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Religious civil partnerships amendment tabled in Lords

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  1. Simon Murphy 11 Jan 2010, 5:09pm

    “Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill told PinkNews.co.uk today: “We know that there are many lesbian and gay people of faith who want to celebrate their civil partnerships in religious premises.”

    Utterly pathetic comment.

    I think Summerskill will find that even more gay couples would prefer to be allowed access to the legal contract of civil marriage.

    They are denied this right simply because they are gay.

    Stonewall pretends to campaign for gay rights but refuses to campaign for legal equality for gay relationships. How ridiculous are they?

    Stonewall really are out of touch and unrepresentative.

    They truly are an embarrassment.

  2. Post 1
    “Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill told PinkNews.co.uk today: “We know that there are many lesbian and gay people of faith who want to celebrate their civil partnerships in religious premises.”

    What an utterly accurate comment!

    “Stonewall pretends to campaign for gay rights but refuses to campaign for legal equality for gay relationships. How ridiculous are they?”

    I find that very difficult to swallow without violent coughing. Firstly, civil partnership does give gay couples equal rights under the law. Stonewall was instrumental in bringing about the legislation that brought CPs into being, and were consumately skillful in lobbying MPs and members of the HoL as it made its passage into law. Even MPs who disagreed with it would commend Stonewall for their effectiveness.

    And the same goes for their work on employment legislation, goods and services legislation, gays in the military … the list goes on. Stonewall have done gay peolple proud, and we should support and celebrate their achievements, rather than lambasting them in this senseless manner.

    I’m sorry if you’d like to get married in a Church, Simon, but I think the problem lies not with Stonewall, or the law for that matter, but with your Church. I’m not religious myself, and so wouldn’t much be interested in the option of a religious ceremony, but even if I were, I think I’d baulk at celebrating any event of importance in my life within an institution so intent on not celebrating me, and my right to be what I am.

  3. Mihangel apYrs 11 Jan 2010, 5:40pm

    NigelW: the point is that Stonewall don’t give a tosss for those of us who want CIVIL MARRIAGE (not the superstition laden ceremonies Stonewall are backing). CP isn’t widely recognised outside the UK, in Europe, leaving us at a disadvantage there. It is also a position that isn’t widely understood: marriage comes with millenia of meaning, a CP is something queers have.

    I applaud Stonewall for getting us CP, but deprecate them for now deciding that gay people don’t want marriage

  4. Simon Murphy 11 Jan 2010, 5:45pm

    Nigel W:

    Who does Stonewall represent?

    In my view they represent no-one but their own members.

    They position themselves as representing the LGB population which quite clearly they don’t.

    The fact that they can waste their time campaigning to be allowed to perform discriminatory ceremonies – civil partnerships – in houses of superstitions – churches, instead of campaigning for legal equality for gay and straight relationships is absurd and pathetic.

    Do they only represent religious gay people? If so then they are even less relevant than I thought.

    Civil partnership legislation was created specifically to deny gay couples access to civil marriage.

    Straight couples are denied access to civil partnerships.

    Civil marriages performed in Britain enjoy complete legal recognition internationally.

    Civil partnerships do not.

    The longer Stonewall carries on refusing to campaign for legal equality for gay relationships the more absurd, irrelevant and out of touch they seem.

    They have their priorities messed up and they are an irrelevant waste of time.

  5. Tim Hopkins 11 Jan 2010, 5:50pm

    My understanding of Lord Alli’s amendment is different and I think that this report is slightly incorrect. The amendment does not allow ministers of religion to conduct civil partnerships in the same way that they conduct weddings. Instead, it allows registrars to conduct CPs on religious premises. So you would need to get the registrar along, together with your minister/vicar etc, and get them to do it jointly.

    At the moment, the law says that CP ceremonies cannot be conducted on religious premises – that’s the same rule as applies to civil marriage. So at the moment you have to have your CP ceremony with the registrar in one building, and then go next door to the church to have your religious ceremony (if your minister agrees to do it of course!). The amendment would allow both ceremonies to be held in the same building, and to be combined in some way with the registrar and the minister in some sense sharing the officiating.

    The amendment would not make CP law fully equal to marriage law, because that would require allowing ministers to conduct CPs themselves, without the registrar being present, as they are able to do with marriage.

    Of course many people feel that the key equality issue is to allow same-sex couples access to marriage itself.

  6. Pete & Michael 11 Jan 2010, 5:50pm

    That is right Simon, Civil Marriage is recognised outside the UK, Civil Partnerships are not. Good Luck to those that want a Civil Partnership in church, we don’t, we ask for full Civil Marriage and let the church get on with their historical bigoted views.

  7. On what basis do you suggest Stonewall don’t give a toss for people that want Civil Marriage, Mihangel?

    In this country, as in many liberal democracies we have a separation of the church and the state, and a jolly good thing too. Otherwise, for example, you wouldn’t even have CP’s, and you only have to look at the current debale in Northern Ireland to see what happens when religion and politics are too closely entwined.

    I’d agree that people should be allowed to get married in church if they want to, and its pretty clear form the artice and other things he’s said, that Ben Summerskill has said that he does too. But the problem is the churhes (or their leaders), in the main, and as a fundamental matter of their belief system, don’t want to allow it. So if the state imposes it upon them, then I think that gets into some very choppy ethical waters, because effectively the state would be telling people what to believe. I might personally regret the ignorant supertitious piffle that religious leaders spout on these matters, but I’d stop short of imposing my bleief on them by means of the law. The onus is on them to change.

    Churches are man-made institutions, and by and large the men (still) who run them are locked within the prejudices of their belief and power systems, none of which have much to do with a God, as far as I can see. I’m still rather mystified why gay people of faith are so anxious to get the blessing of those men. Join a church that likes you, and values you for who you are.

