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Update: Stonewall boss Ben Summerskill argued that Lib Dem equal marriage plan could cost up to £5bn

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  1. How predictable, the Christian Institute has made Ben Summerskill’s speech headline news – it is only too glad to highlight the huge cost of equality. Well done Stonewall, for pointlessly bringing cost into the equality equation.

  2. PS this argument that Stonewall needs to ratify a campaign for marriage equality by popular support from its members is specious in the extreme. Rights and principles should NOT be put up for a vote in the first place. That some members, ‘particularly women’ should not want marriage – well, fine, they have the right not to get married; they have no business to decide the nature of other people’s relationships.

    Stonewall says it is neutral on marriage. If so, it must keep out of any discussion on marriage equality and civil partnerships full stop. And allow others who really do care about dignity and integrity to advance that cause. Stonewall are great at specific issues – media, education, sport, homophobic violence, helplines, housing – stick to those issues and everyone will be happy. In the name of LGBT unity.

  3. Bill Perdue 22 Sep 2010, 1:44am

    Opposition to equality via same sex marriage is bigotry.

  4. “theoretical increase in straight couples taking up the opportunity of civil partnerships”

    Because until gays could marry, no one could possibly marry for economic benefits.

    Who would do so anyway?

    This sounds a lot like a homophobic reason to deny gays marriage.

    Will Summerskill say “NO GAYS MARRYING” because next people will marry their dogs???

  5. Paul and Mark Leeds 22 Sep 2010, 2:23am

    It seems like some kind of twisted joke that someone with that much media power seems to be able to speak for 650,000 odd people.

    There are often LGBT issues about which the community is split; we always thought that most were agreed on this one…even if they dont want to get married themselves.

    Are we going to end up having to democratically elect someone to represent us all…? A seperate election to make sure we’re not tarred with his ridiculously, ironically conservative and prejudice brush??
    And here we thought things were improving and we might legally be able to call each other husband; not partner…maybe he’s become a bit too comfy in his rainbow flag bedeckt ivory tower, feasting with politicians, and has lost the fire in his belly. A sad, sad day…

  6. Re the correction now running:

    So everybody in the room got the wrong end of the stick? And then everybody misunderstood yesterday’s corrective press release?

    Whatever Stonewall’s policy actually is, their front man is a PR disaster and a disgrace.

  7. HelenWilson 22 Sep 2010, 7:48am

    So Ben Summerskill is not denying saying what he said and has not issued an apology for saying it.

    The fact Mr Summerskill puts the balance sheets of his corporate partners before equality shows he is not acting in the best interest of the LGB.

  8. I know the costing is irrelevant when it comes to equality but I still dispute the fact that straights will do a CP in huge numbers and if they do then they will be the ones who would normally have gotten married. The effects of CP and marriages are the same; they have the same responsibilities and commitments. Platonic friends are unlikely to do either purely for tax/pension gains. In the house of lords the govt argued , as below; in fact they argued that more people should be getting married and there was a campaign against the common law husband and wife theory i.e. this campaign would have meant that there would have been a probably increase in the tax pension burden.

    If people are living together it is right for them to either get married or CPed so that they can take advantage of the rights that are theirs. The 5 billion is meaningless, people have a right to do a CP or marriage already and get these benefits.

    Baroness Scotland explained the Government’s position:
    “After consultation with family lawyers, it is our understanding that civil partnerships would be unlikely to help opposite-sex couples where one member of the couple was unwilling to marry the other—not least because the rights and responsibilities in same-sex partnerships are similar, although not identical, to those entered into by married couples. Therefore, if people are unlikely to want to enter one, they are unlikely to want to enter a partnership. The noble Lord is right to identify the major problem—that of shouldering the financial responsibilities that flow from marriage. Many people do not want to do that and therefore they do not get married.”

    Is there a copy somewhere on the web which states this 5 billion figure, I’d love to see how it is worked out?

  9. @ Stonewall Supporter.

    Once again Stonewall is trying to quash deserved criticism. No surprises there, then,,

    PInk News has not pulled the story. They have pulled some details of it, that they are now checking.

    If they pull the comments because of Stonewall’s bullying, then others will just cut and paste and blog them. These criticisms of Mr Summerskill and Stonewall will not go away.


  10. Stonewall’s outright refusal to engage with the gay press (or the gay public) on the reason they refuse to support equality, is reason enough for me to think they are not needed.

    I can also claim to represent the LGBT population as well. If I was to make that claim I’d want to make damned sure I had sought much, ,much feedback on LGBT issues from the wider public.

    Stonewall refuse point blank to outline their position on equality (yet they STILL send Summerskill to the LibDem conference where he argues against THEIR equality policy – he has NOT denied doing this).

    Something it rotten in Denmark (and I think it’s Stonewall).

  11. PatrickC001 22 Sep 2010, 9:27am

    The fact that Summerskill is encouraging the Government to do a cost analysis on the Lib Dem proposals is DISGUSTING. What a horrid, disgusting little bigot Summerskill is. He is no different to Normal Tebbit.

    It is beyond words that he is trying to help the Government sink the proposal with an economic argument.


    I have, up until now, maintained the stance that Stonewall has done good work and that they are entitled to not be involved in marriage equality as long as they let us get on with it. The fact that they are actively trying to sink it is UNBELIEVABLE.

    Anyone who works for a company that engages with Stonewall should write to their HR encouraging them to disengage.

    This is really incredible.

    Summerskill is now an enemy of gay liberation. HE DOES NOT SPEAK FOR ME.

  12. Such is the PR disaster for not having a clear policy on Equality… Where is the strategic leadership emanating from Stonewall? Why has it courted so much controversy? Why now has a great opportunity for full quality been mired in tawdry powerplay? We may never know the answers to some of these questions, but Mr Summerskill must now resign and fast. Daily Mail readers revelling today.

  13. Ed (former long-standing and generous Stonewall Supporter 22 Sep 2010, 9:37am

    So Stonewall has bullied PinkNews into removing the heart-felt comments of its readers over a story that in essence was correct, from what we can glean from Stonewall’s own release. Shameful.

    Back to the keyboards folks!

  14. Oh and as a Stonewall “supporter” who has contributed financially over the past decade, I have never been consulted about anything from this organisation. The most I have ever received are a) requests for donations b) publicity on events and initiatives c) asked to purchase tickets for gala etc but never once asked for an opinion.

  15. I propose that everyone who posted to this story yesterday to register their disgust at this bare-faced traitor to our community resubmit their post. Pink News’s reporting was fair and impartial based on the available evidence to hand and Stonewall has clearly enforced pressure for the damning comments to be removed alongside the original coverage. So post again and keep posting because the truth is out, and nothing Stonewall can do – no matter how low it stoops in the gutter to try and muzzle all dissent – can save its greasy bacon now. No sireee!!

  16. Nope.. Stonewall’s excuses don’t work for me at all.

    What the hell gives Mr Summerskill the right to argue against any proposal for marriage equality in the first place?

    And if, as he claims, Stonewall is still waiting for the response from its 20,000 memmbers, why should that make any difference?

    It seems daft for Stonewall to put itself forward as THE LGB (no T in Sonewall) charity and claim to represent and support us all, and then argue that it will only consider the views of its 20,000 members before it makes its stance known.

    How will we know what those views are?

    Will they vote?

    Will that vote be verifiable?

    And if they somehow, conveniently for Mr Summerskill, vote AGAINST full marriage equality, does that mean Stonewall will continue to lobby against it, despite the fact that the vast majority of the LGBT community here want it?

    The bottom line in all of this was that Mr Summerskill should not have been criticising the marriage equality proposals at all, and certainly not by stressing what it MIGHT cost business and the Treasury.

    He is, so he claims, there to represent the LGB community, and not just a tiny radical minority view within that community. He is certainly NOT there to argue the views of the pension companies or the Treasury, which is what, by his own admission, he did.

    The trouble is that he was hugger-mugger with the last government for so long, that he now sees himself as part OF “government”. Hopefully this present government will disabuse him of that idea. The Lib-Dems have already done so.

    The LGBT community needs do to the same.


  17. HelenWilson 22 Sep 2010, 9:41am

    Bring back our comments PinkNews censorship is not acceptable.

    Why did you not leave up Ben Summerskill’s comment demanding the removal of the comments?

    Stonewall not only don’t support marriage equality they don’t support free speech too.

    Stonewall & Ben Summerskill not fit to represent the LGB

    Take down our LGBT flag now, you don’t represent us anymore.

