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Comment: Stonewall should distance itself from Ben Summerskill’s Lib Dem equal marriage comments

  • Steve Clarke-Keating

    “For Ben Summerskill to suggest that the Liberal Democrats somehow
    only supported Equal Marriage out of cynical opportunism is deeply
    offensive to me and to my colleagues.”

    Why? Everything else the Tory enabling Lib Dems have done so far has been from cynical opportunism or more opportunism of any kind. Souls were sold back in 2010 across the board, and there’s no coming back from it, so deal with it!

    • Andrew Page

      Plenty of mistakes have been made by the Lib Dems.

      However, the party’s position on marriage equality has been utterly consistent. The Lib Dems have continued to champion equal marriage and to suggest that this is happening simply as a result of cynical political manoeuvrings is wrong in fact.

      Given that Stonewall reps (including Summerskill) attending the Lib Dems’ conference back in 2010 spoke out AGAINST marriage equality, suggesting it wasn’t wanted by most within the LGBT community and would be too expensive (as Pink News reported, this is quite unbelievable stuff from Ben Summerskill. He knows perfectly well that the party has been promoting same-sex marriage for longer than he has been opposing it.

      The simple fact is that the Lib Dems, since before the last general election, have called for equal marriage. It now is reality.

      I can only imagine that Ben Summerskill has some cynical political motivations for making this kind of statement now.

      Should Stonewall distance themselves from these words? Yes, just as it seems to have distanced itself from the ludicrous position it took up in 2010.

      • Derek Northcote

        “Should Stonewall distance themselves from these words?”

        Stonewall should distance itself from ever having employed Mr Summerskill.

  • Scott D

    I’m not sure why any organisation would have to distance itself from comments from any Exemployee? He no longer speaks for them. I think your comments also detract that there is new and fresh leadership at Stonewall in the form of the grounded Ruth Hunt, who is more comfortable on the challenging of homophobia in inner city areas or rural communities than her predicesor. She is also of course a woman and lesbians or bisexual women very rarely are seen leading the debate. Stonewall under Ruth quickly engaged with Trans groups and this is a bigger debate especially for those who are straight and Trans how would a LGB charity link with them without the activity possibly confusing the education message? So this story is another non story I’m afraid. Many people don’t care is these minnor issues, perhaps working with the NHS to address the huge LGBT health inequalities is a better use of your time?

    All that said there are grass roots LGBT charities looking for support perhaps supporting inner city LGBT student paying of those huge debts the lib dems suddenly stood silent on!

    • Andrew Page

      All this is of course true and I’d like to add to that assessment of Ruth. She’s excellent.

      But ex-employees, especially when they’re vocal like Ben – and let’s be honest, he still has a larger profile than Ruth and continues to be associated with Stonewall – have an ability to damage the public perception of the organisations they once represented.

      Of course the health inequalities are something that much more energy should be focused on. That’s an even bigger challenge, and one which cannot be ignored.

      Finally – in regards the tuition fees, the Lib Dems were NEVER silent! Confused, maybe! As to how they voted – 28 voted for raising tuition fees, 21 against and 8 abstained. Which meant a majority did NOT (and should not be accused of) voting to increase fees. Now, it was hardly the party’s finest moment and I was as critical of the way the party dealt with it as anyone, but it was hardly a global sell-out.

      • bobbleobble

        That 21 Lib Dems discovered they had consciences is little comfort to the university students now to be saddled with huge debts upon leaving university. However, to describe a betrayal not just of a manifesto promise but of a major pledge around which such as fuss was made as ‘hardly the party’s finest hour’ is seriously underplaying things.

        • Andrew Page

          I’ve described it in much stronger terms elsewhere.

          And it was a ridiculous pledge in any case because (even although I agreed with it) the findings of the Browne Review (commissioned by the outgoing Labour government) were always going to recommend increasing fees. The party handled it in the worst way possible, angering practically everyone in the process.

          But that’s not the issue here – I was simply stating a) that the party was far from silent (unless internal but public conflict can be described as silence) and b) that the entire party cannot be judged by the votes of 28 of the (then) 57 MPs.

          The issue here is that someone, whose national profile (and the respect given to him by the likes of The Guardian) is derived from his former role with Stonewall, has made claims that a particular political party is using the issue of marriage equality as a cynical political ploy to differentiate itself from its coalition partner. There is absolutely no evidence to support this, whatever one’s views of the said parties.

          On the other hand, the individual in question could justifiably be accused of a) cynically using both the equality issue and his former association with Stonewall for his own purposes and b) insulting the many people within the Lib Dems and other parties who have campaigned for this change in the law.