  8. Mihangel apYrs 11 Jan 2010, 6:09pm

    NigelW, I’m not talking about a religious marriage, but one before a registrar – the sort of thing straight atheists have. Stonewall has stated that as far as they’re concerned gay people don’t want to marry in a civil ceremony therefore they’re not going to bother fighting for it.

    Civil marriage is nothing to do the church or any other religious flavour: it’s two people committing before the State. And CP isn’t marriage no matter how it’s spun

  9. What, enlighten me, are the differences, in terms of civil rights, between a CP and a marriage. Beyond the religious connotations, and some trechnicality about signatures, I think they are intended to be identical in terms of the rights and responsibilities given to the parties involved. But do put me right if I’ve got that one wrong.

    As for recognition in other jurisdictions – emphasis on ‘other jurisdictions’. Britain doesn’t rule the World anymore so we can’t make laws for other countries. Get a civil marriage if you will, whatever that would look like, and then go to Uganda or Iran (to take extreme examples) and ask to be ‘recognised’. Good luck to you, but get real before you try.

    Simon – can you point to another organisation that has been more representative of LGB people, and equally effective in its lobbying?

  10. Thank you, Nigel. YOu don’t even need to go as far as Uganda. Try any country outside the 6 EY countries and the few others who have legalised Gay marraige.
    Its just a red herring.

  11. If CP’s and marriage were truly equal, Cameron wouldn’t need to be talking about making tax laws equal for both. The mere existence of two separate institutions sends the message society that straight is good and gay is not quite so good.

  12. The fact is Stonewall ignores the wishes of many gay people (including myself) who want full same-sex marriage, rather than just civil partnerships.

    I’m more interested in ensuring that gay people can actually have civil marriages, rather than just civil partnerships in religious settings.

    As has already been said, civil partnerships are not recognised in most foreign countries where same-sex MARRIAGE is recognised. This causes problems for any gay couple who goes on holiday abroad or works abroad.

  13. Bishop Ioan 11 Jan 2010, 6:54pm

    This is a pretty pathetic amendment, IMO. Civil partnerships may confer the same rights as marriage (not sure as I live on the other side of the Pond, but it STILL is a two-tier system. If you’re going to give all the rights of civil marriage, then call it “civil marriage” and be done with it!

  14. Robert, ex pat Brit 11 Jan 2010, 7:35pm

    Simon,Mihangel, Pete & Dave, I echo your comments. NigelW, there is NO separation of church and state in the UK. If that were the case, there would be NO C of E cult clerics in the House of Lords. Why do you think Stonewall and Blair opted for civil partnerships? Because they didn’t want a confrontation with the state cult, get it? A lame excuse when you consider Spain, Portugal, Belgium, half of Holland, Norway, Sweden, all have state cults, yet they went a step further from civil unions to full marriage equality. Stonewall does NOT speak for the vast majority of British gays whom it claims don’t want marriage. It has NEVER supported it and it never will. Whatever way you skew it, civil partnerships are NOT civil marriages. They carry little portability outside the UK. At least there are 8 countries that recognise same-sex marriages performed elswhere and five states in America. Stonewall if its worth its salt should be at the forefront on marriage equality not trailing it if it truly believes in FULL equality. I’m not saying couples shouldn’t have a civil partnership but in the interests of equality, if they’re that equal then why can’t straights who don’t want to marry enter into such a partnership. Why should any straight be forced to marry in order for their relationshp to be recognised by the state if they really don’t want to marry? Why should we be barred from it if we so choose? That’s not equality at all. How on earth could any logical person regard that as truly equal? Its more about denial than anything else.

  15. Civil partnerships are apartheid by another name. Supported by Stonewall, who are losing support because they in turn support this apartheid. I want to take my partner to a registry office, and have a civil marriage. Marriage is an institution prior to any ordination by the christian church, which it precedes by a documented 3000 years or more in Egypt and mesopotamia, and probably undocumented for a longer span than that. Within that time, there have been occasions when marriage has NOT always been between one man and one woman. The bible itself attests to the number of multiple wives of Herod (and even though the bible is the most fallible, repellant “hate” books of the world this is corroborated in the account of Josephus). Therefore the current construct of marriage is only an imposed “norm” and need not be retained. Indeed, the number of failed marriages and marriage crises and domestic abuse demands that it SHOULD be changed. Anyone who claims an intrinsic property of marriage is one man and one woman is guilty of lying as well as essentialism.

  16. Dave North 11 Jan 2010, 8:26pm

    “Therefore the current construct of marriage is only an imposed “norm”".

    Not only that it is yet another social construct, hijacked by the bl@@dy christians in order to impose their own value systems for their own ends.

  17. Interesting to think about the separation of Curch and State. Of course, it is the case that we have an established Church of England and Wales, of which the titular head happens also to be the Head of State. However, the separation of the monarch and the government is well established and understood after 300 years, and while there may be bishops in the HoL, they number only 26 members of a body whose function is principally one of legislative scrutiny, rather than legislating per se. It’s undoubtedly an arcane institution, but slowly and sometimes painfully, it is being reformed. In the meantime, we live in one of the most secular and liberal democracies in the world. The state doesn’t fund the C of E, and even Rowan Williams has said publically that disestablihmnet wouldn’t cause him any particular upset – presumably because establishment doesn’t provide him with any partiuclar benefits, or power. The United States is an example of a country which supposedly has separation of church and state, but where the reality is much more complex. You can’t get elected there if you don’t wave the bible, and the influence of the religious right is extremely pernicious. They elected a black president before they elected an atheist, and that’s really saying something. So in practical terms I would conclude that there is a strong de facto separation of Church and State in the UK and I’m very glad of it.