  18. Stonewall; Supporter 22 Sep 2010, 9:48am

    Chrissie, it is a fact that Pink news have pulled the story, the fact that they are checking the story’s accuracy at the moment begs the question ‘WHY DID PINK NEWS NOT CHECK THE FACTS BEFORE THEY WENT LIVE WITH IT?’
    My complaint was that they pulled the article while checking the story but left the comments live, which is ridiculous seeing as comments were on a story which had been pulled to check, so simple if you pull the story,pull the feedback too!

  19. I didn’t believe Stonewall’s complaint last night and I don’t believe it now. To me, it seems that Pink News got the bones of matter correct. If BS had wanted to add clarifications on bits that he thought needed it, then his statemnet could have been added at the end and in the comments so everyone could see it.

    What BS fails to realise is that people aren’t just judging him on what he’s (alleged) to have said at the Lib Dem conference – most LGBT people are generally p*ssed off at Stoemwall’s lack of support for marriage equality and the fact that they’ve not even given a proper explanation for this, or indeed one that makes any sense. The fact that some LGBT people don’t wish to marry is irrelevant. Many straight people don’t wish to marry either, yet they don’t go round trying to stop other straight people marrying, do they?

    Moreover, the idea that straight people who have chosen not to marry will have a CP if they become available is total cr*p. We already have a non-religious, simple, open-to-all legal contract for straight people who wish to have it – it’s called CIVIL MARRIAGE.

    Comments from straight friends who’ve chosen not to marry: “I don’t need a piece of paper to prove my love”; “We’ve been together 7 years and everything’s great. I’m scared that changing that by marrying might affect our relationship and mess things up so it’s not worth it”; “I might marry if I wanted children, but I don’t at the moment”; “I don’t have anything against it really – just not got round to it”; “We’re happy as we are”.

    NONE of those people would suddenly rush off to get a CP which is merely a ‘copy’ (no insult meant) of civil marriage. Maybe a few will want CPs, but I’d guess more gay people would choose to marry then so it’d all even up. Bs’s statement is wholly unproven. Anything’s a possibilty in theory, but the idea that hoardes of straight people will start having CPs is, in my opinion, very, very unlikely.

  20. HelenWilson 22 Sep 2010, 9:59am

    Stonewall had a idea
    Not to change parliments laws
    Seems like they want it illegal
    To fight for gay marriage any more

    And which side on Ben?
    Which side are you on?
    Which side are you on Stonewall?
    Which side are you on?

    We set out to gain equal marriage
    For equality cannot fail
    We got stopped by Stonewalls deception
    They said, “It will cost too much, this attempt must fail”

    And which side on Ben?
    Which side are you on?
    Which side are you on Stonewall?
    Which side are you on?

  21. Before losing patience with homophobic Britain and moving to The Netherlands in 1993, I was a supporter of Stonewall which I felt was fighting hard and effectively for equality in what was then an extremely hostile climate. Now, nine years after marriage-for-all was opened here in NL with no hassles whatsoever and after various other countries have made the same step, I just cannot believe that Stonewall seems to have a problem with this most basic of human rights: the right to have your relationship considered just as valid as anyone else’s.

    Whatever misunderstandings there have been in getting Stonewall’s message across, the organisation has no business undermining the efforts of others to open the marriage institution to all.

  22. “he uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts – for support rather than illumination” – quote – treasury of humorous quotations

    “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” – Disraeli

    5 Billion – yeah right!

    Where are our comments – haven’t changed my mind – what utter check – makes me even more angrier! Great way to treat your past supporters!

  23. I could still make all my comments from yesterday on the basis of the financial comment from Summerskill and a Lib Dem MP’s tweet. I could also resubmit my comments on a daily basis until a) Stonewall ask my opinion b) clarifies its position on Gay Marriage both of which Stonewall seems unable to do. Now the horse has bolted, communistic retrogressive action will serve only to delay Equality. F

  24. @ Stonewall Supporter.

    By demanding that Pink News pull the comments, you are simply showing the world Stonewall’s true colours.

    Those citicisms, and others like them, have been aimed at Mr Summerskill and Stonewall every time this issue appears in Pink News and elsewhere.

    In most cases the comments that were posted were well-deserved criticisms about Stonewall’s “stonewalling” when it comes to supporting marriage equality.

    Mr Summerskill’s “explantion” of his behaviour at the conference in no way diminishes the criticism due.

    He had NO RIGHT to speak out against a proposal on marriage equality, and his main rgument, which he admits himself, was that the Lib-Dem proposal would cost too much.

    Who does he feel he represents; the best interests and rights of the LGB (sorry, no T in Sonewall) community, or the Treasury and pension companies?

    Simple quesiton…. How about a simple answer, or will you just bully Pink news again and have more comments pulled?


  25. Where have all our writings, over 150 of them, on this topic disappeared to overnight??????

    PinkNews shows absolutely disrespect to its readers when it deletes our writing from the record.

  26. HelenWilson 22 Sep 2010, 10:26am

    Classic case of spin by Stonewall and Ben Summerskill in a damage limitation exercise.

    But, in an exclusive statement given to, a spokesman for the national organisation has described the story as inaccurate.

    “The story published by PinkNews today is, sadly, a largely dishonest account of what took place at last night’s meeting in Liverpool,” it says.

    “Ben made quite clear at the meeting that Stonewall is engaged in a process of listening and consulting with active Stonewall supporters, of whom there are almost 20,000, about the future of civil partnership.

    “While some lesbian, gay and bisexual people fully support changing civil partnership into marriage, there are others – including particularly some women – who do not want something that is either the same as or synonymous with marriage. This is a sensitive area of policy development and not one which is assisted by inflammatory media coverage.”

    And which side on Ben?
    Which side are you on?
    Which side are you on Stonewall?
    Which side are you on?

  27. Sue Wilkinson 22 Sep 2010, 10:35am

    Could Stonewall’s request for yesterday’s comments to be pulled have anything to do with the fact that nearly a quarter of them called for Ben Summerskill to resign? (I have copies of the comments to verify this figure.)
    Below is the text of a letter sent to Stonewall’s Trustees (and copied to Ben Summerskill, senior Stonewall staff, Lynne Featherstone, Evan Davis and Steve Gilbert).
    Accuracy of media reports aside, Summerskill is accountable for his stance on marriage equality (laid out in Stonewall’s Press release last night) – and now for demanding that grassroots LGBT voices saying so effectively be silenced. Come on, PinkNews – stand up to this!

    Copy of letter to Stonewall’s Trustees:
    We are writing to you – as a Trustee of Stonewall – to demand the immediate resignation of Ben Summerskill as Chief Executive, since it is clear that he is failing to represent the views of the LGBT community on equal marriage. Not only in the UK, but internationally too, every comparable LGBT organisation is campaigning to end the ban on same-sex marriage.

    We are a British couple who were living in Canada when the LGBT organisations successfully achieved marriage equality. We were legally married there and are dismayed that our legal Canadian marriage is deemed a ‘civil partnership’ in UK law (see We are delighted that the Liberal Democrat Conference today voted to end the ban on marriage for same-sex couples (and to open up civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples). We hope that the UK will follow the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, South Africa, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Argentina (as well as Mexico City and seven US jurisdictions) in ending the ban on same-sex marriage.

    We are very disappointed that, according to the reports we have read about the Liberal Democrat Conference, Ben Summerskill did not support ending the ban on same-sex marriage – and was heard by some people to be opposing it on the grounds that it might cost too much. As Stephen Gilbert MP said, “It should not be up to me as a Member of Parliament to lobby Stonewall on equal rights. It should be Stonewall lobbying me.”

    Stonewall has never lobbied for equal marriage rights for LGBT people. He told The Guardian today “we have declined to express a view”. Ben Summerskill also recently refused to state Stonewall’s position on marriage equality in response to a PinkNews survey of LGBT organisations. Every other UK LGBT organisation supported equal access to marriage for gay couples. It is truly astonishing that Stonewall is apparently unwilling to campaign for equal access to marriage at a time when there is a groundswell of support for it, including from a major political party.

    Stonewall’s press release this evening claims an ongoing “consultation exercise”, yet completely misrepresents the goal of the equal marriage movement as “changing civil partnerships into marriage”. Along with the Liberal Democrats, many in the LGBT community are in favour of retaining civil partnerships (and opening them up to heterosexual couples), while also opening up marriage to same-sex couples. Only equal access to both institutions constitutes true equality.

