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Ben Summerskill: ‘Lots of gay and lesbian people don’t actually want marriage’

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  1. I’m a gay rights activist and not a Tran’s one. The complexity of Trans’ issues are extreme and whenever I’ve tried to tackle them I get a huge amount of abuse and fowl language from the Trans community for trying. Some people have said that the new Equality Bill would of passed by now if it wasn’t for the Trans issues. Now we have to hope the Tory party will honor the part of the Bill that applies to the gay community, because the Bill will not become law until after the next General Election.

  2. Mihangel apYrs 1 Jul 2009, 7:36pm

    It would have been nice to have the choice!!

    “Some blacks didn’t want to travel at the fron of the bus” – but their representatives didn’t sell everyone out for a few

  3. Who ever elected Stonewall to be the representatives of the gay community? How DARE Ben Summerskill poo-poo the concept of equal rights because some people have made personal decisions about the way they wish to live. Do we stop elections because a great number of people don’t vote anymore (erm most at the last EU elections!)?

    This interview made me feel that if this is the Government’s favourite gay rights organisation then us Brits may well fall behind even the Americans in our fight for true equality.

    When being gay is not a “special” thing, that’s when we will have won, not by gaining separate but equal rights!! This is an absolutely appalling attitude and makes me sick to my stomach.

  4. Simon Murphy 1 Jul 2009, 7:45pm

    ‘Separate but equal’ is not full equality Mr Summerskill. Many gay people do not want to get married true. But gayfolk who do want to get married are denied the choice. Similarly many straight people don’t want to get married. They too are denied the choice of civil partnership. It’s not a huge difference sure but it’s a difference i feel uncomfortable with.

  5. I have a lot of respect for Stonewall’s achievements and especially in raising awareness and understanding of gay issues even in the more conservative elements of society.

    But on marriage, Summerskill talks nothing but white noise. Stonewall should be rallying for those who want to take their place on the bus like everyone else.

  6. Simon Murphy 1 Jul 2009, 7:48pm

    The trouble with organisations like Stonewall and GLEN (Gay and Lesbian Equality Network) in Ireland is that they are the organisations most closely linked to those in power. That removes them somewhat from the concerns of the communities they are meant to be representing.

    What are Stonewall’s policies on the gay blood donation ban?

  7. Vincent Poffley 1 Jul 2009, 7:57pm

    Ye gods, he speaks as though letting gay people get married properly would cause widespread anguish, suffering and despair. What, might I ask, are the negatives of allowing us full marriage with the same laws, procedures and nomenclature as straight people? Erm… er…. umm…. ah yes, I remember, a small minority of religious bigots and the blue rinse brigade would feel a bit pissed off. That’s it. That’s the only down side. Actually on second thoughts that isn’t a down side at all but another thing to put in the advantages column. Brilliant – it’s a win-win situation all round.

    Conclusion: it is nothing but inertia that is stopping us from getting full equality on this matter. Inertia is a tricky thing to counter. The only successful way seems to be a combination of political lobbying, campaigning and consciousness-raising. If only there were some kind of special organization set up specifically to do these things for the gay community at large…

  8. “Ben Summerskill too hopes to see a day when the charity can be dismantled, which he believes could be within the next 20 years.”

    God forbid we should win full rights and Stonewall be dismantled well before then. Otherwise Ben won’t reap the full benefits of his generous salary (in six figures? Let’s have some transparency, please!), lavish expenses account and gold-plated pension plan! A PGM (professional gay man) if ever there was…

  9. Mihangel apYrs 1 Jul 2009, 8:35pm

    Stonewall doesn’t like sharing influence with other activists. It is all cuddles with employers, but distanced from trade unions. It talks to govt, but not to ordinary LGB people.

    It clusters round power like a dog by a fire!!

  10. vulpus_rex 1 Jul 2009, 10:09pm

    “Section 28, which banned discussion of homosexuality in schools”

    What an absolutely outrageous claim – it was never banned. I certainly remember it being discussed and my PE teacher didn’t display any obvious nervous worries about being slung in prison.

    It is this type of deliberate obfuscation about clause 28 that allows some of the more millitant in the community to use it like a crucifix to a vampire to close down any sensible discussion on the subject.

    ON topic – Marriage to me represents a history stretching back millenia of women being treated like chattels. In the vast majority of the world the wedding ring, or equivalent, is nothing more than a shackel that binds women to their master and owner.

  11. Some people might not want to marry, but others do. The point is, that the freedom of choice is being denied currently. Easy solution – make both civil partnerships AND full marriage available to gay & lesbian couples.

  12. There’s a BIG difference between personally not wanting to marry and not wanting ANYONE to be able to marry. It makes my blood boil everytime someone throws out this strawman.

    There are straight people who “don’t actually want marriage” but I don’t see anyone claiming that that’s a good argument for getting rid of civil marriage for straight couples.

    There were African-Americans in the South in the 60’s who didn’t actually want to vote but I sincerely doubt that they were against the Voting Rights Act for those who DID want to vote.

    It sounds like England has gay rights leaders who are as clueless and willing to defend the status quo as the ones in America

  13. It’s easy to attack Stonewall (very easy!) but we should ask whether it isn’t us to blame for passively allowing them to privatize gay activism. The Gay Liberation Front identified the institution of marriage as oppressive of women, gays and workers. The position might sound daft now – but only because the arguments are no longer cogently debated. GLF also pointed to organized religion as an intransigent obstacle to gay liberation. Why is Stonewall not in full frontal attack on the churches and mosques? Because at heart it is a conservative organization that seeks to sooperate. Like Stonewall, Pride impertinently privatized the annual Pride March and turned it into a sponsorship beano for airlines and breweries that many people can no longer afford to attend.
    I weep when I think of what we set out to fight for forty years ago and how the conservatives have gorged themselves on for profit.

  14. Ben Summerskill said: “All you trans people get to the back of the bus like good little N……”

    Craig said: “Some people have said that the new Equality Bill would of passed by now if it wasn’t for the Trans issues.”