    I’m still confused by this civil marriage thing. Undoubtedly there was a calculation that by avoiding the word ‘marriage’, then a whole sphere of religious argument was by-passed, in order that the practical objective of equal rights, protections, and obligations under the law should be achieved. And it was. So, tell me, would you rather we were still fighting the fight? What’s in a name? Nobody has yet given me any solid example of the way in which gay people are discriminated against by the law as it stands. My straight friends, when refering to gay couples, don’t say they are Civilly Partnered – they jsut say they’re married. Time will do the work.

    As for the portability argument, the UK Civil Partenrships Act contains a schedule of comparable arrangements in other coutries which will be recognised under UK law. I imagine other countries have similar arrangements, and if they don’t yet then they will in time. Sorry if there are one or two hard cases in the meantime, but it’s not going to be top of my list of things to get cross about. I’ll save that for countries where gay peolpe are killed, or persecuted, or excluded.

    With regard to the people who DO want a religious ceremenony, I’d point you towards the Pope’s comments reported elsewhere on this web-site, or the C-of-E’s convolutions on the topic and ask – why?

    This thread began as a rant at Stonewall, and again no-one has yet pointed me towards an organisation in the UK that has done more, or been so effective, in progressing LGB equality in the last 10 years. For the record, I support Stonewall, and have been pleased to witness at first hand some of its excellent work. But I’m not a member, because it isn’t a memebership organisation. It simply gets things done, and because of that lots of private individuals and corporate sponsors give it money. Is it losing support? That’s not what I see from the accounts. So before laying in with the cudgel, please do point me in the direction of a viable alternative. In the meantime, I’m enjoying my new rights, and grateful too.

  18. Nigel, I think more to the point is why shouldn’t gay couples be allowed to have full marriage if they want to? If you’re happy with a civil partnership then that’s fine, but if a gay couple would prefer to have a full marriage then I don’t see why that’s a problem?

    To many the name does matter. The word ‘marriage’ has very strong social connetations with deep meaning to many people, where as the term ‘civil partnership’ was just dreamt up overnight and does not have the same meaning or social symbolism.

    Regarding marriages in religious settings, remember that not all religious groups are against same-sex partnerships. The Quakers, some liberal Jewish groups and some Scottish Presbytarians I believe have expressed support for same-sex marriages in church. Surely more will follow over time. Therefore it should be no surprise that gay people who belong to those religions would like the opportunity to be married in a religious setting.

  19. Mihangel apYrs 12 Jan 2010, 8:33am

    NigelW

    CP isn’t yet recognised in France – to the extreme detriment of couples living there

    CP allows pension trustees discretion concerning pensions

    we haven’t explored all the ramifications yet, it’s only been in place 4 years, but I could envisage that areas where the law is silent judges could take the view that it is deliberately so: ie anything not included in is autometically excluded.

    Stonewall has done a marvelous job of self-promotion as the ONLY voice of LGB people (not really for trans people), with the support of the London mafia. It aligns with big business and tends to ignore Trade Unions, and of course seeks money for everything it does. Its leading lights are well aligned with Govt. It claims to speak for us, but I don’t remember electing them, or being consulted by them. In short, they’re a lobby and consultancy business pushing their own agenda; we really shouldn’t defer to them. Now if the Govt took notice of Outrage then a bit of dissention might enter the otherwise bland discussion.

  20. Miohangel, is Gay marraige that is performed in say, the NL, (where I live), recognised in France?

  21. Another step in the right direction be it a rather small one but a forward step nonetheless – keep going – you will get there eventually.

  22. Shouldn’t individuals have the choice of having a ceremony in a synagogue or church if they wish. This seems a good thing. It’s not for Simon or Michael, or Iris Robinson, to tell them what they want.

  23. Recognition of same-sex marriage, partnerships, or unions in France passed into French law in May last year:
    http://www.ukgaynews.org.uk/Archive/09/Apr/2901.htm

    As I said before, most countries that have a form of civil marriage or partnership have reciprocal arrangements for the recognition of partnerships registered in foreign jurisdictions. Certainly, I’d agree that if they don’t then they ought. I don’t think that France’s prior non-recognition of foreign unions discriminated between marriages or partnerships, so I still don’t get your point Mihangel. The problem is not our laws but other countries’. Go to Italy, where recognition depends on the city, or strongly Catholic countries such as Poland and others in eastern europe. O rplaces where gay people are murdered by the state. Expend your ire on them.

    Pension rights are equal between marriage and civil partnership – any other stance adopted by a pension trust would be discriminatory and illegal under the Goods and Services Legislation.

    Still we get references to this thing called ‘full marriage’? In terms of legal rights and responsibilities, there is no difference between CP and marriage. Stripped of its religious connotations then people who want civil marriage want it for some attachment to the word ‘marriage’ – just as those straight people have an emotional aversion to the same word. I don’t deny these things have some meaning, but I think we have bigger fights to pick.

    I have symapthy with religious people who want a religious ceremony, but the problem is with the church and not the state. Lobby your church, or join one that likes you.

  24. Poor NigelW is entitled to adore Stonewall – an organisation he is excluded from because they do not want members who might actually challenge the anti-equality right-wing policies and tactics these self-appointed leaders adopt. Groucho didn’t want to be a member of any club that would have him as a member but poor Nigel earnestly supports an organisation that doesn’t want him, or anyone else, as a member and instead of promoting equality actively promotes inequality!

  25. “I’m still confused by this civil marriage thing. Undoubtedly there was a calculation that by avoiding the word ‘marriage’, then a whole sphere of religious argument was by-passed, in order that the practical objective of equal rights, protections, and obligations under the law should be achieved. And it was. So, tell me, would you rather we were still fighting the fight? What’s in a name?”