    Ninety-eight percent of respondents to last month’s PinkNews survey said they supported marriage equality. More than 100 people have posted comments on today’s PinkNews report of Ben Summerskill’s position: every one of these deploring it, and almost every one supporting full marriage equality. Of the 144 comments posted by 8 p.m. tonight, nearly a quarter (N=31) call for Ben Summerskill’s resignation and/or (sadly) the disbandment of Stonewall; many more call for an investigation into the organisation’s practices.

    It is becoming clear that Stonewall no longer represents the grassroots LGBT community on this issue, and that the community has lost confidence in its ability to do so while under the leadership of Ben Summerskill. It is time for him to go. Once again, we call for Ben Summerskill’s resignation, with immediate effect.

    Yours sincerely

    Sue Wilkinson (Professor, Loughborough University)
    and Celia Kitzinger (Professor, University of York)

  28. Staggeringly unwise to get everyone’s comments removed.

    I am mystified about these 20,000 supporters. Other people on this board say that merely giving (large) sums of money long term doesn’t appear to buy you consultation rights – and there’s no indication on their website of any kind of membership that would give you a say. If I do pay 150 + VAT for the Stonewall awards bash, do I get eyed up to see if I’m the right sort, and then admitted to their secret rituals? Is it a Bullingdon Club for homosexualist businessmen?

    If anyone here has ever been consulted by Stonewall, I’m sure we’d all be fascinated to hear about it.

    Maybe though, what we need to do is stop the bitching, and start an egalitarian gay membership organisation. (We could call it ‘Outrage!’ or something. That would sound pretty good…)

  29. HelenWilson 22 Sep 2010, 10:43am

    Its also questionable to call those radical second wave feminists that chose to have relationships with women out of their feminist ideology not their sexuality lesbians. If they reject marriage because they reject everything male they don’t have to get married. Why should this very small group get to stop everybody else’s happiness because of an ideology not their sexuality?

  30. Thomas, Leicester 22 Sep 2010, 10:46am

    I was a Stonewall donor for 10 years until last month and was never consulted on anything. Under Ben’s regime the letters asking for more money was the only thing that I noticed had changed. Angela Mason lobbied tiredlessly for the LGBT community and I am ever so grateful, but that the CEO of a LGBT lobbying group makes positive headlines for the Christian Institute is an absolute disgrace. He should resign immediately. I wrote to Stonewall several times to show my anger and they never responded, showing total disregard for their grassroots members!

  31. Wasn’t Summerskill’s granny a famous feminist?

    and by the way not only yesterday comments have been removed, some posted earlier today have also gone I’m sure..????

    Greeks – I did the same with Stonewalls website, I couldn’t work out what a supporter or member meant or how you become one. I submitted somekind of form for an email update on Stonewall news but haven’t received any emails about anything…

    It’s a rather mysterious org, mysterious supporters, members, trustees, voting etc…..well at least a pleb like me couldn’t work it out!

  32. I didn’t really understand why Ben Summerskill was unhappy with the Pink News report yesterday. If it was something to do with the cost of the Lib Dem’s proposals, has Stonewall actually asked its 20,000 supporters precisely how they want the law to change? Did Stonewall ask supporters if they were concerned about the costs involved?

  33. HelenWilson 22 Sep 2010, 11:12am

    Stonewalled the anti free speech and anti marriage equality charity

    Its strange how Ben Summerskill feels he can use free speech to reject marriage equality, but he rejects free speech to PinkNews and PinkNews commenter’s.

  34. The story published by PinkNews yesterday about Stonewall was, sadly, a largely dishonest account of what took place at Monday evening’s meeting in Liverpool. We deeply regret that PinkNews chose to publish the story late at night without double-checking and without having troubled to attend either the meeting itself or a party conference at which such an important issue was being discussed.

    Ben did not say that Stonewall objected to the motion that would be debated on Tuesday because it would cost £5bn. For PinkNews to publish and fail to correct a story in this way sadly brings the whole of the pink media, which serves our minority communities uniquely well, into disrepute.

  35. Isn’t Ian McKellen a founder or supporter of Stonewall. He supported gay marriage in Australia and in America, so maybe he could say something here too.

  36. HelenWilson 22 Sep 2010, 11:31am

    Stop the spin Stonewall and sack Summerskill and apologise.

    Stonewalled do not deserve to fly the rainbow flag if they dont support marriage equality.

    No if no but Stonewall this issue wont go away and you cant spin it or attempt to control the media.

    Pride can always become a protest against Stonewall

  37. As far as I’m concerned there is only one principle: “equality”. There should not be different laws for different people. No one is forcing anyone to “assimilate” by getting married, there is still the option NOT to get married, but I have yet to hear a compelling reason why gay people should be treated differently under the law.

    I’m sure there were black people in Alabama who thought that stopping the lynchings was more important than where you sat on the bus, but you know, it’s all part-and-parcel of the same oppression, and every form of discrimination and prejudice bolsters the other.

    Imagine if in this country instead of women being given the vote, it was insisted that traditionally “voting” was something that men did and to extend it to women was to change the definition of the word. Instead special “Referenda” where set up , where on a separate day, women were allowed to “vote” (except you mustn’t call it that!) on issues which were fed into a separate “Representative Congress” (which was just like a women’s “parliament” – except because by definition and tradition ‘parliament’ is where men sit, you mustn’t call it that). Suppose that their “votes” (oops!) on issues where counted and weighed equally with those coming out of the traditional Parliament (where the men sit) so it was hard to argue that the women were denied an effective legislative voice. Would this have been a tolerable state of affairs? Would this have been real equality?

  38. Jock S. Trap 22 Sep 2010, 11:58am

    You really are a bunch of drama queens. PinkNews are the ones who reported before knowing the facts therefore it is PinkNews that is in the wrong. This is what you expect from gutter press and hoped PinkNews was better. I would rather hear the facts not a bitter journalists vague attempt at discrediting Stonewall.

    I will reserve judgement until I know exactly what happened. If Stonewall don’t give 100% towards marriage then so what they don’t have to and we don’t need them to. There are plenty of others that do. Stop being so bitter toward what looks like only half baked facts.

  39. IMO Pink News does do good work on behalf of the LGB & T communities. It seems to me that their reporting was substantially accurate.

  40. The Anti-Gay Pseudo-Christian Institute says, “Thanks Ben!”
    Thanks Ben!

  41. “PinkNews are the ones who reported before knowing the facts therefore it is PinkNews that is in the wrong.”

    Pink News reported on the facts that were avauilable at the time, which are ONLY being disputed by Stonewall. No-one else present has come out in defence of Sumemrskill. Why did Stephen Gilbert make the comment that it was not his job to lobby Stonewall to support equality, it should be the other way round.

    Ben Summerskill denies he was arguing against marriage equality in general. He admits however that he was arguing against the LibDems equality proposals. THAT alone is a sackable offence. How DARE he do such a thing?

    The fact that Stonewall have no official policy on equality, means that Summerskill is clearly unqualified to speak on equality.

    Stonewall are STILL refusing to engage with the community they pretend to represent. How come so many people on here say that the only communication they get from Stonewall is begging letters.

    Summerskill needs to be sacked today. Immediately.

    The fact that the Daily Mail are using Summerskill’s position as a reason to deny ALL of us equality means that he is now an official enemy of the LGBT community.

    Stonewall has no future with Summerskill in charge. Their future looks grim even if he is sacked and they decide to support equality. Their utter lack of transparency and accountability is clearly unsustainable.

    And it shows their tracherous true colours that they are pressurinf Pink News to censor our comments.

    F*** you Stonewall. You do not represent me.

  42. But that’s not the point Jock. The point is we expect as a news website PinkNews to get some things wrong. The fact is that on this website, on others and generally everyone I know within the LGBT community support full equality with regards to gay marriage.

    Stonewall have made a fatal error in ignoring this and not going with the flow of general feeling. People have written letters and not even had the decency of a response. That is not fair – they are answerable to us, not the other way around.

    As for the deletion of comments, I can’t comment other than I think it’s really unfair. People aren’t unintelligent and will make their own minds up regarding this. Stonewall should not have asked for these to be deleted but should have faced them head on.

    As for the cost. It shouldn’t matter. Equality isn’t about gay rights, it’s about human rights and we are all entitled to marry the one we love.

    I do reserve some of my comments until I’ve seen what the official stance is. But at this moment in time Summerskill should go – he doesn’t represent us.

