossip!
Once the letter was shared by the Campaign for Equal Marriage, it got the attention of Stephen Williams MP who was gracious enough to retweet it and told me felt that personal testimony was important. I was very humbled.
I was advised to get in touch with the local paper in Bedford, which I did and in today’s issue (13th December 2012) an article will be published. The LGBT team in Bedford will also be meeting with Richard Fuller to discuss their concern and hopefully sway him.
I think that now is the time really to act. This legislation could come to a vote sooner rather than later, and it’s important that MPs are lobbied. Many MPs who apparently oppose the notion of equal marriage do so because they say that they have not received adequate correspondence from constituents giving their support. I think it’s important that all MPs, even the ones who have been very vocal against equal marriage are lobbied. It’s time to tell them to move into the 21st century, where marriage equality should be seen as nothing less than a fundamental right.
What worries me, is the scaremongering that is now come. Nigel Farage, of the UK Independence Party has been trying to score political points, by trying to highlight the fractures in the conservative party that this legislation will apparently be responsible for.
If we just take a moment to look at the history of how gay equality legislation was welcomed. When Section 28 was repealed in 2003, the vote was 356 to 127. At the time Michael Howard was the leader of the conservative party refused to condemn Kent county council who agreed to a policy which said ‘KCC shall not publish, purchase or distribute material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’. (source)
It’s hard to imagine a time when the majority of the population thought that being gay was simply wrong. I remember in 1999 walking home from working at the local cinema and having homophobic slur shouted at my by colleagues of mine who were waiting in line to go to a nearby nightclub, When I got home I remember shaking and feeling really nervous about going back to work, when I complained to my manager, the person in question got a verbal warning – which essentially means he got away with it; several years later he became the manager of that cinema. (This is the UGC cinema in Bedford – which is now Cineworld)
In 2000, the house of commons had to force through an act to equalise the age of sexual consent for gay males. In UK law, sex between two women is not recognised due to the lack to penetration (though many lesbians may refute that last bit) Each time this bill was presented to the House of Lords is was knocked back, apparently at the time the Lords in question believed that if you were gay then you couldn’t be sexually responsible unless you were able to vote. It is laughable now to think that we had to fight against the Church who said that there was “Strong moral and health issues”, so in a word, when I was 16 and had consensual sex, I was breaking the law, but my straight best friend wasn’t. silly. Baroness Young a the time lead the Lords revolt against the bill and said “the government was out of step”, and envoking the parlimentary Act was a “constitutional outrage” (source)
I genuinely believe that regardless of politics, religion and social conventions there are some people out there who just don’t like gay people. They find the idea of two people together disgusting. They will do anything in their power and use any kind of scaremongering tactic to ensure that the gay community does not have the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts – and they are totally entitled to their opinions; they will voice their opinions and the more they do the more people will turn and say, “I think you’re wrong”, and as the fight for equality goes on we need to tell these people that they ARE wrong, we are not second class – we deserve the same rights.
There is an interesting book, which I recently started to read; “The Cross in the Closet“, I’ve just started it, so I can’t tell you too much, but it’s a true story account of an Evangelical Christian who came out as gay for a year and he documented his experiences of the prejudice that he came across. One of the women that he met tells her parents that she’s gay. They throw her out and stop her college tuition – it makes you wonder, why is there so much hate towards gay people. We don’t deserve this. In World War 2, Gay people were held in concentration camps, just like the Jews, and were forced to wear a pink triangle – so why does the persecution will continue in some areas of the world. Curing homosexuality programmes led by the church has led to suicides; the only way I see a future in this world as a gay man is through acceptance and equality. That’s all we want.
My final word is this : PLEASE LOBBY YOUR MP, Write and open letter, write a closed letter, go to you local pub and tell your friends how important is. If your MP has stated they support equal marriage, then get them to sign a declaration, make a video pledge. The vote of Equal Marriage will be soon and there really is no time to be complacent. Let your MP know that Equal Marriage is not a gift, it’s a fundamental right.