    Hi Nigel. It’s discriminatory because LGBT people do not have the choice that straight people do. If you’re straight and you want to get married but, for example you’re a divorcee, then it’s no problem. You might have been rejected by the church (because you’ve been divorced) but you just go and have a marriage in a Registry Office which is totally non-religious and is simply a legal marriage, which everyone’s entitled to – UNLESS you’re gay. Then you’re not only rejected by the church (which is their right as far as I’m concerned) but you, unlike my straight example, can’t have a Civil Marriage.

    When CPs were introduced, I too thought that if it kept the church quiet then that’d be a good thing – but it hasn’t, has it? The church frequently bitch on about how we’re sinners, etc, and criticise CPs. Remember Lilian Ladele? No-one was asking her to perform gay marriages, just CPs, but she used the fact that she ‘didn’t agree with gay marriage’ to refuse to perform them.

    We don’t have special things that are just like a marriage but not quite for non-white people – it would be bl**dy offensive if we did – so why is it OK to have something separate but equal for gay people?

  26. Mihangel apYrs 12 Jan 2010, 12:23pm

    Niki
    Same sex marriage is, CP isn’t (yet – the Govt is desperately trying to get it sorted out, but France will take her time [gallic shrug, 2 hour lunch…

  27. And let me just add, I don’t have some special affection for the word ‘marriage’. I don’t care what they call it (within reason) BUT I DO care that it’s called the same for everybody…

  28. Mihangel apYrs 12 Jan 2010, 12:26pm

    NigelW will you talk to my pension proovider for me please – HM Govt – my benefits for my partner are definitely not the same as for a heterosexual couple.

  29. Tim Hopkins 12 Jan 2010, 12:35pm

    The problem with NigelW’s position is that he seems to be saying that because something is not important to him (marriage that actually is marriage rather than the separate civil partnership) it shouldn’t matter to anyone else either. But it does.

    The Equality Network (incidentlly, a national LGBT organisation in Scotland, that working with our partners LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall Scotland has achieved changes to the law here that in some small ways improve on the changes made in England and Wales) know from our consultation with LGBT people across Scotland that, for large numbers of people, the issue of gaining access to real marriage is important.

    Furthermore, court rulings in America and South Africa have explored the issue very well and point up very clearly how a segregated system does not deliver full equality, not least because of the symbolic discrimination. Would it have been acceptable if South Africa, in dismantling apartheid, had said “some people don’t like the idea of mixed-race marriage, so we won’t allow that, but we will introduce civil partnership with the same legal effects, specially for mixed-race couples”?

    So that’s why we and a number of partners here in Scotland are campaigning for equal marriage – see for example the equal marriage website.

  30. theotherone 12 Jan 2010, 12:51pm

    why don’t we just pretend we’re Heterosexual?

    Pathetic.

    Stonewall are chasing another pointless ’cause’ while ignoring real issues that need addressed.

  31. Paul Brownsey 12 Jan 2010, 12:52pm

    “What, enlighten me, are the differences, in terms of civil rights, between a CP and a marriage. Beyond the religious connotations, and some trechnicality about signatures, I think they are intended to be identical in terms of the rights and responsibilities given to the parties involved. But do put me right if I’ve got that one wrong.”

    Nigel, why do you insist on regarding marriage as a specifically religious institution? Civil marriage is in no way religious. It is NOT a religious ceremony or institution that churches generously the state to conduct or provide on their behalf. Marriage is a *human* institution, and if people associate it with ‘the preacher making us one’ and the thought that ‘Whom God hath joined…’, that merely shows the unfortunate propaganda success of organized religion in getting people to think that they can’t be genuinely married without some church’s say-so.

    I admire your continuing to present your case, since the regulars on this board can be bullying dogmatists, but here you’ve got it wrong. The societal associations of marriage are different from those of civil partnership (the mere fact that it’s *called* “civil partnership” insinuates the idea that it’s not the real thing), and as many people have pointed out, the international legal implications are very significant.

    When you say that “time will do the work” of bringing full legal equality, I think I can see what you are getting at. You are right in pointing out that people more and more refer to CP’d couples as wed or married, and the more this happens, the easier the legal change will be. But time alone will no do it: real people have to campaign for it and lobby and introduce proposals. Perhaps you are right to say that the original CP legislation wouldn’t have got through had it not been distinguished from civil marriage. It was worth going for at the time, and my impression is that that CP/marriage apartheid didn’t tax gay activists as it has come to do so since. Still, none of that is a good reason for not continuing to press for full marriage equality.

    Moreover, the longer we have the dual system of civil marriage and CP, the greater the danger that the present legal parity (more or less) will be eroded. My Conservative Parliamentary candidate declared last summer that he is in favour of tax breaks for married couples but not civil partnerships. He backtracked when I reminded him of David Cameron’s pledge on the matter, but the episode points up the lesson that there are people who want to reduce the present legal parity and that it is easier to do this while same-sex couples are corralled into something different called “civil partnership”.

  32. Simon Murphy 12 Jan 2010, 1:45pm

    No 9: NigelW: “Simon – can you point to another organisation that has been more representative of LGB people, and equally effective in its lobbying? ”

    No.

    But Stonewall’s pigheaded refusal to campaign on behalf of the huge numbers of gay people who want marriage equality means they have reduced themselves into being a special interest group only representing their own members.

    Stonewall seems to be staffed by professional gay people whose careers rely on them being close to those in power and therefore far removed from the group they profess to represent.

    Stonewall does not represent me. I believe in legal equality for gay people. I cannot support a group like Stonewall which does not support legal equality for gay people.

    What is Stonewall afraid of?

    Getting their funding cut?

    Losing their nice state-funded jobs and offices?

  33. Simon Murphy 12 Jan 2010, 1:52pm

    No 17: NigelW: “For the record, I support Stonewall, and have been pleased to witness at first hand some of its excellent work. But I’m not a member, because it isn’t a memebership organisation. ”

    So who exactly gives them their mandate then if they are not a membership organisation?