  43. @jockstrap
    Your patience is admirable, but really, even when you take the story away and you’re only left with Stonewall’s press release, Summerskill’s own pronouncements, the articles in the Daily Mail and the Christian Institute’s rag, and a history of not stating their position, there really is enough to take a view on.

    Even the most charitable position you could take – they haven’t made their minds up yet – is pretty indefensible. How long do they need? Who the hell is on the bridge watching where this lumbering supertanker is drifting?

    We had this kind of amateurism in the 70s. We must demand more professionalism from those who seek torepresent us.

  44. Stonewall are finished.

    it is not just the homophobic treachery of Ben Summerskill (I still regard his behaviour as homophobic and treacherous, even though I have read and understood Pink News’s update).

    the main problems with Stonewall have not disappeared.

    The main problems with Stonewall are:

    1. No-one kmows who they are accountable to. Clearly not to the LGBT population whose opinion they refuse to represent. Cklearly not to their financial backers whom they only communicate with, to beg.
    Who is Stonewall answerable to? If it is the financial services sector, then admit it and Stonewall will be disregarded forevermore.

    2. They claim to represent LGB (but not T) opinion, yet they refuse point blank to engage with either the gay press or community. Their refusal to outline their position on equality is unacceptable. Their refusal to reply to queries by members of our community.

    3. Why do they not have a position on marriage equality, yet send their homophobic leader Ben Summerskill to argue against LibDem equality proposals, giving the Daily Mail another stick with which to beat our campaign for equality.

    Summerskill’s immediate dismissal is essential for Stonewall to survive. But in the long run they will not continue unless they can address all the points I raise above.

    Is Summerskill to be sacked today. Here’s hoping he is.

    If he is not sacked then there will be no other choice but for the LGBT population to protest Stonewall’s awards ceremony. We HAVE to let those in power know that Stonewall represents no-one but themselves.

  45. I’ve met Ben several times and he always seemed to be a thoroughly sensible chap, but if he did say what has been reported then I’m totally puzzled. It makes no sense. How can marriage equality cost 5 billion quid?
    All they need to do is just change the law to allow 2 people to marry and change a few bits on some forms. Then everyone could have civil marriage and while they’re at it, let churches do marriages if they want. There are various religious organisations (like the Quakers and reformed Jews) that want to perform gay marriages, let them! This is stupid. If it was any other group being denied equality there would already be rioting in the streets.

  46. Am I going bonkers or something but whatever way I read this story (and all the other cumulative articles that have come before it) it’s clear the Summerskill is not fighting for equality… He was arguing against marriage equality back in the 2009 interview.. all my comments and all the ones I read are still valid … I don’t know who these supporters/members are who will be consulted, that’s all I know is that Summerskill has always know it isn’t a prioirty, as far as I know the pope could be of the supports… it very unfair and it’s very unfair that stonewall is always the one that seems to be in private consultations and the like…

  47. The comments page seems to have messed with those addresses – ignore everything up to the arrow mark on each line.

  48. Things that have changed since CPs were written into law.

    – Political landscape
    – Blog politics
    – LGB confidence and personal power
    – Empowerment of new lobbies that in the past had no access to power but now do through social networks, direct connection to MPs and information sharing

    In the last election, Gay support for the Tories dropped due to lack of clear messages for LGB rights. The internet, Pinknews, blogs all permitted direct lobbying of politicians.

    Thus, Stonewall has ignored the need to engage with a groundswell of energy outside its walls, has stalled and lacked agility in matching the needs of an ’empowered’ community, a community that communicates individually and for itself. Stonewall is stuck in the 90s when only few had access to ears. If Stonewall is to match the speed of change in today’s world, it needs to look outside of itself, current relationships and interact with an already ‘moved on movement’.

  49. HelenWilson 22 Sep 2010, 1:26pm

    This is a account of what Mr Summerskill said at the meeting:

    “Firstly, he attacked Pink News for running an “unethical campaign” against Stonewall after they failed to answer a request for comment on the topic of Marriage Equality. Then, he argued that it was “too expensive” as increased pension payments to heterosexual couples wanting civil partnerships would cost five billion pounds over ten years according to unpublished government research.”

    His words prompted Stephen Gilbert to say this:

    “equality such as this should not be subject to a cost/benefit analysis and that if South Africa had adopted Stonewall’s approach, they would still have apartheid”

    A view Summerskill labelled offensive.

    I would like Stonewall to show when they consulted its member and sought wider LGBT support for its viewpoint.

    Are Lib Dem MP’s and activists telling fibs too?

    Is everybody else telling lies Ben?

    Why would Stonewall not confirm its position on marriage equality to PinkNews despite having 4 days to do so?

    Why the silence?

    And which side on Ben?
    Which side are you on?
    Which side are you on Stonewall?
    Which side are you on?

  50. Iris, No. 19, you hit the nail on the head. Just because some StonewallUK supporters don’t want marriage doesn’t stop them from marrying nor are they banned. Summerskill should apply that rational to same-sex couples. Just because there are some StonewallUK supporters who don’t want marriage doesn’t mean that their wishes have to trample on the rights of us who do. He should, if anything, be supporting it even if he personally doesn’t want it. Summerskill MUST GO, he does NOT represent many of us and he does NOT represent or support full equality. Putting a price on it is beyond offensive. Personallly, I find Summerskill offensive to those of us who demand full equality without exception.

  51. Stonewall’s defence highlights the fact that they just don’t get it.
    Even if it were true that BS is innocent of slapping a price sticker on marriage equality the fact still remains that Stonewall does not support marriage equality. What Stonewall claims to be doing amounts to no less than a “separate but equal” solution. EVERY person who understands the human rights struggle of the last couple of centuries knows that “seperate but equal” breeds and supports inequality and bigotry.

    There seems to be a claim that “some women” want to abolish marriage altogether since it is a cornerstone of patriarchal power. Maybe so, but that is not a queer rights issue and should not cause Stonewall any pause. Besides, how patriarchal can a gay marriage be? How much subjugation of women by men is there in a typical gay marriage? In my home there is a pronounced shortage of women to opress.

  52. Ok PinkNews, you don’t want me to post the email addresses of Stonewall Trustees, and have deleted my post.

    For those of you who want to write, 7 of the addresses are easy to find with a bit of googling: the rest you’ll have to guess.

  53. Why remove comments Pinknews? Can we have an explanation please?

  54. HelenWilson 22 Sep 2010, 2:51pm

    If Stonewall had not consulted its members on marriage equality then Ben Summerskill had no right to take any position on it on their behalf and comment for, against or express any concerns about it. He did not have the mandate from the membership to do so, therefore he acted against Stonewall and its membership. That alone constitute gross misconduct and the trustees should force him to step down or be sacked for his actions.

  55. The idiot summerskill says he and stonewall are listening to the gay community. Yes, they are listening in the same way the church of England is listening to gays, with their hands (or mitres in the case of bishops – who always have to be different) over their ears and muttering lalalala (or hallelujah hallelujah in the case of bishops) to block out the comments and criticisms of the gays they are allegedly listening to.
    Go away summerskill and take stonewall with you. you don’t belong here any more. Because some of us are honestly trying to make life better for gays not trying to destroy it all together.

  56. Black Hawk Down 22 Sep 2010, 3:03pm

    Is anyone up for organising a demonstration outside the Stonewall Awards evening at the V & A on Thursday 4th November?

    When the trans community did this two years ago with regard to the infamous transphobe, Julie Bindel, who was nominated for best journalist, it generated lots of publicity and support from the people attending the Stonewall Awards.

  57. Stonewall’s response to the Pink News story still leaves a series of questions unanswered:

    1) At any point during his speech at the Lib Dem conference did Ben say he supported marriage equality?

    2) Why has it taken five years since CPs became law for Stonewall to consult its “members” on same-sex marriage?

    3) Since Stonewall doesn’t have members, only donors, who is it consulting? When? How much longer will this consultation take?

    Perhaps Pink News can check with a sample of Stonewall donors to ask if they have ever been consulted about marriage equality (or anything else)?

    4) Is it not odd that Stonewall, the major gay equality group, has “no policy” on ending the homophobia involved in the same-sex marriage ban?

  58. Maybe Mr Summerskill would like to issue a statement clearly listing whether he supports equal marriage or not, and clearly list his reasons for doing so? If he/Stonewall still haven’t made up their mind, then he could list the things he/they are considering before doing so. I don’t think it’s right that he criticises Pink News for ‘getting it wrong’ yet, in my personal opinion, has been less than forthcoming about his/Stonewall’s views on the matter.

