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Stonewall co-founder Michael Cashman: What part of ‘equality’ can’t Stonewall understand?

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  1. Ben Summerskill does not need to speak out in favour of equality.

    I suspect the reputation and legacy of Stonewall is irreparably damaged.

    The LGBT community does not need Stonewall to represent us. We simply need to make sure that those in power realise this.

    The LGBT Rights movement existed before Stonewall. It will survive without them.

    I think Stonewall should disband. They have lost all their credibility through their lack of transparency in deciding how their agenda is decided.

  2. Jock S. Trap 27 Sep 2010, 2:55pm

    I just can’t understand why those who don’t want to marry clearly think no-one else should either. Don’t they get it full equality means having the choice to marry or not. Why be so selfish as to deny others just because you don’t?

    A well written piece this and the likes of Ben Summerskill should read and take note!!

  3. Even if Stonewall decide to finally support LGBT equality (5 years after they should have been campaigning for it), there will still be serious questions to be asked about Stonewall.

    Most importantly I do NOT want a group like Stonewall claiming to represent me, unless I have a much clearer idea about how they decide their agenda, and who they are answerable to.

    Stonewall can never be trusted again unless this is clarified.

    But as I alreadyu said, my preference would be for Stonewall to disband.

    Stonewall’s betrayal of LGBT equality is unforgiveable.

  4. I agree for the most part with Michael. Stonewall will be aware that even heavily catholic countries like Spain and Portugal have gay marriage already. South Africa has gay marriage and there are increasingly more countries who have gay marriage. These are countries one would have thought to be way down the list to adopt these measures. Why is Britain not leading on this? Too much time has been wasted so grab this opportunity with both hands Stonewall and lets get gay marriage done now.

  5. Gentleman, I agree with all of you. Summerskill should either get on board or get off and take StonewallUK along with him Peter Tatchell would do a far better job running it. Now there’s a man, a trail blazer, who personally wouldn’t want to marry but will fight for the right of those of us who do. That’s what leadership is. Michael Cashman also demonstrates superb leadership and puts Summerskill to shame, they both do.

  6. Mr. Cashman makes an excellent point.

    You can’t make a personal statement against marriage by being denied the option of marriage by the government.

    You make a statement about a personal ideological issue with marriage by having full access to it but choosing NOT to participate in the institution.

    Ellen Degeneres’ wife Portia not only married Ellen but just recently changed her sir name to Degeneres. I find it ironic that some feminists argue that a woman shouldn’t have the right to make that choice for herself. With some feminist the message seems to be, my body/my life, my choice, UNLESS it’s a choice that some radical feminists don’t agree with.

    Feminism means having choices and the freedom to freely and without coercion make an informed personal decision. It DOESN’T mean having the GOVERNMENT make decision for you and it doesn’t mean having the GOVERNMENT limiting your options.

    I’ll say it for the 100th time.

    If you don’t like gay marriage, DON’T MARRY SOMEONE OF THE SAME SEX!

    If you don’t like marriage, DON’T GET MARRIED!

    It’s really very simple.

  7. Another Stonewall co-founder, Sir Ian McKellen, is set to unveil a Blue Plaque in honour of Peter Tatchell this Wednesday. Hopefully Sir Ian and Peter T will also take the opportunity to say a word or two about marriage equality.

  8. Patrick Lyster-Todd 27 Sep 2010, 4:13pm

    I am a ‘supporter’ of Stonewall – in the sense that I donate to them monthly. I don’t think this necessarily gives me any right to input to their agendas; that’s not why I donate. However, I do think it a little strange for Ben to say that Stonewall is consulting widely on this issue and not to be asked for my view in this instance …

  9. Patrick, by donating, you’re enabling Summerskill to continue resistance to campaign for marriage equality. Deny them financial support and you weaken them and their influence along with it. Its waning anyway, Summerskill is totally out of touch with reality if he can’t support those of us by actively campaigning for it. If he can’t multi-task then he shouldn’t be in the job. Peter Tatchell can run rings around him with his eyes closed.