    It is certainly not the LGBT community who are predominantly in favour of marriage equality.

    If Stonewall does not favour equality for LGBT people then they need to admit this clearly. At the current time they are speaking to government as if they had some sort of mandate to do so. When in fact they have nothing of the sort.

    It is time for Stonewall to disband and be replaced by an organisation which is more in touch with what the LGBT population wants.

  34. Simon Murphy 12 Jan 2010, 1:57pm

    Stonewall does some valuable work for sure – the campaign against schoolyard, homophobic bullying for example.

    However their refusal to support equality for LGB people delegitimises them massively.

    Why do Stonewall refuse to support equality for LGB people I wonder? What is their agenda exactly?

  35. Tim Hopkins 12 Jan 2010, 3:31pm

    For those who are interested, there’s a very good Newsweek article this week by Ted Olson, a conservative and Republican lawyer in the US, about why he is acting for same-sex couples in a court challenge to Proposition 8. The case is being heard now in a federal court – it is that Prop 8 breaches the US Constitution and so equal marriage should be restored in California.

    The article is written from a conservative viewpoint, but makes the case for equal marriage very well. It is here .

  36. A pertinent quote from Ted Olsen in his prepared opening statement in the Prop 8 case.

    And the evidence will demonstrate that relegating gay men and lesbians to “domestic partnerships” is to inflict upon them badges of inferiority that forever stigmatize their loving relationships as different, separate, unequal, and less worthy—something akin to a commercial venture, not a loving union. Indeed, the proponents of Proposition 8 acknowledge that domestic partnerships are not the same as traditional marriage. Proponents proudly proclaim that, under Proposition 8, the “unique and highly favorable imprimatur” of marriage is reserved to “opposite-sex unions.”

    http://www.equalrightsfoundation.org/news/text-of-ted-olsons-opening-statement-in-prop-8-trial-as-prepared/

  37. Har Davids 12 Jan 2010, 4:06pm

    Religious civil partnership: in Holland we don’t recognize religious partnerships, only the civil ones count and it’s possible to have a ceremony at a venue of choice. As far as I see this, a religious building could be such a place, without recognition by the state of any other ceremony taking place there. This amendment doesn’t seem to separate the state from religion as much as it should.

  38. Thank you all. It’s invigorating to defend one’s point of view, and I’m particularly grateful to Paul (31) for actually reading what I’ve written, and acknowledging my arguments, even where he disagrees with them. And to Tim Hopkins – I found the various materials you pointed to really interesting.

    I’m not against gay civil marriage (and Paul, I promise I do see the difference to a religious marriage). I sympathise that some of you feel that CPs perpetuates a separateness that is tantamount to discrimination (though I cavil at the use of the word apartheid, whihc has its own legacy of meaning and injustice). However CP’s do grant equality of rights and obligations before the law, and I simply wonder if Civil Marriage is worth pursuing at this stage, given that we’ve only had them for four years. This is a political calculation, and while that may be unsatisfactory, it is at least realistic.

    I assume this is why Stonewall have decided not to pursue it at this stage – if you grant them nothing else, they are politically astute.

    Proposition 8 is interesting, because having previously allowed civil marriage, California is seeking to outlaw it. That’s clearly a retrograde step, and if I were having this argument in the States, I’d be vigorously opposing it (Prop 8). The direction of travel is so wrong.

    As for Stonewall, Angelica, I’m mystified by the point of your post, other than an attempt to patronise me. The issue of accountability is interesting, Simon, but a red herring. What charity or lobbying organisations are elected? Is it representative? We don’t really know, but people can vote with their feeet, or their pockets. It doesn’t receive state funding; it is funded by voluntary contributions from private and corporate sponsors. I’m not excluded from membership, for the obvious reasons stated, and I can and do, if I wish, particpate in fund-raising and campaigning. I support Stonewall because they seem to me to be notably effective. Part of that is picking their battles, which is where I think this thread began. If you have limited time, energy, and resources, as we all do, then you have to decide on your priorities. I happen to think we’ve still got bigger battles to fight.

    Nigel

  39. Tim Hopkins 12 Jan 2010, 5:06pm

    That’s true – and in fact the amendment mixes church and state together a little more than at present. Certainly in Scotland, where at the moment registrars never conduct ceremonies on religious premises: you either have a CP or a civil marriage done by a registrar which is never on religious premises, or a religious marriage done by a minister, priest, rabbi etc, usually on religious premises.

    In England and Wales, I believe the Marriage Act 1949 may allow registrars to conduct marriages on religious premises, where the premises are registered for that purpose, but there is no minister, priest etc who is approved to do it. But I don’t know whether that ever happens in practice.

  40. Tim Hopkins 12 Jan 2010, 5:15pm

    Nigel you’re absolutely right to raise the issue of whether 4 years (or 5 from the time the CP Bill was before Parliament in 2004) is long enough to start campaigning for full marriage. My view is that it is. It took only 3 years to go from CP to marriage in the Netherlands, and 4 years in Connecticut (although that involved a court judgement). It took 9 years in Vermont and about 15 in Norway and Sweden.

    We’ve started campaigning for equal marriage already in Scotland, because realistically, we think the campaign will take several years to succeed, even if we start now, because we have to build public and Parliamentary support and then have the relatively lengthy Scottish Parliamentary process. So starting now, we might get a bill passed before the 2015 Scottish Parliament election, which would be 10 years since the passage of the CP Bill.

    A Dutch LGBT equality activist friend of mine told me that the reason it only took 3 years in the Netherlands was that they were _already_ campaigning for equal marriage when their registered partnership (CP equivalent) legislation was under consideration in the Parliament.

  41. Simon Murphy 12 Jan 2010, 5:18pm

    There is no risk whatsoever to Stonewall if they decided to support equality for gay people.