    I’ve read through everything he’s said and I still don’t get it. “Some women” don’t want marriage? What the hell’s that got to do with anything? And as for the alleged cost – I don’t believe it. So what are the other reasons? The campaign to stop homophobia? Good campaign that and I’m fully behind it – but why does that stop Stonewall supporting equal marriage?

  59. @Brett

    Re your point 3, they’ve next consulted me or my partner.

  60. “There seems to be a claim that “some women” want to abolish marriage altogether since it is a cornerstone of patriarchal power. Maybe so, but that is not a queer rights issue and should not cause Stonewall any pause.”
    Comment by Eiriksson
    This is why I abandoned stonewall some year ago. I’m gay and I want to support gay campaigns not feminist ones which is what stonewall was becoming at the time and seems to still be, if this story is correct. When I want to support women in their very justified campaign against oppression, I’ll support a feminist organisation not a gay one hijacked by feminism.
    Only thing I find hard to believe in all this is the thought of summerskill bullying anyone. As Denis Healey said of Geoffrey Howe, being attacked by him must be like being savaged by a dead sheep. Why do I suddenly feel an overwhelming stench of decomposition would not be so out of place?

  61. BS’s claim not to have arrived at a view on marriage equality is ridiculous; he’s had all his life to think about this; he’s had seven years at Stonewall to consider it; he clearly knows what he thinks. And what he thinks is obvious from the fact that he is not supporting it.

    If he’s not with us then he is against us.

    For a person in his position to imply that he’s not sure if it’s such a good idea is manna from heaven to the opposition, and he must be very well aware of this.

    We can draw our own conclusions.

    (Hoping this is mild enough not to be edited out!)

  62. there are various points i want to raise concerning some of the arguments that have been put forward by the announcement in the Stonewall press release

    the argument with respect to the 5billion costing actually wasnt refuted in the press release just “re-contextualised”

    With respect to the femenist argument against marriage-
    I thought the feminist argument was that it was fighting the right for women themselves to choose, to take away the power of the Patriarchal society thus empowering women to the right to decide for themselves which way they want to live their lives
    If they wanted abortions it was their choice
    If they wanted to work outside of stereotypical roles and be paid equally it was their choice
    If they wanted to marry or not marry it was their choice

    Various changes have been implemented in the “instituition of marriage”…. couples do not need to take the same surname, men have and do take on the womens surname (but sure not in large quantities) women can keep their maiden name, or double barrel their surnames just as men can…..

    Both partners exchange rings, “the words love honour and obey” have rightfully been removed from the vows
    with the likes of the Civil ceremony Christianity has been taken out of the picture, you can now have a non-religious, alternate religious ceremony.. if you want a Satanic ceremony as long as you fill out the correct forms and say the desired legal delcarations it would be fully legal

    So, the argument of patriarchal control is gone in my mind as it is down to the choice of 2 individuals to “tie the knot” and how it is to be seen

    which is where i see the role of gay marriage being desirable as opposed to the civil partnership ceremony that is currently available… I am in a 2 year civil partnership with my male partner of 15 years…. I want to legally call him my husband

    i want my relationship under the eyes of the law and socially not to be seen as a lesser version of the “straight” version. I want my relationship to be seen as equal, valid and respected just as much as the “straight” version is

    Now with Stonewall’s declarations about fighting for equality, both what was reported in the Pink News article and the updated version, and the Stonewall press release has in no way allayed my anger or fears, I see Stonewall hiding behind silence and pressure tactics with absolutely new affirmation of what actually was said

    Ben Summerskill you are an arse
    Stonewall I have been hugely behind everything that in the past that you have stood for, but with this mess that has been created you are in an untenable and hypocritical situation, Ben Summerskill needs to go

  63. I apologise for any bad spelling and bad punctuation in my comment above… I’m very very very angry

  64. …you also have to ask why a gay organisation worth its salt hadn’t thought to ask its mysterious members about gay marriage before. It’s not like someone’s only dreamed up the idea last Tuesday…

  65. *chuckle* even if after everything I’ve typed, you think the feminist argument still holds, well sod it, what a great way to subvert the patriarchal institution than by a load of gay and lesbian folk waving their rings and wedding certificates in the eyes and faces of the patriachal bigots at every possible chance that we can

  66. I think Stonewall have got themselves on the wrong side of this one. They are in a hole and should stop digging, admit they have been wrong and start supporting gay marriage wholeheartedly. The symbolic significance of marriage being open to everyone is the issue here and LGBT equality demands it.

  67. Andy C, you’re absolutely right. I’m all for equal rights for women but a small but very vocal group of ‘feminists’ think they can tell me what to do – thereby subverting the very idea that I as a woman should be allowed to choose. Some of these ‘feminists’ are actually anti-women (hence I’ve put ‘feminist’ in inverted commas) in my opinion. Note – I do NOT mean all feminists for any sensible, genuine ones reading.

    Steve – yes, Stonewall have just made their position worse. Do they not realise that all this smoke and mirrors and not giving a straight answer (so to speak :D ) just makes them look as thought they’re hiding something?

  68. I don’t see why Summerskill ever thought it was a good idea to open his mouth as he’s gotten it in the neck badly – some idiots on the daily wail are whining about deaths etc in the world yet I’d bet they’d never do anything to help them, equality needs to be full because if not homophobia will never end

  69. HelenWilson 22 Sep 2010, 4:59pm

    Ben Summerskill the Grinch who stole marriage equality

  70. My friends in the USA are horrified at the lack of clarity of vision from an equality organisation such as Stonewall. A right is a right worth fighting for when someone decided you shouldn’t have it. Plain and simple. Stonewall never asked within ANY community for opinion on CP, SS marriage and what the future equality strategy should be.
    If as it said often, that some radical ‘feminists’ don’t want marriage etc, then most certainly they are a minority and a self-interested one at that. I want to know what the board members of Stonewall think as individuals, publicly so that I can decide who is a barrier to my right…

  71. “Writing in the Independent, Mr Paddick recounted his 2009 wedding to Petter Belsvik in Oslo.

    In 2008, the Norwegian government abolished civil partnerships and opted to make marriage accessible to all couples.”

    (Mr Paddick said)… “It powerfully struck me how significant and how important it was for us to be treated exactly the same as if we were a straight couple.”

    “He added that his status of being married was “downgraded” on his return to Britain and claimed that civil partnerships do not offer complete equality.”

    Read more, Pink News article:

  72. But Pavlos just as sgnificanlty your British CP could well be downgraded elsewhere, particulary if there is no equivalent and particulary if there is a gay marriage and CP in that country – you’ve really do have a better chance of being recognised outside of the UK with a marriage!

  73. I am a bisexual woman and a feminist and I personally don’t want a marriage because of a lot of the historical baggage it carries.


    I WILL NOT take up a civil partnership with my girlfriend of 5 years UNTIL marriage is open to ALL genders and sexualities, and ideally civil partnerships likewise.

    I will not get CP’d because someone tells me too, simply based on us being a same-sex couple. Not the government, and not Stonewall. I will get CP’d when it is MY choice to engage in that type of commitment.

    Stonewall, don’t pretend you’re a radical feminist charity now. Don’t try to hide your bigotry behind misguided support for the few women who agree with me on this issue. I know it’s a minority view and you surely must too.

    Grow up, Ben Summerskill, you tarnish the good name of queers, transfolk and feminist in one fell swoop.

    Stonewall, equality is supposed to be your game, so DO YOUR JOB!

  74. Cost of 5 Billion?…
    So go for the cheaper option…introduce civil marriage equality, abolish civil partnerships and upgrade existing civil partnerships to marriage.

  75. And sack Ben Summerskill while you’re at it.

    Stonewall has zero chance of survival with Summerskill at the helm.

  76. It is time Ben Summerskill moved on and indeed Stonewall. The organisation does not represent or speak for me as a gay man. If Stonewall and Ben DO NOT oppose gay marriage, then say so. Isn’t it that easy? Stonewall is a political-led train and Ben is it’s driver. The train doesn’t stop at equality, just Whitehall. A disgrace, truly.