    Hayden, well said. Dave, I think Sir Ian and Michael Cashman should support Peter Tatchell who I think would be a far better qualified leader to run StonewallUK if it were possible. Otherwise, it is making itself irrelevant while it resists officially endorsing civil marriage equality. He should be representing all of us not just those who think as he does. Obviously he doesn’t, so its time for him to go. He’s worn out his use. Time to replace him with some who believes in genuine fully equality.

  10. “I am a ‘supporter’ of Stonewall – in the sense that I donate to them monthly. I don’t think this necessarily gives me any right to input to their agendas.”


    But how Stonewall decides their agenda and who they are answerable to is clouded in mystery. And that is entirely unacceptable, when they position themselves as speaking on behalf of a community, whose feedback they never seek.

    Even if Stonewall decide to finally support LGBT equality, their refusal to interact with the LGBT population is a major problem for them.

    It is incomprehensible how massively out of touch Stonewall is on the marriage equality issue.

  11. Stonewall’s refusal to either sack Ben Summerskill or to issue an immediate clarification which spells out clearly their position on marriage equality, simply illustrates the contempt in which Stonewall holds the LGBT population.

    They claim to be ‘consulting’ their members on marriage equality. Why on earth for? It is crystal clear to the entire world that it’s what the LGBT population wants.

    Or are Stonewall too scared of annoying the ‘some’ lesbians who are opposed to LGBT marriage equality.

    You’ve had 5 years to clarify your position. That’s enough time.

    Why the delay? Is Stonewall the issue will blow over? Well it won’t – the betrayal by Ben Sunmmerskill of the LGBT population at the LibDem conference is among the most treacherous actions possible by him.

    It won’t forgotten. Even if Stonewall decides to support equality, Summerskill still has to go.

  12. Well done Michael for speaking-up, a good article. Shame on Ben Summerskill and Stonewall.

  13. Merseymike 27 Sep 2010, 5:13pm

    Stonewall is essentially a lobby group with an appointed ‘group’ of directors. I think the problem here which this issue has raised, is that in the past, we all pretty much knew what the issues were and Stonewall appeared to do pretty well in picking those up and moving forward
    But here, for some reason, Stonewall appear to be fatally out of touch. I think they appear to listen much too hard to extreme radical feminists such as Julie Bindel, whose views are representative of a very small number of people. That doesn’t mean they should be ignored, but ultimately Stonewall need to tell them that their views are not those of the vast bulk of LGB & T people and on an issue where very clearly, people do believe in marriage equality, they should be with the people not standing aside representing a minority view

    Stonewall have never consulted about anything before and I too have received no communication. Its blatantly obvious what the community think – look at any discussion board, anywhere, on this issue. I don’t know how much this agenda is that of Ben Summerskill, or of the managing Group. In either case, they do need to re-connect with us and recognise that they have got this wrong – and soon, before they lose all credibility

  14. Agree with much of what is said (mainly because not a lot of it is new – regular readers know Marcus and Roberts are not Stonewall fans) but from what I’ve read in various places it seems that Ben Summerskill is who people have the problem with on this.

    Surely the ethos of that organisation set up in 89, and the good work they do in so many places like with work and school stuff, must be worth preserving but just with a new hand at the wheel?

    I’d hate to see Stonewall go under because of this and we lose all the positives an organisation like this can, and has, achieve with the right direction.

  15. Well done Michael Cashman – thanks!

    Any up to date news on that motion?

    Sounds like we might not need Stonewall afterall if more and more MPs and MEPs arespeaking out for it. Nice if we got some more good news like this from some other labour MPs this week. Ben Bradshaw, Chirs Bryant and others – do you agree with Michael???. Thanks for giving Stonewall a clear signal on what Labour’s intentions are, is that what BS meant by consulting his supporters?