    If Ben Summerskill had not blocked all Trans involvement in the early stages of the bill in his role as a government advisor before it was published we would not be talking about the errors in the bill now. Its a equality bill for everyone not just one group Craig you can’t just say its OK for the gay community so lets rush it through sod everyone else with a vested interest. Ben Summerskill and the other government advisor’s made huge mistakes that would of revoked Trans rights already won. They did not even understand basic trans definitions and the difference between transgendered and transsexual.

    The delay is all of Ben Summerskill’s and the governments own making by not including trans people in the legislation that covers them.

  15. Stonewall UK acts as a massive hover sucking up funding that is needed more at the local level. And Stonewall UK even has the nerve to include trans in Scotland though it provides no services just one web page with contact details of trans groups. Some might even go as far as to say Stonewall UK only includes trans in Scotland as a back door route into getting hold of trans funding without doing anything for trans community.

  16. Brian Burton 2 Jul 2009, 7:02am

    Well, any one who can say ‘We are committed to doing Stuff as proffessionally as we can’ cannot be all bad. Just as long as he dos’nt smoke pot and say things like ‘Right on Man!’

  17. Listening to Ben Summerkills arguments you wonder if he is an activist at all. Some people don’t want marriage, fine. That is now different among gays and straights. But some people do Ben, and it’s their right to marry you should be fighting for. And who ever asked you and Stonewall to “pop” a T on your name and then forget about it. Perhaps its time Stonewall had a shakeup and actually started to focus on its key values.

  18. Ben Summerskill comes across badly in that article. That paragraph about marriage doesn’t make any sense – so what if some people don’t want it? No-one’s suggesting it should be compulsory, are they? It would just be nice if we had the same choices as heterosexual people. Oh, and that “And we know there are lots of lesbians who actually don’t want marriage.” made me spit. Maybe the heat’s making me short-tempered but sounded like he’d just remembered about us and tacked us on to the end of the sentence as an afterthought.

    “We’re always more interested in things that make a real, practical difference to people’s lives than perhaps just an intellectual and academic name”

    Well, feeling equal would make a practical difference to many people’s lives. It would increase their self-esteem for a start. Also, having civil MARRIAGES for LGBT people would make it a little easier to change people’s prejudices.

  19. Matthew - London 2 Jul 2009, 9:47am

    so basically Mr Sumerskill, leader of the gays / celebrity wannabe (or whatever you are calling yourself today) – you are using your own personal views against full equal marriage rights for the gay community to withhold the organisation using its resources to fight for this equality. How dare you use the statement that many people wouldn’t want to get married even if we had the right – so therefore ‘what’s the point’.!!
    Stonewall has unfortunately been lifted into the position of an organisation that the governemtn listens to, but is unwilling to use this power. If only you had the same amount of respect from those you are meant to serve.
    If only some of the statutory and private funds could get through your corporate fingers to some of the organisations that actually still work for and listen to the community . . . .the GMFA’s , the Albert Kennedy Trust’s of this world

    Where do i sign up . . . .

  20. @ Iris – Agree. My oldest best childhood friend is a lesbian in a civil partnership with a great girl. So I don’t understand at all why Ben says “lots of lesbians who actually don’t want marriage” because there are also plenty, such as my best friend, who DO want marriage but have to settle for calling their civil partnership their marriage for now.

    I understand entirely that sometimes it is more effective to work within the system, and other times it is necessary to work outwith the system (a bit more ‘Outrage’ style than ‘Stonewall’), but I feel that Stonewall, whilst they have done some fantastic work, is a little too ready to accept the politicians explanations.

    Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with Peter Tatchell’s strategy on various gay rights issues, I’m glad to see he’s got passion and energy when it comes to moving gay rights forward. I don’t see much of this energy from Stonewall in recent times.

  21. Sitting on 1.5 millions. Just think of all those little finger buffets, Stonewall can have with that, patting thenseleves on the back and kissing the butt of yet another celeb, jumping on the band wagon of gay rights. Yum yum. I never give to Stonewall, as a gay man living outside of London, it caters for little.

  22. Simon – Stonewall opposes the ban on bloood donations. NUS have welcomed this.

  23. Simon Stonewall opposes the ban on blood donation. NUS have welcomed their stance.

  24. Peter & Michael 2 Jul 2009, 11:06am

    Ben Summerskill does not speak for us. Civil Partnerships have been a welcome first step, but to obtain our full equality, equal gay marriage should be offered. On our Partnership agreement it shows Civil Partnership as the heading, this should be changed to Marriage Certificate. We don’t want to be married in a church, but we do want a proper Marriage Certificate to make us equal to Full Marriage.

  25. “And we know there are lots of lesbians who actually don’t want marriage.”

    Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay we got a mention, get in!

  26. I have a monthly standing order to Stonewall and their achievements have been amazing, but this interview has made me feel quite angry. Stonewall are not supposed to just be political lobbyists- if they were why would they now be focusing on work with schools. Whay would he say that they might be able to shut down in 20 years? We are well beyong 20 years since the last piece of equality legislation went through for the BME communities and yet there is still racism that needs to be addressed.

    But it makes me really angry that he canot come out in support of gay marriage. I think he is too tied up in having been involved in getting the civil partnerships through. Perhaps we need someone new heading the organisation who has a fresh approach. Or perhaps we need a new organisation promoting marriage equality so I can switch my standing order there.

    Civil partnerships do not provide equality! What about the gay couple who get married in a gay-friendly church or synagogue? They cannot get any legal recognition for their marriage from the British government, yet a straight couple can. That is not equality! Why should they have to have a civil partnership when they are married?

    What about the couples who get married in Spain, Canada, South Africa, Sweden, Holland etc and then come to our country? Their marriages are not recognised as such, but a straight couple’s marriage from any of those countries would be. How is that equality?

    I want to stand up and be counted and say that I am gay and I want to get married- AND I financially support Stonewall (for now…) But I don’t think my voice will be listened to.