          I actually agree with Jeremy Wright (above) that the legislation is less that what I would like, but it’s better than anything that’s been on the table previously. By all means criticise people for not going far enough, but to suggest mean-spirited motivations is both factually inaccurate and a poor reflection on Stonewall.

          • Jeremy Wright

            The reality is the tuition fees debacle is the Lib Dems’ own doing, because the Tories could not have got it through on their own and Labour, Lib Dems and others would have had enough to defeat the proposals. Anyway, students are busily getting skewered by older generations complaining there’s no money left.

            On the equal marriage I welcome the note of agreement, but if the Lib Dems wanted to make a big deal out of it, they should have shown what imprint they had on the bill as the junior coalition partner. So far as I can tell if Cameron was always going to introduce it as seemed likely and was going to need Labour votes to get it through it seems as though the Lib Dems were mere bystanders. Wouldn’t be the first time.

          • Robert J Brown

            Labour were the ones who brought in tuition fees.
            Have you noticed that when in Government Labour enacted MANY of the issues / policies / betrayals that they are now speaking out against including:
            – introduction of tuition fees
            – unequal marriage
            – spending 11% more on private than public health
            – increased privatisation of the prison system
            – increased privatisation of social housing
            – lack of affordable / social housing building
            – failure to end detention for children of refugee / asylum seekers
            – failure to lower the bottom rate of income tax
            – failure to introduce a form of PR / AV voting when they got in to power in 1997
            – taking the UK to at least two wars on false pretences
            I could give you another 10 examples, however I shall stop here.

        • RJ

          Considering Labour brought in tuition fees initially when they were in Government seems to have been lost on many people – especially when they promised that they wouldn’t. Interesting that isn’t it.

  • Robert in S. Kensington

    It will be interesting to see how StonewallUK reacts to this one. I doubt very much Ruth Hunt, the acting director will be able to add much although she seems to be very competent and doing a good job.

    To digress, since Pink News started this new system usijng Disqus, I don’t find it very efficient especially when trying to switch to the comments. It takes a minute or two before they display with a message to that effect from Disqus.

    • Cal

      Hi Robert, I much prefer the Disqus system. It informs you she others have replied to you and let’s you edit those inevitable iPhone typos.

  • Russ

    “Let us not forget, as well, that Stonewall continues to only represent the LGB parts of our community, seemingly unmoved by the issues concerning transgender people. This includes ‘equal’ marriage not being open to them.”

    I don’t disagree with the first sentence of this paragraph as I believe it to be true. The second is false, however. If equal marriage becomes law, transgender individuals will completely be included as most still exhibit biological characteristics of one gender or the other. I understand they don’t psychologically identify with one or the other, but the government only uses your biological gender to identify your eligibility for marriage. We are fighting for the rights of any two people who want to marry to have that opportunity. Regardless of their psychological belief in who they are, they are still legally required to include their biological gender when applying for a marriage license. I’m not saying it’s right, but I get really annoyed when writers just make things up to piss people off.

  • Jeremy Wright

    To be honest I am not alone in supporting same sex marriage but thinking it was a semantic distinction as enacted. If the Lib Dems were serious about making a difference, they could have lobbied strongly for LGBT people to be able to marry in all British representations globally and indeed dropping the term “same sex marriage” but just marriage without gender definition as they have done in the Netherlands. They sold out, they got a shoddy bill which means that for some bizarre reason civil partnerships can only be “upgraded” 9 months later and gay rights were really not advanced a great deal but merely in titular form. They sold out to get power and six figure salaries for the first time in nearly a century, I am sick of Lib Dems saying how they stand on principle, the electoral annihilation awaiting them is richly deserved.

  • Martin_Veart

    I know Matthew through social media and have been long aware of his campaigning on behalf of LBGT folk. As a Liberal Democrat, I have also been long aware of the issue from within the party.

    In fact, there is very little debate from within the party on the issue of equal rights marriage. I can think of only a few dissenting voices, with the overwhelming majority of both MPs and the grassroots supporting equality.

    That makes Mr Summerskill’s claim of opportunistic cynicism ring rather hollow. Many parties reckon that come the next election there will be the votes of many ex-Liberal Democrat voters up for grabs. The party is therefore going to come in for a bashing from all corners: left, right and green.

    So on this occasion, the cynicism does not come from us.

  • Simon Best

    If you look at Ruth Hunt’s tweets today she has distanced Stonewall from Summerskill’s comments and clearly put Stonewall’s position. Why should she be forced to distance Stonewall from the comments of someone who left the organisation months ago? Ridiculous.

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