  77. “Party conference update
    … PinkNews is, ., . dishonest . ….
    We … regret … PinkNews … . publish .
    Ben made … clear … that Stonewall is engaged in …. consulting with active Stonewall supporters, of whom there are almost 20,000, about the future of civil partnership.
    The Equalities Minister … …. that … Stonewall is a supporter-based organisation …
    Ben pointed out, … there was a cost to including provision of civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples in the motion. He suggested ….
    For PinkNews to publish and fail to correct a story in this way sadly brings the whole of the pink media, which serves our minority communities uniquely well, into disrepute.”
    Source stonewall website

    From the stonewalling website . PinkNews readers may like to note that SW represents its “active supports” (please note the corporate logos on their site who manage pension funds !)

    i.e. not the lesbiqueer community

    A question to all – why , even if one newspaper should have made an error (i don’t assume it did) is it suddenly responsible for “ the whole of the pink media”.
    To Stonewall …. there are many voices OUT here and you by your own admission or only 20k and a logo or 2.
    Don’t forget the origins or your name dearies …

  78. I think we always wanted equality, I don’t think anyone really wanted civil partnerships at all it was always a compromise as a sop to the religious bigots, separate and not equal.

  79. I am unclear where the cost comes from.

    If civil marriage were made available for same-sex couples then there would be no further need for civil partnerships which could therefore be closed immediately as an option for new applicants (gay or straight) with those already in a partnership being given the option to “upgrade” to civil marriage (as a simple administrative procedure) should they so desire.

  80. Let’s pretend (for arguement’s sake) that making civil marriage and CP’s equal for everyone will cost a lot of money (and I am well aware that there is no evidence to back this up); it does not explain why Summerskill/Stonewall are arguing that point.

    For starters they are not working for the Treasury. They claim to work for equality for the LGB (but not T) community. The cost should be irrelevant if they are interesed in equality (and I don’t see the Netherland crumbling under the financial burden of allowing equal access to marriage or CP’s).

    Secondly – if Stonewall don’t have a position on marriage equality then why on earth was Summerskill criticising the LibDem’s proposals. He claims not to have an opinion on equality, yet is actively criticising others for their position. That’s offensive and grotesque.

    I personally suspect that Stonewall are opposed to equality, but know full well that if they state this position they will be forced to close immediately.

    Well the cat’s out of the bag. This drip, drip of negative, damaging information about Stonewall will not stop.

    They have a decision to make – support equality (and sack Summerskill) OR close down. It’s really that simple.

  81. Interesting analysis of Stonewall’s reaction to Pink News’s ORIGINAL story on this issue here:

    Has ANYONE who was at the meeting come forward to support Stonewall’s behaviour?

  82. Stephen Glenn 22 Sep 2010, 10:14pm

    @David at #85

    Most of my comments on this have been based on blogs from fellow libdems who were in the room, either on their blog here and here, or twitter updates from various friends. There were also comments made from quite senior members of the party who were there in the debate the following morning.

  83. why does the cost even matter? surely any cost is contributed to by taxpayers as this article says which includes gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender/sexuals! or is LBGT people who stonewall is supposedly fighting for not citizens now?

  84. So logically as marriage costs the state a packet we should cease to register marriages to save money? I thought the licence / registration fees covered the registrar’s costs as it does for civil partnerships. Could someone please explain how marriage costs the tax payer anything?

  85. HelenWilson 22 Sep 2010, 11:48pm

    nobody else can have an opinion with Stonewall around its just like the real world on this thread.

    Stonewall close down the argument so they are the only voice.

    Stonewall wont bully the LGBT to conform to its and Julie Bindels view on marriage equality.

  86. Stonewall tries to play with words and close down dissent. What a ridiculous organisation. Stonewall doesn’t speak for me.

  87. I’d suggest this is going along the wrong lines…

    We are looking at the minutia of what Mr Summerskill said or did not say, and debating that.

    But surely the central issue is that Mr Summerskill, in a public debate, pulled out the huge figure of £5 billion (allegedly contained in a secret Treasury document) and claimed this would be the cost of accepting the Lib-Dems proposals for gay marriage. He admits that he did this.

    As we can all see from other websites, that spurious figure has now been used by our religious and political opponents to try and trash the idea of gay marriage.

    Mr Summerskill has given the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Christian Institute, and all those other organisations that want to deny us rights, a tremendous stockpile of ammunition to use against our demands for Full Marriage Equality.

    So why did he do it?

    Why did he bring out that huge figure in a public debate?

    I can see only two explanations for his doing so.

    He was either so foolish that he did not realise that our opponents would seize on that figure, and the fact that it came from Stonewall, and then use it to attack gay marriage.

    Or he did it in order to sabotage future lobbying for gay marriage, with the certain knowledge that the opponents of gay marriage would then use that figure against us,

    Either of these reasons is enough for him to be sacked.

    Now I do not believe Mr Summerskill is a fool. He is an astute politician. In my opinion, he did this to deliberately undermine the call for gay marriage.

    His motives for not wanting gay marriage could be political, personal, or financial. They are unclear.

    What is clear is the tremendous damage this man’s actions have done to LGBT rights.

    He needs to go.


  88. Agree with Chrissie above – why mention figures , why mention who and who doesn’t want marriage , why have an opinon on straight CPs and the consquences of it (as he said he doesn’t campaingn for them and didn’t need to mention this aspect of the lib dem policy), why attend a fringe meeting at all and why get drawn into the marriage equality issue (we’re told that this is an ongoing policy decision at the moment – full stop – need he say any more at this time) – the guy’s not an idiot – we’ve been badgering him for an answer on marriage equality and he knew everybody would seize on anything he said. What his motives were or are, heavens knows. It would be unbelievable to think that he didn’t have a pretty good idea what his supporters think already.

    Personally I think it will be just a matter of time before the EU forces the UK to recognise different sex CP – you can’t make French etc different sex CPs divorce in their own country in order to get married over just in the same way as France was slated by the EU about us gay CPs divorcing first in the UK to do a PACS over there. At some time it will be found discriminatory and against some directive. So cost is irrelevant, the recognition of different sex CPs will be forced on the UK at some time. I suspect also the cost document against marriage eqality , like the Irag files, have been sexed up in any case. Why was this costing report asked for anyway, is it part of the origninal CP discussions?

    Once CPs are open to different sex couples then I really don’t know where all those arguments about feminism , lesbians and CPs defining our uniqueness and we like it that way etc are going to …

    Perhpas this is Summerskill’s problem he want CPs to remain gay only, a gay utopia….something for gays and feminists only! If that the case then campaing for that but don’t campaing or at least keep ya mouth shut when it comes to marriage eqaulity….

  89. paulawilmott 23 Sep 2010, 11:18am

    theres no T in s(t)onewall .. another pointless money wasting bunch of freeloaders!

  90. Summerskill’s words at the LibDem meeting were a declaration of war by the homophobic Stonewall Group against LGBT Rights and marriage equality.

    It is sad, pathetic and offensive that Summerskill / Stonewall feel the need to fight AGAINST LGBT equality, but these are now the circumstances facing LGBT rights in Britain.

    In light of the refusal (so far anyway) by Stonewall to sack the bigotted Mr Summerskill and to replace him with someone in favour of LGBT equality; we can be in no doubt.

    Stonewall are actively campaigning against LGBT equality. They should regarded as enemies of LGBT equality. They cannot any longer be allowed to represent the LGBT equality movement. It is in all out interests that ALL politiians; newspapers; financial groups etc realise that Stonewall are regarded with disgust and horror by the wider LGBT population.

    A timely protest against Stonewall homophobia will be when they hold their silly little ‘Stonewall Awards’. When are those being held. A few hundred LGBT Equality supporters protesting those absurd awards will send a clear message of the very low esteem in which out community regards Stonewall/Summerskill.

  91. #89 – Eloquently expressed, Chrissie. We can only guess at why BS said those things. I’d personally add ‘panic’ to your excellent list. Maybe he knows that we’re inexorably moving towards marriage equality and that panics him. But I have no idea why. It doesn’t make any sense at all.

    If his personal feelings about equal marriage are so strong, he should step aside and let someone else lead Stonewall. It’d be easier for him – and a lot better for LGBT people in the UK.

  92. That’s the thing. What’s in his head? Why? It really doesn’t make sense but I’d like to know.

    I don’t think for one second that everyone in Stonewall thinks the same as Summerskill.