    But they cannot even bring themselves to say ‘In principle we agree that civil partnerships are unequal and discriminatory but at the present time there are more urgent battles to be fought which we need to focus on’.

    The only risk to Stonewall in supporting equality is that government or those in power might not be as willing to speak to them. Whenever I hear government ministers babbling on about how Civil Partnerships are an achievement of this government my automatic reaction is ‘Who has given them the impression that the LGB people is satisfied with this discriminatory legislation and 2nd class status?’

    And the answer is usually ‘Well they speak to Stonewall, and Stonewall don’t support legal equality for gay people, maybe it’s Stonewall’.

    If Stonewall are the ‘go to’ LGB (but not ‘T’) group for those in power then it is up to Stonewall to make sure that they either accurately reflect the opinions of the population they are assumed to be representing; or alternatively to state quite clearly to all their private and corporate sponsors that they do not accurately reflect the opinions of the LGB population.

    I will never donate a penny to Stonewall if they don’t think I am deserving of legal equality before the law.

    ‘Outrage’ despite their more militant outlook and shock tactics at least seem to be coming from a place where equality is seen as a right, and not a privilege.

  42. Simon Murphy 12 Jan 2010, 5:21pm

    I would like Pink News to do an interview with Ben Summerskill to ask him the following:

    1. What is Stonewall’s mandate
    2. On whose behalf do Stonewall speak?
    3. Do they clarify during every meeting they have with those in power that they are speaking only on behalf of Stonewall?

  43. Nigel, of course you don’t understand and well done you for admitting it. Ignorance can be quite fetching in some but not in those, liek your good self, who take it upon themselves to pontificate.

  44. “liek” should be “like” – “fetching” was in fact correct as I did certainly did not mean felching.

  45. Ouch! That really hurt! But as a gay person in his 45th year, I’m used to picking myself up from insults by now, and meantime, my curiosity is aroused. So …

    Angelica. I’ve been quite open that I respect and support the work of Stonewall, and I’ve made some effort to explain why. I know nothing of you, but conclude from your posts that a) you are not well disposed towards Stonewall, and b) you regard people who do support them as being in thrall to some extreme form of anilingus.

    So, what I’d like to know is, firstly, which organisations working for LGB equality, if any, do you support, and what practical steps do you take to demonstrate that support?

  46. This would be another step towards equality, so it is to be welcomed, but it does not give us equality. There are MARRIED gay people in the UK whose marriages have no legal recognition and who have no legal rights. These marriages need to be legitimised in law if we to have equality. These people shouldn’t be forced to have civil partnerships when they are married and want legal recognition of that.

  47. theotherone 12 Jan 2010, 11:52pm

    I really respect nigelW – he only wants equality for LGB people.

    So will you be p1ssing on me when I burn nig?

  48. Simon Murphy 12 Jan 2010, 11:57pm

    No 43: Nigel:

    Interesting article. Some interesting points

    - Ben Summerskill says that Stonewall has 30,000 active supporters. He also says that there are 2.8 million gay voters. Which means that about 1.2% of the gay population financially support Stonewall.

    - He says that Stonewall does not support marriage equality because some gay people don’t want it. And that Stonewall is only 1 of many organisations and that people are free to support whatever they like.

    Fair enough.

    But it raises some questions.

    If Stonewall only represent the 1.2% of the gay population that funds it then who is representing the other 98.8% of the LGB population in dealings with government?

    If Stonewall claims to represent more than the 1.2% of the LGB population which funds it; on what grounds do they make that claim?

    How many meetings does Stonewall hold with government? How many do other groups hold?

    Does Stonewall always ensure to clarify that they are only speaking on behalf of its 30,000 funders?

    What consultation (if any) does Stonewall make with the wider LGB population on their agenda?

    As more countries are gaining marriage equality, Stonewall is starting to appear like an abachronism of a bygone age, if they are not even be able to say they support the idea of marriage equality in principle.

  49. Hi Nigel,

    I think you’ll find your “firstly” should be “first” or “first of all”.

    I support a number of local membership-based lgbt organisations, that are not bought and paid for by government, with my time and money (eg my local switchboard and my union lgbt group). They are all organisations that include trans people, unlike the right-wing crowd at Stonewall. In the past I have been active in national membership-based organisations (being just too young to have been involved with GLF). I have never been involved with Outrage! as, although I woudl support most of its demands I am a little too old and tired to chain myself to a bishop. In my workplace I take a lead on equality and diversity both for service users and in my trade union. I’ve got nearly 30 years of campaigning against fascists, both inside and outside the lgbt movement, under my belt.

    On the other hand people can give money to Stonewall, an organisation that has such contempt for you it doesn’t allow you to be a member! An organisation that excluses trans people. An organisation that campaigns actively for inequality. An organisation of self-appointed rich guys (and Lisa Power) who came along rather late in the day and built on the years of work done by activists. An organisation of well-heeled anti-democratic professionals named Stonewall, the name of that violent, drag-queen-led queer outbreak of resistance to state abuse. Ian McKellan, to whom some credit has to be given for his work such as his stunning one man show in aid of Lighthouse, admitted he didn’t know where the name Stonewall was appropriated from when he became a founding member of the organisation.

    So you are entitled to support this reactionary, anti-democratic, anti-equality organisation if you like but don’t expect much credit for it!

  50. Tim Hopkins 13 Jan 2010, 10:06am

    In Ben’s interview he says that lots of L&G people don’t want marriage, and goes on to suggest that that’s particularly true of lesbians.

    Of course I can’t speak for England and Wales. However, the Equality Network has just completed a survey of LGBT’s people’s view on this here in Scotland. 490 people responded (equivalent to 5000 responses across Britain). 85% said they do want equal marriage and think this is a priority or a high priority for campaigners. Amongst lesbians, the figure was 90%.

