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Comment: Reflections on speaking out for equal marriage before a committee of MPs tasked with changing the law

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  1. Benjamin and James-J, you did a brilliant job on behalf of equal marriage rights for LGBT people. Many thanks.

  2. I bet that if David Burrowes HAD been an MP in 2005-6 HE would have voted AGAINST Civil Partnerships.

  3. Benjamin, you say you wonder if you said the right thing.

    Let me assure you! You not only said the right thing, you said the most powerful thing, and your quotation suggests you said it in an extremely powerful way, in terms of a chain of logic.

    You said: “I do not understand how one can say ‘I am not homophobic, I have nothing against homosexuals, but they can’t get married’, because it really means ‘well I like them, they can do whatever they want, but they can’t have the same rights that I have’. Jewish people, and black people used to have less rights, all sorts of people used to have less rights because of who they were, and for things they couldn’t help. To try and argue that I am not homophobic but I don’t believe you should be able to have the right to do something, I can’t get that.”

    To have had the presence of mind to have spouted out the above in the heat of the moment was to have said the most powerful thing possible. Well done!
    Bravo! Congratulations!

  4. Robert in S. Kensington 13 Feb 2013, 4:28pm

    Congratulations, Ben! You most definitely did say the right thing in response to Burrowes, don’t reproach yourself for that. You were brilliant and so was James.

    As for Burrowes, I very much doubt if he will evolve. He’s far too set in his religious beliefs to even give it consideration. He’s probably safe in his constituency and fears no defeat in 2015. He’s carrying out his church’s agenda and allowing his religious beliefs to take precedence over representing everyone in his constituency. He reall shouldn’t even be in government by allowing religion to guide his decision.

    What I would have liked to have heard not just from you but from other supporters in attendance yesterday would have been a question to Burrowes asking him if he would have considered a CP if they had been available to him and if not why not? It would have been a very revealing explanation as to why he would oppose having one.

  5. Benjamin, I think you did an amazing job. Well done and thank you!

  6. Ben, with all due respect and as much as my mother and I love looking at your portrait photos (sigh), shouldn’t you really be reporting the news as opposed to, erm, starring in it?

    1. Samuel B, I said in another thread today that you have had some good points, but you have now confirmed to me that you also have a streak of sabotage in you. And unfortunately I suspect it may not only be sabotage of the excellent efforts of others, as here, but, I suspect, self-sabotage as well.

      1. I was actually making a very valid point, Eddy.

        How is making this point sabotage, exactly?

        Publishers/editors should cover the news, not be at the centre of it, lest accusations of bias and impartiality arise.

        An MP made some very valid points yesterday regarding PN’s whipping up of its visitor base into a frenzy by naming and shaming, in turn, MPs who did not vote for gay marriage, inviting slurs and cries of “bigot” when many of these same politicians support gay rights and Civil Ceremonies.

        Sorry, but when PN makes the bold statement that its news service is on a par with broadsheet standard journalism, it deserves to be held to account when it slips below the high standard its sets for itself.

        I have criticised PN’s witch hunt against MPs who voted no and been lampooned and pilloried for it, but I will not jump into line just because I am not on the winning side on this issue.

        So I stand by my original post above:- and will no longer bring my mother in to the equation.

        1. On re-reading my original post from yesterday I can see how it can come across as flippant and apologise for any offence caused.

          I clearly need to scrub up on my dilligence!

  7. Dan Filson 13 Feb 2013, 6:03pm

    It is a pity the Committee stage was not televised, since as an avid Parliament Channel viewer I would have watched it. Or was it and I missed it? What puzzles me is why David Burrowes MP thinks his line of questioning is remotely relevant to the progress or otherwise of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2013, or is this just open season on anyone daring to think bigots are bigots?

    1. You can see Ben demolishing David Burrowes at

      I do wish that PN would publish links to relevant source material.

    2. Robert in S. Kensington 14 Feb 2013, 12:37pm

      I understand that both those for and against the bill have a right to comment, but people like Burrowes have NO intention to support it at any stage. They contribute absolutely nothing. No amount of safeguards, protections would be enough for him or any of those in opposition. He made his mind up long before he voted no on February 5. If Jesus Christ appeared before him and endorsed the bill, Burrowes still would not be content. He and his ilk want nothing more than for the bill to fail.

  8. Absolutely the right thing to say. Even the most pro MPs have to appease the antis within their constituency to some extent. They don’t want to lose their jobs and we certainly don’t want the most progressive MPs kicked out at the next election. A common concession is that being anti equal marriage is not the same as being homophobic. Another one is saying that whatever happens with the Bill, (e.g.,) teachers will still be able to assert their own opinions on this issue.

    I understand why MPs say these things but there is no need for the LGBT community to agree. We can go much further in what we say than MPs can. Indeed, without any statistics, I would suspect that the majority of us think that anti equal marriage reflects a belief that LGBT people and their relationships aren’t worthy of equal status. This is simple homophobia in my book.

  9. David Burrowes wants us to respect his right to a dissenting voice. Of course he has a right to dissent.

    However homophobia isn’t just about holding unpleasant views about LGB people, however irrational.

    The problem David Burrowes shares with Lilian Ladelle and Gary McFarlane, is that when you turn a private prejudice into a public act of discrimination it no longer stays a matter of individual freedom of conscience and becomes the engine of all inequality = prejudice + power.