  93. Sue Wilkinson 23 Sep 2010, 12:56pm

    We wrote yesterday to Stonewall’s Trustees and got back what looked like a standard letter from their Chair, David Isaac. (We’re not posting it here in case there are copyright issues which might lead to its removal.) We have responded to this as follows:

    Dear David Isaac

    Thank you for your prompt response. However, we wonder if you have actually read our letter, which calls for Ben Summerskill’s immediate resignation on the grounds he is failing to represent the views of the LGBT community on equal marriage. Your response refers neither to Summerskill nor to marriage equality: only to (a) “the future of civil partnership”; and (b) an article in PinkNews to which Stonewall has already responded.

    We repeat our call for Ben Summerskill’s immediate resignation.

    It is time for some accountability. We want to know:
    (i) Why has it taken five years – since civil partnerships became law in 2005 – for Stonewall to consult its ‘members’ on marriage equality?
    (ii) Who are you consulting (since Stonewall doesn’t have ‘members’, only donors)? How? When? How much longer will this take?
    (iii) Why does Stonewall – the major gay equality group – have “no policy” (according to Ben Summerskill) on ending the homophobia involved in the same-sex marriage ban?

    We look forward to hearing from you.

    Yours sincerely,
    Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger

  94. HelenWilson 23 Sep 2010, 1:38pm

    If Stonewall had not consulted its members on marriage equality then Ben Summerskill had no right and had no mandate to take any position on it on their behalf and comment for, against or express any concerns about it.

    That alone constitutes gross misconduct and the trustees should force him to step down or sack him for his actions.

  95. Pink News, please dont be bullied into silence on this by stonewall or summerskill. keep up the good work.

  96. Anyone up for starting an alternative to stonewall – that really does stand for equality for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals?

  97. this is my deleted comment from Tuesday:

    Ben Summerskill’s snide trotting-out of a tiny minority of dissenting voices from Lesbian ranks sounds a familiar sour note with us Trans folk. His consistent ignoring of Trans people’s issues and our part in the emergence of sexuality and gender diversity equality has been something some of us have been protesting for a number of years now. The first I remember was the lovely and brave Transman Serge Nicholson’s lone heckle in 2006 at Summerskill’s speech at the Lord Mayor’s Pride reception. Frankly his ‘divide and rule’ attitude has more in common with elitist old colonial attitudes than with the obvious common sense of the right to live under laws that respect us all.

  98. Brian Paddick 23 Sep 2010, 9:43pm

    “The story published by PinkNews yesterday about Stonewall was, sadly, a largely dishonest account of what took place at Monday evening’s meeting in Liverpool. We deeply regret that PinkNews chose to publish the story late at night without double-checking and without having troubled to attend either the meeting itself or a party conference at which such an important issue was being discussed.

    Ben did not say that Stonewall objected to the motion that would be debated on Tuesday because it would cost £5bn. For PinkNews to publish and fail to correct a story in this way sadly brings the whole of the pink media, which serves our minority communities uniquely well, into disrepute.

    Can I say, I was at the meeting and that the original Pink News report, which I read before it was amended, was not ‘a largely dishonest account’. On the contrary, I formed the impression that it was a fair reflection of what took place, even if it was not 100% accurate in every detail.

    Pink News, if you want to put the original back, I will give evidence in any subsequent proceedings to that effect. Maybe “Ben did not say he objected to the Lib Dem conference motion.” What he did say was that an impact assessment on the proposals produced by the Treasury, that apparently says the changes would cost £5bn over 10 years, should be published. He also said that some female members of Stonewall objected to gay marriage. Whatever Stonewall or Summerskill’s views actually are, the clear impression he gave was that he, who was not there as a private individual but as the head of Stonewall, was against gay marriage. He may not have said it but he certainly gave that very clear impression, so much so that I was astounded and sought clarification. For Stonewall then to say the original Pink News account was ‘largely dishonest’ is quite clearly false.

    I asked Ben, in open forum, to explain why the changes would cost £5bn and why some members of Stonewall objected to equality in marriage – “I want to understand Ben, I really want to understand but I don’t understand”. He accused me of shouting across the room at him (there was no microphone in a crowded hall and he was then heckled by people saying I was not shouting). He failed to explain why it would cost £5bn and he said I should ask the people he had referred to, why they objected. People in that meting, including me, did not get angry with Ben for no reason.

    Pink News we’ve had our differences but on this one I’m right behind you.

  99. Hmmm – Pink News. Comment number 100 indicates how sleazily Stonewall are behaving.

    I recommend you put this story back on the front page.

    Stonewall is a homophobic organisation.

    That in itself is MAJOR news.

  100. HelenWilson 24 Sep 2010, 2:25am

    Brian Paddick is a former high ranking Met police officer and a former candidate for London mayor. Will Ben Summerskill be saying he is being dishonest?

    If anybody else who was at the Lib Dem meeting please post so the truth gets out.

    Well done Brian Paddick for speaking out.

  101. HelenWilson 24 Sep 2010, 2:41am

    Its about time Stonewall came out the closest on its support for apartheid in relationships.

    Must we all suffer because Julie Bindel’s brand of extremist feminism objects to marriage? it’s not even in line with mainstream feminist thinking at all.

    If Stonewall are going to support this viewpoint then they must seek the abolition of all marriage and not take an apartheid position that demotes gay relationships to a second class status.

  102. HelenWilson:
    > “Firstly, he attacked Pink News for running an “unethical
    > campaign” against Stonewall after they failed to answer a
    > request for comment on the topic of Marriage Equality. Then, he
    > argued that it was “too expensive” as increased pension payments
    > to heterosexual couples wanting civil partnerships would cost
    > five billion pounds over ten years according to unpublished
    > government research.”

    Bullying and bluster. Stonewall has been lobbying against marriage equality for years, but now it is open. And they have lobbied against equality in other respects too – it was Stonewall had “sexual orientation” excluded from the Equality Act’s protection against harassment this year; Evan Harris questioned Summerskill about that, incredulously, at the bill’s Commons Committee stage.

    Summerskill’s bullying of PinkNews and those who reported the LibDem fringe meeting to PinkNews (presumably prominent activists), must also raise big questions about Stonewall’s landmark “anti-bulkying” campaign. To deliberately make out, as Stonwall does, when campaigning against bullying in schools, that the worst bullying of all – against transsexual children, which starts earliest and is most intense – doesn’t happen at all, is itself, of course, bullying. Exactly as was Stonewall’s ignoring the hateful, anti-transsexual writings of Julie Bindell when listing her for their journalist of the year award, then mocking the trans people who protested.

    All of these actions by Stonewall use Stonewall’s power (standing, organisation, money, contacts) to ignore the rightful boundaries of others in denying our reality, our experience on matters really vital to us.

    The whole of Stonewall is complicit in that. All the staff and volunteers, all the donors, all the trustees. Stonewall must go.

  103. Ben Summerskill asks and Pink News obeys?! Sweet Jesus!

    Tough! I’, just going to repeat what I said in my now-deleted previous post.

    I previously said that Stonewall had, in the past, received financial and personal support from me. I also said that future cheques would go to the National Secular Society.

    In addition, Summerskill’s efforts to bully Pink News into submission are equally disgraceful.

    Stonewall does NOT speak for me, and its attempts to stop anyone speaking against it reveal what an appalling organisation it has become.

  104. I think it is time for Ben to go. I have stpped my monthly contribution to Stonewall and will not have anything more to do with them until he leaves

  105. I am glad Pink News has placed this story back up the rungs on the front page, and very grateful to Brian Paddick for speaking out.

    Let’s be honest here. Mr Summerskill’s and Stonewall’s betrayal of our rights is perhaps one of the biggest LGBT stories for a decade. I think it needs a LOT more investigation, so that the world can see WHY Stonewall are acting this way.

    As for what we can do now to limit their baneful influence on our rights…. Let’s not forget that Stonewall is a charity.

    So far I have found two areas under which Mr Summerskill’s and Stonewall’s actions MAY be in breach of the Charity Commisssion’s rules on political actvivity, and I am preparing a complaint outlining those areas, to present to the Commission later next week.

    On top of that we need to put pressure on this governemnt, via the responsible ministers and our MPs, to limit Stonewall’s input to this debate on the grounds that they do NOT have a mandate from the LGBT community to represent our interests.

    If individual contributors to Stonewall’s coffers feel they are unable to fund Stonewall anymore, that is totally understandable, and is another way to teach them a lesson.


  106. how could stonewall remove sexual orientation from the equality bill?

  107. even in 2009 summerskill was betraying LBGT’s and selling everyone out:

  108. Thank you for that, Brian – very interesting. Personally, I’m still waiting for a statement from BS explaining why he thinks PN made a mistake and what his actual position on marriage equality is in clear, unambiguous language. That way no-one would make any ‘mistakes’ in the future.