  16. Good article for most part but I agree stonewall is finished, they don’t support lgbt people, they aren’t accountable to the lgbt community and we don’t know who they are accountable too.
    I too dont get the argument that I don’t like same sex marriage so we don’t want it, I personally want to get married I love my boyfriend and civil partnerships sound like I’m starting a business with him not committing ourselves to each other, but I am happy for others to have civil partnerships it’s their choice.
    My biggest issue with this article is that there are many entitlements that come with the word marriage so our virtual equality isn’t that equal

  17. Mike Savant 27 Sep 2010, 7:08pm

    … as was posted last week, it is now too late for Summerskill. When political leadership is ahead of equality lobbying, there is something seriously wrong. Stonewall’s public facing agenda is endangering civil liberties. It is shocking that Cashman has had to ‘come-out’ again. Ditto Brian Paddick.

  18. Bravo, Michael Cashman.

    Come on, be a big man, Ben Summerskill. Hang you head. Apologise. Change course. Be seen by history to have seen that you erred and were big enough to acknowledge it.

  19. Thanks Dave for the posting – so if I got it right , marriage equality is not being discussed at this labour conf and it came 13th in the priority list !

    Perhpas we do need stonewall!!! What signal exactly are they giving Stonewall, Cashman says do it now! labour party says but not quite yet, priority 13 – so do pray let us know when it does become priority 1!!!!

  20. Last week, Ben Summerskill claimed that the arguments against Stonewall’s position on gay equality were political- pointing the finger at the Liberal Democrats. Today’s criticism by a Labour MEP, and the man responsible for the founding of Stonewall, show that it’s not political at all. It’s about Stonewall’s lack of action in this area.

    I actually want Stonewall to carry on, I want to be able to support them, but I can’t for as long as Ben Summerskill remains in charge. Either he should hold his hands up and admit that he was wrong, or he should leave. Either course will allow Stonewall to rebuild its tarnished reputation and give us a charity the whole community can be proud of.

  21. Elena Gordon 27 Sep 2010, 8:45pm

    A bit concerned that feminists who are perfectly entitled to their opinions are getting a bashing because this is a defence that Ben S choses to use to justify his position.

    Stonewall has done some great work but seems to have lost its way. I dont agree with “marriage” nasty oppressive organisation that’s been used to oppress women for centuries, can’t imagine why anyone would want it. A lot of very sentimental claptrap.

    If you want a church inspired institution go to a church, (if you want to touch them with a bargepole)if you want legal rights and responsibilities go to the state BUT… it still doesnt make any sense to me why Ben S is taking the position he or why he is communicating so badly when being paid such a LOT!

    The explanation I have received is that they are not against it just not campaigning for it based on the priorities of their “members”. That’s reasonable unless (as above) they haven’t actually asked their members and the people who provide funds for them. It is however reasonable for them to direct their campaigns according to the wishes of their membership but it doesn’t seem like this is what they are doing.

    I think BenS has dug out a feminist critique because it suits a position he has already taken so I think people should consider whether a bit of feminist bashing is really appropriate especially given the raw and undiluted misogyny that I encounter from *some* gay men.

    Stonewall has been a great advocate, it does seem to have lost its way and does seem to be out of touch. Maybe they need a new person heading them up, I am not convinced by some of the anti-homophobia stuff in schools. The £5Bn seems to refer not to the cost of gay marriage but to the cost of hetriosexuals abusing the right to Civil Partnerships to gain tax advantage from non-spouses. The abuse by hetriosexuals of Civil Partnerships would seem to be a strange argument to deny lesbian and gay people the right to the word “marriage”, which is ultimately what this is all about a single church inspired word.

    For the sake of the millions of women who have been enslaved, sexually and in every other way throughout history by this institution, I cannot want or campaign for it but I wont obstruct those of you that do.

    When I worked as a volunteer for Stonewall, I went to the Age of Consent debate at the House of Commons. It was funny how there were *equal* numbers of gay men and lesbians despite this legislation not applying to lesbians at all…among them a number of feminists. Funny that!