    What feeble thing to say that some people don’t want to get married! Some black people don’t want to marry white people but that’s no reason to ban mixed-race marriage.

  27. I agree with Summerskill on the marriage issue. If for all legal purposes civil partnerships are the same as marriage, the battle’s been won. Wanting to be able to call it “marriage” seems to me to be more about assimilation than equality. There will always be gays who want to be “just like the straights”, and there’ll always be gays who are more than happy not being “just like the straights”. There’s no reason why Summerskill and his allies should support the former over the latter.

    And those complaining that Stonewall is not an elected body seem to be missing the point: because Stonewall’s policy makers are not elected representatives of the gay community, they’re under no obligation to back this or that populist line, and can’t really be criticised on those grounds if they decide not to.

  28. Christina Engela 2 Jul 2009, 11:33am

    “He also disagreed with the view that Stonewall should represent trans people, saying that for many charities, it was simply a case of ‘popping the T on [to LGB]’, rather than actually working for trans rights.”

    There you have it, Stonewall UK admits it does not support Transgender rights, but is concerned solely with gay issues.

    As one of the biggest advocacy groups in the UK in the fight for civil equalities for the pink community – no, scratch that – solely for gay rights and not trans rights – it is a disgrace that you do not practice the same inclusivity which your organization preaches at straight society on behalf of your own section of the pink community.

    Let me tell you something, Mister Summerskill – I am a transgender woman – and as an activist I campaign for both trans civil rights AND gay rights – and even intersex rights. This despite the hostility we trans people often receive at the hands of intersex activists who view us in the same light the bigots view us all. It is a SIMPLE MATTER to word your policies and concerns for gay rights while including “transgender” along with them.

    It is a very clear show of rampant hypocrisy and transphobia – both personal as well as organizational – that you are not concerned about the transgender community at all.

    Your argument in this respect is weak, offensive and indefensible. It reeks of the same “separate but equal” rhetorical nonsense and bigotry which your organization is supposed to defend the pink community against. In short, Mr Summerskill – it reveals your hypocrisy.

    Aside from the ethical and moral aspects, this insult is compounded by the name which your organization has in effect hijacked – “Stonewall” – an uprising inspired by TRANSWOMEN who stood up to defend gay men from assault by police officers! Your group has turned this proud name and rallying cry for the entire pink community into an affront to the ‘T’ in ‘GLBTI’ – the transgender population – and as far away as even where I live.

    I hope the UK pink community indicate their displeasure to you and your group in such a way as to leave you in no doubt that such a policy is no better – nor any different – to anything the right wing radicals you supposedly oppose, could devise – and to show you the errors of your ways.

    Lastly, let me just point out, sir, that while “many gay people may not want marriage” – that it is an entirely different matter for people to not want something which they are permitted to have should they in fact later want it and not be allowed to have it.

    I may not want the unnecessary expense of owning a car – but should I need one later and not be allowed to have one. People may not want to get married, whether gay or straight – but should they have the need later, then the provisions in the law will be there. I am certain you can see where this line of reasoning leads?

    In short, you and “Stonewall UK” should stand up for the whole pink community – and its best interests – instead of playing a leading role in dividing it still further.

  29. The idea of Stonewall disbanding because it’s purpose is obselete – well thats different for sure.
    I think what the wet Summerskill means by the ‘dont want to marry’ comment is something along the lines of what Thatchell wrote in the Guardian this week about gay people loosing access to a culture of creative / alternatve / radical living. The question posed by Thatchell was what is going to happen to gay identity once assimliation culture takes root. He mourned the loss of the creative solutions gay men have traditionally sought to social adaptation in the past.

    We should not forget that we have the right to retain alternative ways of living and as Summerskill points out, many of the gay men alive today are from the radical generations of the recent past who where groomed in the perspective of thinking outside of the box for much of their lives.


  30. Christina Engela 2 Jul 2009, 11:41am

    How is a civil partnership “the same thing” as marriage? If you can’t get married but have to get “civil partnershipped” then it isn’t the same. If you aren’t even allowed to use the word “marriage” (being reserved exclusively for heterosexual unions) then how can it in any stretch of the imagination be “equal”.

    Here in SA people were allowed to use restrooms, schools etc, provided they obeyed the rules “Whites Only” and “For Non-Whites”. Sorry – separate but equal didnt wash when they tried to justify apartheid – it shouldn’t wash when people try to justify this insult in terms of “Heterosexuals Only” and “For Gays and Other Perverts”.

    Reservations of an amenity or features of society while excluding a particular group makes somebody lesser in the eyes of the law – and anything less is not equal.

  31. Christina asks: If you aren’t even allowed to use the word “marriage” (being reserved exclusively for heterosexual unions) then how can it in any stretch of the imagination be “equal”.

    The only aspects of such unions that actually need to be “equal” are those that are of some kind of real legal consequence. Anything else is symbolic. If you want to adopt traditionally heterosexual symbolism for your homosexual partnership, fine. But there are plenty of homosexual people who find that sort of assimilation (“aping the straights”) demeaning.

    You’re free to lobby for “gay marriage”, I’m free to regard it as a non-issue.

  32. Edward in Los Angeles 2 Jul 2009, 12:15pm

    Summerskill makes one of the stupidest comments on gay marriage I have ever heard – and I’ve heard some humdingers. I agree with George and others – the freedom of choice is being denied.

  33. Simon Murphy 2 Jul 2009, 12:23pm

    Nikolas – you are missing the point. Whatever the differences between CP’s and marriage are (and they may be miniscule) the CP’s are a creation designed soley to ensure that gay people can’t get married but can still be legally protcted. In that sense they are no different from segregation in the US in the 1950’s. There were ‘blacks only’ and ‘whites only restaurants; toilets etc. Under the law there was supposed to be equality. But then (as now) ‘separate but equal’ does not mean ‘equal’.

