Stonewall co-founder Sir Ian McKellen said today that the gay charity should lobby for gay marriage but issues such as tackling homophobic bullying must take priority. He becomes the second co-founder of Stonewall to call on the charity to campaign for gay marriage, Michael Cashman authored a column for PinkNews.co.uk on Monday entitled, “What part of ‘equality’ can’t Stonewall understand?”
He was speaking after the unveiling of a blue plaque outside the home of gay rights activist Peter Tatchell in Southwark, south London.
The veteran actor and gay campaigner told PinkNews.co.uk that although marriage was not for him, he called on Stonewall, the gay charity he co-founded, to put the issue on its agenda.
However, he praised the charity’s “vital” work in tackling homophobic bullying in schools, which he said was a more pressing issue.
Sir Ian said: “[Marriage] is not for me, but as Peter [Tatchell] says, it’s for other people and if people want to get married, whoever they are, they should be allowed to. That’s self-evident to me and all I’ve ever campaigned for is equality for gay people and at the moment there is inequality in that civil partnerships are all that’s available.
“So, I’ve no doubt, that if we wait and wait, eventually it’ll just happen. I mean, everyone calls civil partnership marriage now, so what’s the problem? It’s the sensibilities of some people that think marriage belongs only to them and not to the world.
But he added: “It wouldn’t be top of my priorities. I think there’s other crucial work to be done. Of course, marriage should be available to people of the same gender if they want it.”
The Lord of the Rings star co-founded Stonewall in 1989. The charity has been criticised for not yet having a stance on marriage equality, although chief executive Ben Summerskill warned this week that the issue would need more scrutiny and cross-party support to pass in the House of Lords. Co-founder of Stonewall, Michael Cashman MEP wrote: “I’m disappointed to see Stonewall, the organisation I co-founded 21 years ago, fail to support genuine equality for same-sex couples. We must open up marriage to everyone, and we must do it now.”
Today, Sir Ian said: “Stonewall has not put it at the top of their agenda and that may well a sensible politic thing. There’s a lot that Stonewall has to get on with, like the treatment of gay people in our schools, around the staff or students in the classrooms.
“It’s vital, crucial work that would change people’s lives immediately and frankly I would put that ahead of campaigning for gay marriage.
“But there’s no doubt about that, gay marriage should be on Stonewall’s agenda. Stonewall was founded to establish equality and this is a perfect example of an inequality that needs to be corrected.”