  22. Ian Bower (Lincoln) 27 Sep 2010, 9:01pm

    Quote: ‘can’t imagine why anyone would want it.’ (marriage)
    I’ll give you just one of many reasons.
    Two people I know are not allowed to get married because of their sexuality. The result – they are forced to live 5000 miles apart with only brief visits. If they were married they could live together.

  23. @Elena Gordan, I’m sure the “raw and undiluted misogyny that I encounter from *some* gay men” is no worse or more frequent than the raw and undiluted man hating/bashing that we encounter from *some* lesbians and straight women.

    As a lifelong feminist myself I can’t acknowledge one without acknowledging the other. I don’t find one to be less offensive than the other.

  24. I’ve just read an interesting Irish article called Feminism and the same sex marriage debate 2009 , don’t know why the artilce was produced or it’s importance but its conclusion is as below:

    “Same-sex marriage turns on its head the biologistic and ‘natural’ cultural assumptions surrounding reproduction and the family; it carries the potential to subvert and overthrow the historical conception and implications of marriage. By so doing, the ideology and romantic myth of marriage that has long been critiqued
    by feminists is uprooted from its traditions. We should have access to the same legal routes to protect our relationships and families as heterosexuals have, because the situation is otherwise deeply discriminatory and acts to support and maintain a patriarchal and heteronormative agenda.”

    If Stonewall thinks there is a feminism argument which is stopping marriage equality in the UK then please produce some kind of report or numbers backing up the arguments – that’s all we have is a one-liner from BS saying that feminists and some lesbians don’t want it – not very scientific! and not borne out by the Irish report nor from many of the comments on PN….

  25. I see that Labour voted debating marriage equality into 13th place…….Hmmm, seems that the Greens and Lib-Dems have more respect for equality than Labour do at the moment. If the Tories truly wanted to keep Labour out of power they too would back the Lib-Dems on this and consign Labour to decades in opposition. One can only hope that someone in the Tory party is making the right noises in the right ears at the moment. (But I won’t hold my breath).

  26. Celso F Lopez 27 Sep 2010, 11:18pm

    ‘Ben is consulting widely on this issue’… At least we know he has a wide dinner table…

  27. Either sack Summerskill or disband Stonewall…..those are you two options because I can guarantee in a few months time there will be no donations from a community so obviously divided on this issue (sarcasm)

  28. Jock S. Trap 28 Sep 2010, 9:42am

    Just because feminists and some lesbians don’t want marriage is no arguement. Surely the whole purpose of equality is that we All should have the same rights and Then choose as individuals weither we want those rights or not, ie if you don’t want to marry don’t. That would be you equal right not too but don’t go stopping others having their rights to do so!

  29. HelenWilson 28 Sep 2010, 12:57pm

    Its a minority extremist group within feminism that seek a separatist agenda. Most of us who are feminists do not share this viewpoint, we wish they would not present themselves as the mainstream feminist view.

    Many in this extremist group consider themselves political lesbians, ie they are in relationships with women not based on their sexuality but their ideological opposition to men and misogyny.

    They feel they have the right to dictate to the majority of lesbians how we define our relationships. I wish they would just sod off.

  30. Helen, many thanks for that last comment. I have tried to make friends with a good number of lesbians over the years and they just clam up, don’t want to know. It’s purely because I’m a male. Many lesbians have a problem with men, whether gay or straight. Gay men, on the other hand, don’t wish for sexual relations with women but usually DO enjoy women’s company. Alas, because lesbians generally exclude us, we must only form friendships with straight women.

  31. I find it really offensive to make such assumptions about lesbian women! I am a lesbian, and I would love to see marriage opened up as an option to everyone. Then we all have the freedom to make our own choice. I waited ten years before having a civil partnership with my partner, such was my objection to being put into another box, and I would have loved the opportunity to choose!

    And incidentally, my best friends are gay men. I find it really hard to reconcile the image of ‘man hating’ lesbian that people seem insistant on perpetuating.

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