    Christina Engela raised a good point that I had not thought of – the name ‘Stonewall’ being used for the organisation. For Stonewall to take their name from the uprising in 1969 (which transwomen were among the major catalysts) and to NOT include transgender rights is really quite shocking. If Stonewall wishes to exclude trans issues then I think it’s only appropriate that they change their name. Stonewall (the event, not the group) had a very high level involvement from transfolk so any organisation which calls itself Stonewall has an obligation to include trans issues in their campaigning.

  34. Nikolas, I respect your opinion that marriage is “aping the straights” because that’s how it seems to you.

    But personally I don’t agree with this view. Just because one group of people have monopolised something for a while doesn’t mean they own it When the suffragettes were fighting for the vote for women, they didn’t sit there going “Why bother? Voting’s a ‘man’s thing’ and we don’t want to copy them, do we?” They saw it as a fight for universal suffrage – opening up something that, in their opinion, had been wrongly restricted. I see marriage (and I’m talking civil marriage here) as the same thing. I don’t care what it’s called as long as it’s called the same for everyone. If it’s not, it’s not equal. I think it’s patronising to give it a different name – “Look! You’ve got all the same legal stuff, OK? Um…….we won’t call it ‘marriage – but, hey, it’s just the same!” NO, it’s not the same.When interracial marriages were allowed in the US, they didn’t think of a special name for them because that would have been bloody insulting.

    I’d like marriage to be gender neutral, with the couple’s sexuality being irrelevant just as much as the colour of their skin.

  35. Simon Murphy 2 Jul 2009, 12:55pm

    My personal preference would be the abolition of all legal recognition for marriage and the availability of Civil Partnerships for all. That way the cults could happily exclude the queers but seeing as the cereomonies would have no legal recognition. Until that happens then I expect the same access to legal contracts under the law whether I’m gay or straight

  36. Would you except going into a restaurant and being asked your sexuality? Then because your not hetro your segregated off and sat at plastic furniture and eating off plastic plates and using plastic cutlery. The food maybe the the same and cost the same amount as the hetros enjoying the luxury furniture and fine bone china and silver. But should you not feel aggrieved when paying your bill that while the food on your plate was the same your dining experience was essentially different and seen as less.

    That’s essentially the difference between civil partnerships and marriage what would you rather have plastic or bone china what would you rather have?

  37. Simon suggests: “In that sense they are no different from segregation in the US in the 1950’s.”

    I don’t think that’s a good analogy. I’d say that gays demanding marriage would be more like black rights campaigners claiming “We’ll never have equality with whites until we, too, have white skin – so we demand that the government support skin-bleaching programmes for us unfortunate black folks.”

    Christina argues: “Just because one group of people have monopolised something for a while doesn’t mean they own it”

    They haven’t just “monopolised” it – they created it, for their own purposes. Marriage is a traditional heterosexual institution serving traditional heterosexual ends. Allowing “gay marriage” won’t change that. It’ll just mean that gays are accepted as “honorary straights”, who are happy to bow to the dominant heterosexual culture and its rituals and values.

    For this reason, civil partnerships are a more progressive, pluralist solution, which recognise the legal needs of homosexual people without obliging us to be assimilated within heterosexual culture.

  38. @ Nikolas

    Is that why the government ask for a higher standard of proof for people in civil partnerships to get divorced than a hetro married couple?

    And expanding it wider why would the government force a trans person who is married to divorce when they get a legal change of sex. Then to stay together and have some of their rights back they would need to enter into a civil partnership.

    civil partnerships are third class marriage pure and simple

  39. Lezabella 2 Jul 2009, 1:49pm


    Whilst I understand your points and respect your opinions wholly, I have just one minor issue:

    “an uprising inspired by TRANSWOMEN who stood up to defend gay men from assault by police officers”

    This sin’t true, it was the ‘butch’ lesbians AND the transwomen who did this.

    After being ‘felt up’ inappropriately by the police inside the bar; as she was being led out, one of the 4 lesbians got whacked on the head after complaining her handcuffs were too tight, she broke free and punched the officer back, as more officers rushed to restrain her she shouted ‘Do something’ to the crowd of gay men outside which prompted them to act. Simultaneously, the transwomen were also fighting back physically inside and outside the bar. The majority crowd of gay men, after seeing these two awful events, then moved into action.

    The sad thing is, whilst many of the brave gay men have who were there have come forward, not one of the lesbians or transwomen has ever come forward or been identified.

    The riots were inspring as every faction from our community fought back.

    And I’m proud of them. Whoever they were.

  40. Simon Murphy 2 Jul 2009, 1:52pm

    So Nikolas – if you think CP’s are more ‘progessive’ would you support the removal of all legal recognition of marriage and that if straight people want legal recognition of their relationships their only choice is to be CP’s

    If so then I get your point.

    If however you want to maintain marriage for straights and offer a ‘separate but equal’ system for gays then what you are supporting is effectively a system of Apartheid.

    Law-abiding, tax-paying citizens of a country should have the same access to legal contracts whether they are black,white, male, female, gay, straight, tall, short.

    ‘Separate but equal’ is not good enough.

    And Stonewall as the pre-eminent gay rights organisation is embarrassing itself by supporting a ‘separate but equal’ system.

  41. Simon Murphy 2 Jul 2009, 1:55pm

    By the way – I don’t give a flying f*ck about the ancient ‘tradition’ of marriage. Marriage is a legal contract which is ONLY available to heterosexuals. If religions want to preserve marriage for straight people that’s their business. The state however has no right to deny access to a legal contract based on someone’s sexual orientation,

  42. Nikolas, I said the comment you quoted ;)

    I accept you see it like the issue of ‘black people trying to be white’ but I don’t. That analogy would only hold true if, in order to have gay marriage every gay person had to pretend to be heterosexual/practise heterosexuality.

    I don’t pretend to be an expert on marriage, but surely unions (of whatever name) were common thousands of years ago, and weren’t some of those between people of the same sex? I personally don’t feel that having marriage would in any way mean that we have to compromise who we are or assimilate into straight culture. Why on earth would it? I’m secure about who I am and that won’t change if I were to chose to do something that ‘straight people do’. Anyway, that heterosexual slant to marriage would disappear in a few decades if we had gender neutral marriage. I’m sure men ‘invented’ voting, but that doesn’t mean that I, as a woman, don’t want the right to vote. Why should someone’s sexuality affect what the legal recognition of their union is called? Call it a different name if the word ‘marriage’ offens you, but let’s have the same for everyone.