  51. Tim Hopkins 13 Jan 2010, 10:13am

    According to today’s Indy, in his interview for the latest Attitude, out today, Nick Clegg has pledged the LibDems’ support for equal marriage! Hooray!

    See article here.

  52. Interesting figures, Tim Hopkins. Thank you.

    I think Stonewall are just representing their own personal opinions, whether consciously or subconciously. Many of my straight freinds don’t want to get married, but they certainly wouldn’t want that option to be denied them. I can see no reason why Stonewall don’t push for marriage. It wouldn’t matter if only a small number of gay people wanted to get married (but I think the number’s much higher) – the point is we’re being denied the choice.

  53. A little fewer than 450 people in Scotland think gay marriage is a priority; interesting indeed Iris.

  54. Paul Brownsey 13 Jan 2010, 11:49am

    Some more on NigelW’s remarks.

    First, some people on this board appear to be turned off by Stonewall because it is not ‘demoncratic’, has no formal mechanisms for evolving policy via members’ decisions, in fact has no members.

    May I float the idea that this is a good thing? Having been a member of an intendedly mass-membership gay rights organization in the 1970s, I thought that the attempt to ground policy in membership decisions was time-consuming, inefficicent and enervating, and sometimes led to bad decisions. Whatever else you think of Stonewall, it seems hard to deny that it is focused and efficient and has got things done which would have been achieved more slowly and perhaps not at all by a mass-membership organization. On the whole I’m not convinced that democrcacy is invariably a good thing. It would have been good if Californian voters had not been able to approve Proposition 8.

    Second, Nigel says: “However CP’s do grant equality of rights and obligations before the law, and I simply wonder if Civil Marriage is worth pursuing at this stage, given that we’ve only had them for four years. This is a political calculation, and while that may be unsatisfactory, it is at least realistic.

    “I assume this is why Stonewall have decided not to pursue it at this stage.”

    He may be right about Stonewall’s strategy and I hope he’s right. Whether the time is not yet ripe to press for full marriage euqality is a matter of judgement. I remember thinking before the CP legislation was passed that the legal parity with marriage was so overwhelming that it was hard to resist the conclusion that the intention was in part to facilitate a merging of marriage and CPs some years down the line.

    Am I right in thinking that activists were not very vocal in pressing for full marriage equality at the time? That this call was not very loud was probably due to a variety of factors, including fear that the legislation might not get through if it granted marriage to same-sex couples and relief that some sort of legal recognition, at least, was within reach. Speaking for myself – I wonder how far this feeling was shared? – I think I flinched from the idea of marriage for myself and my partner because it suggested some grisly and deliberate parody of a traditional marriage with one of us in a white satin dress and a five-days’ growth of beard. A gay man who referred to his partner as his husband sounded fey and precious to me. All this told against the *seriousness* with which I regarded my relationship.

    But I’ve changed my mind. A gay man speaking of “my husband” sounds fey and precious only because we aren’t used to it and because we’ve not learned to separate the heart of marriage from the conventional accompaniments. We need to reclaim the language of marriage for ourselves, and we have made a good deal of progress in this over the past four years. I think the time *is* ripe to press for full marriage equality.

    A further reason I support that is something I didn’t appreciate four years ago, namely, that while gays and lesbians get corralled into a supposedly separate-but-equal category it becomes easier to chip away at the legal parity, as my local Conservative candidate for East Dunbartonshire) said he wanted to see before I reminded him of David Cameron’s pledge to the contrary.

    My own approach to the Stonewall problem is to continue to give but at the same to indicate that thwe giving is reluctant so long as it maintains its stance on marriage equality.

  55. Simon Murphy 13 Jan 2010, 11:50am

    If 85% of the LGB population in Scotland supports marriage equality (90% of lesbian respondents) then I assume these figures would likely be replicated across Britain.

    Stonewall is merely a special interest group representing a minority of the LGB population (as Ben Summerskill himself admits).

    All information about and campaigns undertaken by Stonewall should be viewed on the clear understanding that they represent only 1.1% of the LGB population.

    They need to make this crystal clear in their dealings with government.

    They do not speak on behalf of the 98.9% of the LGB population who do not support them.

    Stonewall does not support marriage equality for LGB people.

  56. Simon, you challenge Stonewall on the basis of how many people they represent and yet you falsely claim “85% of the LGB population in SCotland support gay marriage”.

    First why are you trying to make the trans people who responded invisible???? Secondly on what basis do you conclude that there are only 550 LGB people in Scotland? Fewer than 450 people, some of them trans, some of them, presumably straight, supported gay marriage – if these 450 people are 85% of the LGB population then there are very few lgb people in Scotland! I would have thought that groups like the Gay Christian Movement and other god-bothering bodies would have more than 450 members in Scotland (though I asmit I don’t know that) so the 500 or so people who bothered to respond are not representative of anything at all other than of themselves. I imagine that those for whom gay marriage is not a priority would not have bothered to engage with the survey.
    But anyway, please justify your claim that 85% of the lgb population of Scotland supports gay marriage.

  57. Paul, democracy can be a nuisance but for the time being it’s the best we have. In fact Stonewall have not been that effective – they certainly have not advanced equality by supporting “separate but equal” civil partnership which smacks of the thinking of the racists defending miscegenation laws. I haven’t been in contact with them for years but when I was they were not, in practice, particularly good at providing information on the legal position in the UK. Also their legal tactics were pretty poor when they took the Grant case, at least according to some well-informed commentators.

  58. theotherone 13 Jan 2010, 12:27pm

    i find it worrying that the T has dropped off LGBT in this discussion.

