In a comment piece for PinkNews.co.uk, Matthew Sephton, chairman of LGBTory says it’s vital that the LGBT community continues to press the case for marriage equality among all parliamentarians.
There has been lots of coverage recently on the government’s plan to legislate for equal marriage. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has consistently promised that his proposals will be on the statute books by 2015, which is groundbreaking. He is the first ever prime minister to argue for equal marriage and also the leader of the first major party to officially recognise the issue of equal marriage in a general election campaign (see page 14 of the Conservatives’ Contract for Equalities, published before the 2010 election).
However, he has come under fire from many sides on this issue, most notably rich and powerful lobbies including some religious groups and the ironically-named “Coalition for Marriage”, who are holding a private “rally” at Birmingham Town Hall today with high-profile opponents of equal marriage speaking. This is despite the fact that the proposals currently on the table refer to civil marriage and that there are none to compel religious groups to do anything, either on civil partnerships or on same-sex marriage. So what should be done?
I am personally proud that it is a Conservative prime minister who is leading on this. I don’t for one minute take away from what the last Labour government achieved on LGBT issues. This included completing the equalisation of the age of consent for homosexual sex, which already had been reduced from 21 to 18 under the previous Conservative government (with a Conservative MP – Edwina Currie – the first to table a motion for equalisation), and the introduction of civil partnerships.
However, marriage equality is an issue upon which individuals from all mainstream parties must now be united in common purpose. Recent petty point scoring from certain people across the political spectrum is just plainly immature and dangerous to our cause. No matter how approaches differ on a wide range of issues, on equal marriage we have to show a united front. The old adage of “United we stand, divided we fall” comes to mind here and I know that it is as relevant now as it ever was.
As an officially-affiliated but wholly voluntary Conservative Party group, LGBTory has a stand at this year’s party conference. We are here in Birmingham to showcase our point of view publicly to delegates from the grassroots of the party and right up to cabinet level. We are proud to be supporting David Cameron and what his government aims to achieve on equal marriage. We are also correcting any misconceptions that some people may still have about what is being proposed.
More significantly, we are encouraging as many people as possible to lobby their own respective Member of Parliament on this issue and we have produced postcards for people to send to their MP, to make it as easy as possible. I have said myself in many interviews, whether here on PinkNews.co.uk, on GaydarRadio or on the BBC that it is only a very vocal minority who are being outspoken in their opposition to equal marriage and these cross party lines. However, I have also spoken to numerous Members of Parliament who say they have had many letters opposing the government’s proposals on equal marriage – and some MPs are worried about supporting the measure.
So we come back to what should be done? Well, if we are serious about wanting to see equal marriage on the statute books, backed by as many MPs as possible (which is crucial for maximum credibility of the legislation), it is our responsibility to leave any party divisions behind and let each of our representatives be in no doubt that this is the case. It is vital that we speak out, because otherwise, those who would rather lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans people did not exist, or those who believe that a particular religious definition of marriage is the only one, could well, in their minority, see a great victory, regardless of whether they achieve their ultimate aim of defeating these legislative proposals.
Matthew Sephton is the chairman of LGBTory. Views expressed in this article are his own and not that of PinkNews.co.uk