  43. *offends – sorry

  44. Sister Mary Clarence 2 Jul 2009, 2:09pm

    I’m going to still my hand up for civil partnerships. I don’t want to be the same as a straight person I want to be equal to him or her.

    Civil parnerships recognise gay relationships as being equal to straight relationships in legal terms.

    The last thing I would want is for my relationship status to be in anyway association with a outdated and bankrupt religious institution.

    Argue all you want over it, but whilst a few loud voices on here might want to mimic the stright world, it is not true for a large number of us.

  45. I think Simon and Iris (sorry for misidentifying you :)) might be interpreting my position as being more dogmatic than I intended, doubtless due to my own rhetoric. I’m not opposed to gay marriage, I just don’t regard it as being an important issue, and I can understand why Stonewall are not pushing in favour of it.

    In regard to the idea that there should be one partnership contract for everyone, I’d agree with that as far the legal import of such contracts are concerned, but I don’t see why there can’t be dozens of different names for it and umpteen different ceremonies involved, if that reflects what people want in a pluralistic society.

  46. @ Lezabella

    I agree we all did it we where all pissed off and did the first punch really change anything anyway or was it the unity of purpose that came afterwards.

  47. Why should Stonewall adress gender issues as well as sexuality issues? They are not the same and need different approaches. I don’t think trans should be an add-on to gay issues, I think it needs its own representation. I think trans and gay organisations should work closely together because they both fall under the equalities banner, but for the same reason I think gay and black organisations should work together, or gay and disabled, or disabled and black etc.

  48. @ Sister Mary Clarence
    Just because you wouldn’t want a same-sex marriage doesn’t change the fact that there are people who do want them and DO HAVE THEM. And the government gives no legal recognition to their marriages, while straight people can have a registrar in the church with them giving them official recognition.

    Do you think that’s fair?

  49. Lezabella 2 Jul 2009, 2:45pm

    “@ Lezabella

    I agree we all did it we where all pissed off and did the first punch really change anything anyway or was it the unity of purpose that came afterwards.”

    It doesn’t matter who ‘threw the first punch’ so to speak; it’s just when Christina mentioned what happened, the lesbian element was completely ommitted. I was merely correcting that.

  50. “I think Simon and Iris (sorry for misidentifying you :)) might be interpreting my position as being more dogmatic than I intended, doubtless due to my own rhetoric. I’m not opposed to gay marriage, I just don’t regard it as being an important issue”

    Fair enough :) I completely respect your opinion, and thank you for explaining a bit further. I see what you mean about having one legal contract but with different names. That would be fine if people could choose which one to have or what to call their contract, but they can’t. That’s what annoys me about it. The state has dictated that gay people are ONLY allowed to have a CP.

    Sister Mary: “The last thing I would want is for my relationship status to be in anyway association with a outdated and bankrupt religious institution.”

    Well, I’d agree with that. I’m no fan of religion. BUT marriage wasn’t invented by the churches. They’ve appropriated it and let people think it was, but it wasn’t. Civil marriage is a secular matter and absolutely not connected with any religion. I just find it offensive that there are different names for this legal contract, if that’s the right word, solely depending on your sexuality.

  51. Simon Murphy 2 Jul 2009, 3:57pm

    #46: Tony: You say: “Why should Stonewall adress gender issues as well as sexuality issues?”

    Well they don’t have to for sure. But if they are not going to include trans issues then they should probably change their name. The transfolk were an integral, leading part of the Stonewall riots in 1969. The Stonewall Riots are the reason the lobby groups is called Stonewall. The Stonewall lobby group should not be using the name Stonewall if they are not going to represent all the people who took part in the riots. Quite simple really.

    Stonewall should change their name to Glib. Seems more appropriate.

  52. Simon Murphy 2 Jul 2009, 4:00pm

    Oh and to back up Iris’ comments and respond to Mary Clarence. Marriage as an institution predates religion. Religion hijacked it for its own purpose. But the ancient tradition of religious marriage is newer than the tradition of marriage.

    If people are happy with CP’s then fine. But I wish those people could get it into their skulls that it is very important for other people.

    The choice of marriage should also be available to gay people. The choice of civil partnership should also be available to straight people.

  53. @ Tony

    So why are Scottish transgender people OK for Stonewall but not English an Welsh trans folk?

    Ben Summerskill totally loses his argument with his quote

    Summerskill said: “He disagrees with the view that Stonewall should represent trans people, saying that for many charities, it was simply a case of ‘popping the T on [to LGB]’, rather than actually working for trans rights.”

    He said: “We are committed to doing stuff as professionally as we can. There are some really complex issues, like medicalisation, that quite often people in gay organisations have no idea about.”

    Yet he contradicts himself with Stonewall Scotland including trans in it remit. Maybe he should re-organise Stonewall UK as follows:

    Stonewall England LGB but not the T
    Stonewall Scotland GBT but not the L
    Stonewall Wales GLT but not the B
    Stonewall Northern Ireland LBT but not the G

    It would make just as much scene as his current set-up he has.

  54. Sister Mary Clarence 2 Jul 2009, 6:44pm

    “Just because you wouldn’t want a same-sex marriage doesn’t change the fact that there are people who do want them and DO HAVE THEM. And the government gives no legal recognition to their marriages, while straight people can have a registrar in the church with them giving them official recognition.

    Do you think that’s fair?”

    Tony, I’m afraid I just think that’s complicated. In my view if you want to have legally recognition of your relationship you can enter into a civil partnership and that I am satisified with.

    It has equal status to marriage, and if somewhere there is still a fragment of legislation that makes it unequal, I am confident that it will change soon.