    David Burrowes may well have voiced his opposition in more temperate language than some. He may be against homophobic bullying and support civil partnerships. This bill was about whether LGBT citizens are equal citizens. Voting against the bill implicitly involved believing that heterosexuality should remain uniquely priveleged over homosexuality.

    Sorry David, homophobia = prejudice + power. Voting against LGB equality is by defintion homophobia.

  10. You did really well Ben – easily one of the best speakers!

    Worth pointing out though that equal marriage has come from LGBT rights campaigners not politicians.

    Yes some organisations didn’t support same-sex marriage until recently, but the hard graft had already been done over the course of many years by people like Peter Tatchell in England, and organisations like the Equality Network in Scotland, who were all campaigning for same-sex marriage long before any political leader.

  11. Ben, I felt for you today! I wondered if you felt ambushed by David Burrowes’s line of questioning about commenters on PN. I thought you handled it graciously and effectively.

    As for the more philosophical discussion of whether anti-marriage campaigners are homophobes by definition, you’re right that your response was not a lengthy philosophical treatise. And that was entirely appropriate.

    You explained pithily why gay people get so angry when anti-equality campaigners say “I’m not a homophobe but…” and you also refused to label individuals, including David Burrowes.

    Your reply seemed honest and genuine, rather than heavily prepared, and I think it was the better for that.

    Thank you once more for all your hard work.

  12. Ben handled it very well.

    I think I would have been tempted to be more blunt, along the lines of “if you think that black people should be restricted to the back of the bus, you’re a racist; if you think that gays should be restricted to CPs, you’re homophobic.” !

    But the subtlety is good, because it invites the viewer to draw the appropriate conclusion without actually name calling.

  13. Mr Burrowes then went on to question: “So how do we protect the freedom of conscience?”

    Irrelevant. Freedom of conscience cannot be claimed when deciding on matters of equality and human rights

    So when he asked me “you don’t mean to say I am homophobic”, to which I responded: “I’m not saying you are”, 

    To follow his logic, the person that doesn’t mind black people traveling on the bus as long as they travel at the back is not racist

    Is on racing

  14. Robert in S. Kensington 14 Feb 2013, 12:48pm

    I’m also glad James Walsh raised the issue of CP portability outside the UK something which interested Ben Bradshaw in particular. I think he was surprised to learn that CPs and their inherent rights are not entirely reciprocated in other countries where other forms of legal unions for gay and straight couples are in place, meaning there is no single standard for them, hence inequality affecting the freedom of movement around the EU and elsewhere. It’s a significant in fact a major problem for CPs and makes a very strong caseand good sense, among others, to introduce equal marriage. I’d like to see more emphasis on this one aspect of the equal marriage bill.

    1. Indeed, it is that aspect (brought to my attention, incidentally, by a Christian friend – seen holding the placard three seconds into that persuaded me equal marriage was something worth campaigning for. Prior to her recently convincing me on the matter I could see little practical difference between marriage and civil partnerships in this country.

  15. Many thanks to all of you flying the flag for equal marriage there are still many potholes. You need all the support we can give.

  16. Staircase2 14 Feb 2013, 4:19pm

    Good article, Ben
    And well said!

    And actually, while the definition of ‘homophobia’ talks of ‘extremity’ it is entirely appropriate to use it to describe someone who wishes to deny gay people equality.

    We forget, living as we do in a country where so many frontiers have been already pushed forward, that any desire to quash equality for gay people DOES stem from an aversion to the whole idea of homosexuality.

    We are so used to being accepted by most people for the most part that we forget where that prejudice starts.

    I actually thought that David Burrowes was gay…

    Maybe he does too…

    1. Robert in S. Kensington 14 Feb 2013, 5:27pm

      Regarding Burrowes, I had the same feeling about that. It’s not surprising that some people who protest too much are, hiding behind a marriage. I also had the same feeling about Tim Loughton.

  17. PantoHorse 15 Feb 2013, 2:15pm

    Why is this still appearing in the main section of articles? Others have been published since and are receiving a lot more attention, judging by the comments, which seems to be one of the mechanisms by which stories travel up and down the page.

    The last comment was nearly 24 hours ago (apart from mine) so this should have been bumped down by now.

    1. i) Ben is the owner of the site and when an owner of any publication makes a public declaration, it represents somethign of the way the publication is going. As a result, it is of intrinsic interest to regular readers of the site.

      ii) Many PinkNews readers in various different ways have been doing their bit to fight for marriage equality. In part, that has happened because of the coverage of the issue by PinkNews. This is a way of letting people know that they have contributed as a ‘community’ and not just as a collection of individuals.

      iii) Not all of us have been able to come to the site regularly, and I – for one – wanted to read Ben’s reactions to being grilled by the Committee. I’m grateful that the story is still easy to find.

      1. iv) Perhaps, most vital, Ben is cute. I think it’s important that we all know he has a boyfriend because when I found out, a little bit of me died inside. Another dream crushed. If you can’t see the importance of the rest of the points Ben made here, surely you can see the sense of him delicately informing his many fans that he’s off the market?
        Let’s face it, Benjamin Cohen is the Harry Styles of the Channel 4 news team.
        Now that he’s let it be known that he has a Significant Other, the Samaritans will, doubtless, be setting up a special hotline for people devastated by this news.
        I know I’ll call it…
        Pantohorse, Ben had a ringside seat at an important moment in gay equality in the UK and it’s worth knowing what he made of it. (Also, you can ignore everything else I’ve written, but I meant point iv with intense, panting, tumescent sincerity.)

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