It was not just protesters out in Parliament Square last night. Blogger Nicolas Chinardet went along to meet the enemy, and was surprised to find some of them confused about the actual nature of the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Here is his account of events outside the House of Lords.
I am still a little cold almost an hour after I got home. But looking back it was all worth it.
The World Tonight on Radio 4 have just reported that after three hours of unusually well attended debate, Lord Morrow’s attempt to rescind the Sexual Orientation Regulations lost, by a majority of 131.
Outside the House of Lords, where I found myself tonight, there were “hundreds of people” (I would say about 2,000) demonstrating in support of the motion.
Of those, there were about 100 gay and lesbian people in total who had come spontaneously to show their disagreement.
Linda Bellos, Ben Summerskill and other Stonewall people, someone from Outrage! and gay Christians were in attendance.
Considering the amount of free publicity achieved by the event in the media today, including the unusual, and potentially suspicious, inclusion by BBC News of all the details of location and times on its website, I don’t think the turnout can be deemed much of a success by the organisers.
This was supposed to be a multi-faith affair but it was overwhelmingly lead by the Christians and had a distinct evangelical flavour (about half tho attendance was black).
People were singing and brandishing placards reading “Cry Freedom”, “Christians Awake” or “Back the Bible” and applauding speakers, applauding speakers, including Rev. George Hargreaves, wearing a Guantanamo-style boiler suit. In a past life he wrote the very gay song “So Macho!”
Non-Christian demonstrators can’t have felt very welcome or included.
Children had been drafted in and brought to the fore. Some Christians managed to tear themselves from the chanting crowd to come and chat with those of us who were standing silently on the side. Lively but mostly good mannered debate ensued.
I found myself talking briefly to a born-again Christian man who seemed fairly reasonable and in more depth to a lady called Amanda, a thin blond woman in her early forties.
She seemed nice enough but, together with her elderly friend, had this particular brand of religious zeal that make people seem a little deranged.
The fact that the older woman kept repeating that God had created me and loved me did help.
As had been clear in most of the debate on the regulations, there is a lot of misinformation and confusion on the Christian side. Amanda and her friend didn’t know about the Christian Institute or their advert in The Times.
Amanda finally told me that she was there because she fears that her freedom of speech will be taken away from her. She seemed to have only a hazy idea of the regulations but when I told her that she would still be able to say what she wants, she did not want to believe me.
In the end the argument from the people I met is that homosexuality, in their view (supported by the Bible which in turn is the word of God) is a sin. They see the law as forcing them to be unChristian by allowing something they disagree with.
This is compounded by the fact that sex should for them only take place within the holy bonds of matrimony and there you go: you can’t have two gays in one Christian BB room (which seems to be the main contention here.)
They all said they would also ban adulterers if they new about them.
There doesn’t seem to be any rational basis to their point of view, which means you can’t really argue with them or hope to get them to see the light (so to speak).
On the whole, no-one was convinced by the other side’s argument. I want to hope, however that elements of a discussion he was taking part in gave a (rather handsome) black man something to think about to .
He first seemed to consider homosexuality as a choice but when I asked him if he could bring himself to desire a man, he became silent. Later, he asked us gays how we had known we were gay. We of course told him that we always knew.
Around 8pm the demonstration slowly disbanded and protesters reboarded the coaches they had arrived in.
As I was getting ready to leave myself, someone I know told me that upon arrival he had heard a woman on the other side of the road saying to her companion that she was a member of the House and that must be the counter demonstration – presumably after her seeing the signs saying “Freedom” in the crowd. Quite ironic really.