    Whatever we get in this country, there are people who are never happy with it. Its never enough. It didn’t happy fast enough. I want cream on top. It never ends. As has been said, change happens over time, not over night.

    Civil partnerships will eventually move to marriage and you’ll get to walk down that aisle in a white dress. I can tell you now though, you won’t be seeing me at the church waving.

  55. Christina Engela 2 Jul 2009, 7:36pm

    Dear Nicholas

    “You’re free to lobby for “gay marriage”, I’m free to regard it as a non-issue.”

    Sure thing – you do that.

    While you’re at it why not regard gay rights as a “non-issue” as well? It is the same thing after all.

  56. What an Idiot! Most people I know who are Gay/Lesbians like myself DO WANT TO GET MARRIED.

    You can’t speak for others unless it is a known fact.

  57. The Watcher 2 Jul 2009, 9:44pm

    Many people talk of Ben Summerskill being a New Labour cronie. Actually, he is a lot more than that. He is a member of the elite Labour club, The Fabian Society, which has its roots in Freemasonry and aspirations towards world domination and the enslavement of humanity (yes, really!!).
    There is an absorbing article on the background to Stonewall’s Fabian connections on the GayMafiaWatchDotWordpressDotCom web site (about a third of the way down the page when you click on Stonewall), which kinda puts their activities and purpose into perspective.
    Put it this way, there is an agenda at play, and Stonewall exist to give a mighty push to the dark arts of Orwellian newspeak and doublespeak and, hence, the tightening of the screws of the emerging police state which seeks to control every facet of our lives, especially our thoughts (hence the crimialisation of people whose beliefs are deemed top be politically ioncorrect).
    Like it says on the tin, the folk behind GayMafiaWatch specialise in “exposing exploitation of the LGBT community” in a way that shames the general gay media into submission.

  58. @ The Watcher – I think you’ve been watching too many cloak-and-dagger conspiracy movies! Come back to reality.

  59. Queer mafia 2 Jul 2009, 10:49pm

    Thanks ‘The Watcher’ we now have your IP address and a easy way of tracing you. We will be putting hormones in your water supply, and soon you will be one of us.


    The Queer Mafia.

  60. simon murphy hits the nail on the head.

    If this is Summerskil’s attitude, then maybe this is the end of the line for Stonewall, or for summerskill? The move for equality must move on, and he is in danger of being left behind, by daring to speak for us without our say so. Many people probably haven’t even thought marriage could be for them in the first place. (possibly a lot of people aren’t out enough and just couldn’t invite all the family???)

  61. Ben is a dinosaur from a bygone era. He opposes trans inclusion, and yet Stonewall Scotland is trans inclusive and it works. He opposed bi inclusion, always talking about gay and lesbian people. Now, he does everything that is against the ‘Stonewall’ and trys to use his organisations muscle to deny us marriage rights. What Mr Summerskill forgets is that Civil Partnerships are not equality, they are something else, something different for people in same-sex relationships. Some people don’t want to get married but, like Mr Summerskill, I doubt they would deny us the choice!

    Stonewall is a corporate bandwagon, a money making machine but nothing more – truly a disapointment to the name STONEWALL.

  62. Oh and I should say that Stonewall’s policy has recently changed on the gay blood ban, finally coming out against it. Although, it has to be said, after groups like the NUS did all the work. Stonewall want the credit once the hard graft has been done.

  63. Christina urges: “While you’re at it why not regard gay rights as a “non-issue” as well? It is the same thing after all.”

    Sheesh, and people (falsely) accuse Stonewall of claiming to speak for “all gays”! As far as I’m concerned, gay marriage is only an issue for those gays who want to model their relationships on traditional heterosexual ideals. Bully for them, but there are plenty of homosexual people who roll their eyes in disdain at the very idea of getting married. You can hardly expect these people to regard gay marriage as an important “rights” issue. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t accept that there are diverse attitudes amongst the gay population as to what constitutes things worth lobbying for. In my opinion the push for gay marriage represents a conservative side of gay politics that I feel no obligation to identify with.

  64. I cannot seriously believe that Summerskill used the argument that because some gay people don’t want to get married, he should therefore not campaign for same-sex marriage!

    Understand this Mr. Summerskill, Stonewall is supposed to exist to campaign for full equality under the law. This has clearly not been achieved as long as gay people still have to put up with second-rate civil partnerships instead of full marriage.

    Some gay people might not want to get married, but then again nobody’s forcing them to. Don’t deny access to marriage to those of us that do want it.

    I’m a gay man and I want to be married, not ‘civil partnered’.

    Unfortunately I think some gay people still live in an 80s timewarp and see same-sex marriage as ‘giving in’ to heterosexual traditions. Perhaps Mr. Summerskill needs to be replaced by someone who represents today’s generation?

  65. Lezabella 3 Jul 2009, 8:35am

    The Watcher-

    There’s no such thing as a ‘GayMafia’. There are secret societies and organisations all over thw world, like the Freemasons, Skull and Bones Society, The Bilderberg Group etc, etc but there is NO ‘GayMafia’. I know absoloutely no evidence of this. And I’m not going to look on a site which sounds like a Christian Fundamentalist site either.

  66. I have always considered Stonewall to be a hopeless mouthpiece more interested in promoting their own existence than actually helping the LGBT sector. (Desperately trying to find an alternative word to ‘community’ – what community)

    Having had a number of dealings in the past with them, they have generally proved to be at best ineffective, and at worst, done absolutely fuck all. When a gay rights group actually attempts to ‘tone-down’ a major factor in LGBT equality to appease the masses of blue-rinse middle England, then it’s time for them to go.

    Tossers like Summerskill certainly don’t represent mine, or many other gay people in Britain, and I think it’s about time that opinion was strongly voiced so they stop getting the self-aggrandising publicity they so desperately seek.

  67. I am seriously shocked by the people on here who say that because they don’t want to get married they will not support married gay couples’ pleas to have their marriages legally recognised. Surely the basic principle of equality comes into play here.