  59. 50.
    I don’t really have a problem with my grammar, thank you Anjelica. If you want to set yourself up as the grammarian of the discussion boards, you might have your work cut out. If you’re implying that someone’s opinions are less valid if ungrammatically expressed, then I don’t think you’d be terribly popular either. It would be snobbish, and discriminatory. But if you really want to be petty, then I’ll direct you to your spelling of ‘McKellAn’. Yeuch!

    The terms in which you condemn Stonewall are so splenetic, it’s difficult to take them seriously. Anti-democratic? Anti-equality? Really? What epithets do you reach for when you’re talking about the BNP? White middle-class professionals? You say you have no contact with Stonewall anymore – so what do you know about the profile of their workforce, or their supporters for that matter?

    This membership thing is a chimera. Is Age Concern, for example, a membership organisation? Does that de-legitimise the work IT does for the rights older people. I really don’t think so. Stonewall is free to prosper if enough people support the causes it espouses, either through voluntary donations of money or time. It’s absurd to say that because they have 30,000 active supporters they only represent 1.2% of the LGB population, and by the same token, the remainder go unrepresented. They’re not a political party seeking election. What proportion of the LGB people agreed with their stance on gays in the military, clause 28, workplace regulations, goods and serivces and, yes, even CPs? We can’t really know, but I’d guess it was a lot more than 1.2%, in all cases. And they’re *not* state-funded – about 8% of the income they receive comes from the public purse in some form, mostly grants to fund specific research projects or services. I’m guessing your employer receives state-funding, Angelica; does that put you in thrall to the government?

    As for transgender people, then they are free to enact a civil partnership or a marriage according to their sexual orientation. That of course is a separate issue to their gender identity, which is precisely why, Stonewall would say, you’re better off not confusing the two. What if Stonewall did T as well? Well, about 0.12% of the population describe themselves as T, as opposed to 6% LGB. So if we’re into back of fag packet calculations, say Stonewall were to allocate their resources and energies on some kind of a ‘representative’ basis, then T people would get about a fiftieth of the attention. What good would that do them? Would they be well served, or grateful? Aren’t they better off with dedicated campaign and support organisations that can apply themselves wholly to their interests? That is a valid position to hold, and not a reason to slag Stonewall off for ‘excluding’ trans people.

    Thank you to Paul and Tim for their measured and reasoned posts, which have most certainly given me pause for thought, and made me better informed. I’m not sure I’ve changed my position on the substantive question, but I might yet be persuaded, one of these days. I wish you well in your objectives. I applaud your local activism Anjelica, and hope that its achieved something. Isn’t there room for you *and* Stonewall? Don’t we in fact need both? Can’t we tolerate each other? But if your debating tactic is haranguing and rudeness, then I think you’ll spend a long time preaching to the converted. In all sincerity, how do you expect to change any mind that is different to your’s like that?

    I think I’ve spent enough time on this topic for now. I wish you all well, and maybe see you on another board.

  60. Tim Hopkins 13 Jan 2010, 5:46pm

    Angelica, you suprise me. As someone who I seem to remember has voiced strong support here for trans equality (I may be remembering wrong) I’d have guessed you know very well the problem of the existing law on marriage / CP for trans people – forcing people to divorce to get gender recognition. Trans people in our survey are strongly supportive of equal marriage, which of course would remove the divorce requirement.

    Really the “only 450 people in Scotland support X” argument won’t wash – it was a survey, not a general election. It’s as big, in terms of responses per population, as any of the surveys that groups do to inform their policies.

    And its results are in line with the feedback in all the community meetings we hold.

    Oh, and it’s not just us: other LGBT groups in Scotland have independently reached the same conclusion, for example LGBT Youth’s youth council in consulting on and voting on their priorities for campaigning.

  61. Hi Nigel, clearly I was right that engaging with bigots is a waste of time – I won’t bother again – good luck with your efforts to promote inequality.

  62. Tim Hopkins: of course I know the issue with marriage, “gay” or otherwise, and being trans; nothing I have written suggests otherwise so goodness only knows why you raise this. As a trans person you are of course entitled to reflect the views that you have formed over years of living as a trans person but you should realise that others might just disagree with you.

    You clearly are uncomfortable with the point I made about fewer than 450 lgbt and heterosexual people supporting your plans. Please tell us how many trans people supported your plans. Come on, tell us – 100, 200 400??

    I bet you don’t tell us how many trans people supported your plans.

  63. theotherone 14 Jan 2010, 12:54am

    Nigel: so you wouldn’t p1ss on me if I where on fire? To qoute yourself: ‘As for transgender people, then they are free to enact a civil partnership or a marriage according to their sexual orientation. That of course is a separate issue to their gender identity, which is precisely why, Stonewall would say, you’re better off not confusing the two. What if Stonewall did T as well? Well, about 0.12% of the population describe themselves as T, as opposed to 6% LGB.’

    thank christ I’ve not been set on fire in a Transphobic attack.

  64. Brian Burton 15 Jan 2010, 9:27am

    Theotherone. You appear to like playing victim me thinks?

  65. “Right now, faiths shouldn’t be forced to hold civil partnerships, although in ten or 20 years, that may change.” Summerskill says.

    Forced? Is that bullying? Numpty!

  66. Simon Murphy 16 Jan 2010, 3:53am

    To summarise.

    Gay couples in Britain are not allowed to enter the civil contract of marriage simply because they are gay.

    That is disgusting.

    Stonewall are out of touch if they think we should settle for 2nd class Civil Partnerships.

  67. theotherone 16 Jan 2010, 8:29pm

    Odd that my comment didn’t go up…

    Simon: why would you expect Stonewall to say anything that goes against the wishes of NEW LABOUR ™ as it is effectively another arm of Government wrapped in pink rags.

    BB: playing the victim? It is not I excluding people from the Queer Rights movement but the person who I was critisising. How would you feel if people where trying to lock you out of the discussion on Equality?

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