  109. “I have found two areas under which Mr Summerskill’s and Stonewall’s actions MAY be in breach of the Charity Commisssion’s rules on political actvivity, and I am preparing a complaint outlining those areas, to present to the Commission later next week.”

    Fantastic idea.

    Stonewall’s betrayal of the LGBT population is an absolute disgrace.

    Glad to see that this story is back on the front page.

    The fact that Stonewall are officially (but secretly) opposed to marriage equality is one of the biggest LGBT stories of the year.

    I think in light of Brian Paddick’s comment in number 100, it would be a good idea to repost your original story.

    ONLY Stonewall are disputing it, and they have already been thoroughly discredited.

    I would also ask that in future LGBT news stories, that you not quote Stonewall’s opinion on matters. Who cares what a homophobic organisation’s opinion is.

  110. Brian Paddick, a man of integrity and conviction. I salute you sir!

  111. …indeed, everything Bummerskill is not!!!

  112. Deep Throat said: “Follow the money.” Since Stonewall are obviously trying to subvert marriage equality in this country, they must be benefiting financially by doing so. Pink News and other news sources should investigate and expose the money trail.

  113. This story needs further investigation.

    1. Why do Stonewall pretend to have no opinion on marriage equality, then send their leader to campaign against it in secret?

    2. Who decides Stonewall’s agenda; and on whose behalf are they working (when clearly it is not on the LGBT community’s behalf?)

    Under no circumstances should people be donating money to Stonewall until there is clarity on this.

    In the meantime email Stonewall’s Trustees expressing your disgust at Stonewall’s behaviour and urging them to sack Summerskill or disband.

    (You can find all their names and email addresses on Google – Pink News seem to be scared to allow us to post them here).

  114. In the absence of any clarification from Stonewall, one can only conclude that they are plainly working against marriage equality and speculate as to their motives and who their most significant supporters may be.

    There are histoical connections with Labour; Tony Blair (closet Roman Catholic in 2004) was PM at the time CP’s were institued. What deal was done at that time, in private meetings?

    Who pays for Stonewall – we do not know; who are their “supporters” – we do not know. Who are these females members who don’t want marriage (as far as we can see there is no invitation to join membership on their publicity). Is there a secret membership?

    I consider that I am married and nothing the law says can change my belief. However, it is an iniquity that the law denies my marriage. We seem to be moving close to a change in this and it is unbelievable that Stonewall are trying to stop it. Fortunately the political tide seems to be running against them.

    I agree we must make it clear that Stonewall don’t represent anyone but a small, secret grouping (and their paymasters) who won’t explain their motives. How they manage to have charity status for what seems to be a moneymaking business I don’t understand.

    I am greatly encouraged by the attitude of all the contributors here. With such positive feeling for this long overdue reform I am very optimistic. Three cheers to the LibDems!!

  115. Omar Kuddus GayasylumUK 24 Sep 2010, 3:21pm

    Email sent to stonewall and their responce:

    QRE; Stonewall boss Ben Summerskill argued that Lib Dem equal marriage plan could cost up to £5bn
    From: Jonathan Finney To:
    Cc: info

    Dear Omar
    Thanks for taking the time to get in touch. The article which appeared on Pink News following Stonewall’s event at the Liberal Democrat conference on Monday evening misrepresented what Stonewall actually said on the issue of civil partnerships and same-sex marriage. We issued a statement on this issue, which you can read via our website here.

    At the moment we’re taking views from our supporters on the future of civil partnerships. We think that it’s really important for us to understand the range of views on this issue.

    I hope this reply is helpful.

    Jonathan Finney
    Head of External Affairs
    Switchboard: 020 7593 1850
    Info Line: 08000 50 20 20
    Registered in England and Wales: Stonewall Equality Ltd, Tower Building, York Road, London SE1 7NX
    Registration no 02412299 – VAT no 862 9064 05 – Charity no 1101255

    From: Omar Kuddus []
    Sent: 23 September 2010 20:04

    Subject: RE; Stonewall boss Ben Summerskill argued that Lib Dem equal marriage plan could cost up to £5bn

    Dear Sir

    In regards can you please explain the artical and the responces/comments to it:

  116. “At the moment we’re taking views from our supporters on the future of civil partnerships. We think that it’s really important for us to understand the range of views on this issue.”

    Whar exactly have they been doing over the past 5 years.

    This response is offensive in the extreme.

    Are Stonewall confirming that they’ve no idea about the attitude of the LGBT community towards marriage equality.

    If they are only ‘taking views’ on the matter now, then why are they sending their leader to campaign against marriage equality on the sly?

    What is their agenda?

    And why the continuing refusal to engage with either the gay press or public.

    Enough is enough.

  117. Please can one of these “supporters” post something when they actually get consulted, I’m fascintated to know who is a “supporter” and how they are consulted about this affair??

    I had assumed that Stonewall regarded the general LGBT community were their supporters but obviously this isn’t the case.

  118. Let’s see what Cardinal Summerskill gets up to at the Labour Party Conference this week

  119. “Let’s see what Cardinal Summerskill gets up to at the Labour Party Conference this week”

    If the issue of marriage equality comes up then I wonder will he excuse himself and leave the room.

    Stonewall still officially pretend not to have an opinion on marriage equality. Therefore it will be entirely inappropriate for him to contribute anything to that discussion.

    Hopefully he will have been sacked by the time of the Labour Party Conference, however. His behaviour at the Lib Dem conference was utterly appalling.

  120. Matthew Schuetz 24 Sep 2010, 4:51pm

    I’ve been in contact with Stonewall on this issue and as in the redesigned article at the behest of Stonewall they claim they have never expressed a view on marriage equality….this isn’t true… they have just not directly and what they have expressed is negative indicating that they do not support equal marriage rights for gay and straight people.

    They constantly soundbite the fact that some gay people do not want to get married however rarely point to the many that do. Secondly why mention the estimated £5 billion cost? Surely cost does not matter when it comes to rights and principles? Stonewall has made a hash of this issue and have lost the respect and regard many people held them in. They appear to be selective in their support of gay rights. It’s sad when a high profile organisation that is supposed support the lgbt community divides who to support within the community.

    In response to Stonewall’s arguement that not all gay people want to get married especially some women – If gay marriage became a reality not all gay people would have to get married to have a state recognised relationship. Alternative relationship ceremony’s would be available such as civil partnerships. And should those that want marriage be denied it ecause of those that don’t? I can smell a whole load of selective gay rights support here. It doesnt make sense for Stonewall to behave like this nor show more tansparency in their ‘consultation’ process with their members and why it is taking them so long to come to a policy conclusion on the subject.

    I truly believe they do not support gay marriage and are looking for every excuse not to. We may just have to do it without them and in doing so they will become redundant.

  121. Perhaps they intend to consult their supporters next week at the labour party conference!!

    Stonewall and the Summerskill name have quite a lot of links with Labour. How supportive are the labour party of the current lib dem policy on marriage equality, would they support it in this current parliament? Would it really do labour much good if the tory coalition party succeded where they didn’t?

    We’ve had the lib dem take on what they think of Stonewall’s support is, what is the labour party’s thinking on this whole issue and Stonewall lack of support. Terribly convenient to come out with a right wing tory argument of costs during a lib dem conf, terribly convenient to add fire and cause a rift in the coalition when Clegg discusses this with Cameron….

    Sorry but this whole affair stinks!

  122. My place of work is a Stonewall diversity champion. We certainly have not been consulted. If we do I’ll let you all know – with a description of the pigs flying past the window.

  123. Don Harrison 25 Sep 2010, 6:23pm

    I only wish the Fringe meeting had been recorded. I will make sure that it is next year in Birmingham

  124. How disappointing the article was suspended. I think valuable passionate comments were made that Stonewall needed to be aware of. I must say that much of what was allegedly reported I had already heard some years previously from Ben, so was not entirely surprised, but still offended. But putting that to one side. The Liberal Democrats who are part of the coalition government and the new Labour leader support gay marriage. What are you playing at Stonewall? Wake up dammitt and get behind the fight for gay marriage and full equality…

  125. BS does seem to be a big fish in a small pool but as long as you have a good pair of sturdy wellies you don’t have to get your feet wet , also there is the option to just walk around the pool completely!

  126. I work for a large law firm, a diversity champion. We have not been consulted as yet. If we are (pigs might fly) I will let you all know.

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