    There are gay people being discriminated against and that is a bad thing! There are gay married people whose marriage has no legal standing and who do not want a civil partnership. In the eyes of the law these marriages mean NOTHING. All of those key issues like next of kin rights, inheritance tax etc are very real to these people.

    But over all of these issues is the simple message that is being sent out to the world that gay people are second class citizens who can’t have proper marriage and can only have a second rate copy. If we put out that message then why would anyone give us anything other than second rate when it comes to other services? Gay and lesbian people often get second class service from the NHS, for example, and the message that doing this is OK is being loudly reinforced by civil partnerships and the people who settle for them.

  68. Revd. Sr. M. Renate 3 Jul 2009, 12:14pm

    I think Ben has forgotten the expression, ” Standing on the shoulders of giants wearing hig heels and lipstick.” Stonewall got where it is today thanks to those brave trans women who fought alongside their Gay, Lesbian and Bi-Sexual brothers and sisters. Those of us who have a trans history, also have a sexuality. So Stonewall would be happy to fight our GLB corner, but not our Trans. We are a complete package Ben, its all or nothing.

  69. Robert, ex-pat Brit 3 Jul 2009, 2:54pm

    To Tony and others…Summerskill is in denial when it comes to marriage equality. He can’t even think outside the box which is all UK centric. He has no idea the problems British civil partnered couples would come up against once they leave the UK for work-related reasons or anything else where marriage equality is the law in seven countries and several states in America. Civil Partnerships are NOT viewed as marriages by any of them and there is no universal civil partnership law across the globe either. That’s not going to happen. He and others like him are deluding themselves if they think they are equal. Who cares if people view them as marriages, means absolutely nothing and goes to show how superficial Summerskill is. Yes, true…some gay people don’t want to marry just as there are straights of the same opinion, but what about those who do? Why isn’t he fighting for their rights if he really believes in full equality? Apparently he doesn’t? The fact that there are straights who choose not to marry doesn’t bar them from doing so if they so choose. We as gay people don’t have that option and straights who choose not to marry are also barred from forming a partnership. Where’s the equality in that, Summerskill? Make NO MISTAKE, civil partnerships will NEVER be the universal standard let alone recognised as equal to civil marriage. As more western countries offer full marriage abandoning civil unions and other partnerships, its going to be increasingly difficult for the UK to resist or reject marriage equality and Stonewall should get its act together, NOW.

  70. Well said, Robert. If Stonewall doesn’t support same-sex marriage then we need a serious organisation to lobby for it. Perhaps a new organisation needs to be set up.

    Do the Lib Dems support same-sex marriage? I know the Greens do. I wonder if it will be an issue raised by any speakers at the political rally tomorrw in Trafalgar Square.

  71. It’s wonderful to see so many here strongly advocating equal marriage. When Stonewall were lobbying against it they argued no one wanted it, and those of us who did (and do, being aware of all the arguments made elsewhere, and believing in equality) felt rather isolated. But please don’t be misled by Summerskill’s stupid justification; his reason was and is because the government, which pays almost all their bills (if you look at their accounts), demanded backing for their openly stated policy of refusing us marriage, on religious grounds. Just as now Summerskill dances to their tune when he claims L&G people are not harrassed, to back the government’s refusal to provide protection against harassment inthe Equality bill. MPs questioned him incredulously when he appeared before the bill committee.

    What I would dearly love to know is how the groups’ founder, Sir Ian Mckellen, who is strongly for equal marriage, reconciles his beliefs with the way Stonewall campaigns.

    Can we remember that the continued UK ban on equal marriage (which was enacted when Canada, Spain, The Netherlands and Belgium all had already adopted equal marriage) has had dire consequences that make Summerskill’s silly excuse look very sick. There is now a public register specifically of lesbian and gay couples, because they are not mixed in with marriages, which is completely against human rights law, which says that, because of how it was misused in the 1930s and 40s, data on sexuality must not be stored. It’s a terrible precedent.

    The Gender Recognition Act would have been much simpler, and far more suitable to purpose, it there had been equal marriage in which the sex of partners was irrelevant, but trans people were given no say in the consultations on the Civil Partnerships bill, despite the two going through parliament side by side.

    But Summerskill is not entirely wrong. L&G issues are often very different from trans ones, and most LGBT groups are simply L&G groups who have added letters and nothing more, which can actually be very harmful. Many who ignore that, and just want Stonewall to do the same, are trans people who were lesbian or gay previously and still feel part of those communities, and ignore the fact that many others were not. Some go so far as maintain that heterosexual couples that inlcude someone with a history of transsexuaity are merely deluded lesbians or gays who should embrace the L&G movement. But identity doesn’t work like that.

    However, Stoewall takes their exlcusion of trans concerns far too far. Their hugely profitable equality employers scheme, for example, in which participants claim to be all so respectful of equaity, looks very sick when one realises the equality excludes ethnicty, age and disablity, and trans people, even when they are often taken as being lesbian or gay. The same goes for their current, flagship, school anti-bullying campaign; how can they reasonably ignore the bullying of trans children, when it is clearly always more intense, and earlier, that that of L&G children, and when the trans children are usally being mistaken for lesbians or gays? Yet Stonewall rigourously ignore that issue. Then, of course, lest we forget, there is the transphobia in the G&L community which Stonewll came close to actually celebrating when Bindell was up for their journalism prize last year.

    It is incompatible with being a human rights organisation, or an equality campaign, to actively shaft smaller and more vulnerable minorities. There should at least be some awareness.

  72. I’m writing from Spain, so my English is intermediate. I apologise about it. But I have to say that is really surprising to hear these kind of opinions coming from a LGTB activist. Perhaps many gays don’t want to marry, but many others want! And even if I don’t want to marry, I want to have the chance to do it in the future… We are talking about equality!!
    Here in Spain we won the battle of the marriage because LGTB groups were (at least in that point) united and clear: We did not want a second class citizenship. We did not want “separate but equal”. We just want “equal”.
    It is a big mistake for us that a LGTB group say “marriage is not important because many gays don’t want to marry”. I can’t believe it!
    My God, you are lucky, you don’t have the catholic church as a terrible ennemy as we have in Spain. Why then you have this position?

  73. José argues: “We did not want a second class citizenship. We did not want “separate but equal”. We just want “equal”.”

    The problem with this sort of thinking is that it assumes the way heterosexuals traditionally do things is necessarily “the best”, and that therefore, if we don’t achieve equality in everything, we’re “second class”. I think this really just endorses the conservative hetero view that if you want to be like them, then stop all this “gay” nonsense, fall in love with a member of the opposite sex, and then you can marry, settle down, raise kids and lead the hetero lifestyle that you so much envy and admire.

    For those of us who don’t regard heterosexual lifestyles as some sort of ideal, the “right to marry” is not something we can be expected regard as a general “gay rights” issue. Lobby for it yourself if you feel you must, but remember that Stonewall, like the other gay organisations, is just a private lobby group who are free to decide their own agenda. Summerskill makes it clear that they’re focused on issues that they regard as being of real practical consequence. The debate between civil partnerships vs marriage vs no red tape at all, is more about symbolism and personal lifestyle preferences.

  74. Mihangel apYrs 5 Jul 2009, 6:30pm

    even if ew accept your thesis, we live in a straight world,where everything is engineered for them.

    I would say we marriage, not to ape them, but to ensure that ALL the benefits and privileges that marriage brings are enjoyed by those LGBI people who want it. CP is barely recognise beyond our shores, marriage is an understandable legal construct everywhere, and, while not legally recognised in a gay context in some places, at least explains the relationship

  75. Nikolas, just because I might want something that straight people have does NOT mean I’m aping them or want to be like them in any way. I’m sorry and I assure you that I’m not saying this to be rude, but I think it’s just paranoia to think that. Maybe you have some particular idea of marriage or have seen bad examples, but I’ve seen many good ones and they are all different. I get the impression sometimes that some people assume ‘being married’ means you’d have to wear slippers, have 2.4 children and live in a boring life in suburbia A gay marriage would be what the two people involved made it – it would NOT have to follow some ‘heterosexual norm’. The name doesn’t matter as long as it’s the same for everyone regardless of sexuality or skin colour.

    If you or others (straight and gay) choose not to marry for your own reasons, that’s absolutely fine, but don’t deny others that choice.

  76. The difficulty seems to be not so much that Stonewall aren’t campaigning on all issues, but that they are the dominant charity in the field – ‘hoovering up money’ as someone said. Much as I like what they’ve done, my charity pounds are going elsewhere. The trans exclusion seems very unfortunate for a charity called ‘Stonewall’ – sure, it’s a complex issue, but with 1.5 million in the kitty they are well-heeled enough to hire some experts.

  77. I am in a Civil Partnership and have no desire to be part of the very historic but ultimately tainted insitution of marriage. Labour may not have gotten marriage equality onto the books due to potential scaremongering by Mail etc. They missed a trick – I don’t think anyone would care too much now. The sky has not fallen. Civil partnerships in my view are superior in legal structure to marriage – without the centuries of precedent on divorce, requirement for a ceremony etc. It would have been great if they were open to straight couples. That would have been the equality we need in this country and would stand more chance of recognition aborad (incidentally, UK law has a great ‘full faith’ clause in recognising gay parterships made aboard (French PACS etc). LBGT community needs to be more radical and actively campaign for the opening of Civil Partnerships to straight couples. I just don’t think this lack of ‘marriage’ is any longer a defining motivating struggle for LBGT community. Homophobia in schools is more important in winning hearts and minds. Any person who thinks the Tories will take this up as Ed Balls has done or allow Ambassadors to speak out on gay issues abroad is mad.

  78. Always the bridesmaid 7 Jul 2009, 1:19pm

    Poor Ben Summerskill – he shot himself in the foot with this article, didn’t he?

    I agree with Peter Tatchell that the marriage/civil partnership arrangement is not equality but a form of apartheid.

    Why do some (usually homophobic) Christians think they own the copyright on marriage? They talk about “protecting the sanctity of marriage” when what they really mean is “protecting the straight monopoly on marriage”. Christianity is only 2000 years old. Marriages, unions or whatever you want to call them, are as old as civilisation.

    I applaud the liberal churches and synagogues that will marry gay people because they recognise that marriage is about love, commitment, faithfulness and devotion between two adults.

  79. Well, I will try to answer Nikolas.

    First, of course every organization decides their own agenda. But when the main LGTB advocacy group in such an important country as UK says “we don’t have to fight for gay marriage because gay people don’t want it” I feel free to criticize, even from a foreign country. Because that affects gay rights fight all over the world. One of the more frequent arguments homophobic people uses in Spain to attack gay marriage is that “look, in UK, a more developed country, gay people are happy without marriage”, for example. Well, Spanish organizations decided a different agenda, you may say… Deal with it… Well, you’re right, but at least let me say something: fight in favour of total marriage equality seems to be an increasing tendency. Sweden had also a perfect Partnership, and now they have approved marriage. The states of New England, California… In California, they already have good partnership laws. But they don’t give up…

    Second, to establish a difference in how heterosexual and homosexual people live their relationships, their love, their emotions, is a mistake. You say (more or less) that we don’t have to imitate heterosexual institutions. But… partnership laws are not “imitations”? “The same legal rights and obligations but without the name”. “The same thing but without the name”. Perhaps in English is different, but in Spanish that would be a perfect definition for “imitation”…

    Well, as I said in my previous comment, English is not my language so I’m really sorry if I have been rude in my comment, I apologize about it.

  80. Bishop Ioan 9 Jul 2009, 6:22am

    I am really tired of hearing all this crap towards people that wish to marry. If someone wishes not to marry, well, then don’t! However why does the rest of the community or at least those who wish to marry suffer. Summerskill struck out big time.

  81. Calm down dear

  82. Ben’s arguments were just mentioned on a Channel 4 News debate by Sharon James from the “Coalition for Marriage”!/benjamincohen/status/180377911294050304

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