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Outrage as Ben Summerskill claims Lib Dems cynically and opportunistically supported equal marriage

  • Stephen_Glenn

    Small addition to this. The members of the Scottish Liberal Democrats had voted to support marriage equality at their conference in March 2010. This was further vote to a previous call to look at equality on marriage rights taken at Scottish conference long before civil partnerships were even brought in. Summerskill is just yet again having selective amnesia about who amongst others were leading on this issue long before he and Stonewall realised there was a bandwagon that they had to catch up with an jump onto.

  • Sister Mary Clarence

    Its always interesting to see where loyalties really lie.

    It was a surprising and I’m sure unwelcome blow to the Labour Party that the Tories and their Lib Dem coalition partners slipped in an introduced equal marriage, highlighting that Labour had dropped the ball, and there was some criticism of Summerskill at the time, suggesting that his opposition was more to do with him not wanting equal marriage introduced on anyone’s watch other than Labour.

    That seems to be borne out by his latest comments, and suggests all the more that Summerskill’s number one priority has been his Labour chums, and homosexual equality is actually somewhere lower on the list.

    Stabbed in the back? Kicked in the teeth? Yep, all of those thanks Ben!!

    • bobbleobble

      I remember reading speculation about that at the time but I’m not convinced. I think the real reason Summerskill opposed SSM was because civil partnerships were essentially the brainchild of Stonewall. Instead of prostrating ourselves before Summerskill and his organisation in thanks we instead demanded proper equality and not second class citizenship. In a fit of pique Summerskill decided to stab us ungrateful and uppity gays although not so much in the back as directly between the eyes.

    • Jesus_Mohammed

      It’s unfair to say that with regard to equal marriage “Labour had dropped the ball” because if it weren’t for Labour having introduced so much legislation in our favour, including Civil Partnerships, we wouldn’t have had the progression to Same-Sex Marriage.

      • Stephen_Glenn

        When pushed on this in 2009 in Attitude Tony Blair said he didn’t see a need for equal marriage that civil partnership was all that had to be done. Yet even when he was saying it many of us, including many Liberal Democrats were already saying that we needed more, we needed equal marriage and not some special classification of relationship. So yeah I do feel that Labour dropped the ball on this one.

  • Rusty Liberal

    He’s so discredited and his remarks are transparently party political. Expect to see him parachuted in to a safe Labour seat at next years election. Stonewall would do well to be less party political in future.

    • http://davepage.valueofnothing.org.uk/ Dave Page

      I suspect if Labour win the next General Election, Summerskill will go straight into the House of Lords. Pretty sure he could turn a safe Labour seat into a marginal as soon as the voters met him.

  • rapture

    This summerskill homophobe creep really gets on my nerves. He’s contaminated the Stonewall name with his pathetic rhetoric.

  • Steven Gregory

    Conservatives were too stupid to take advantage of the “opportunity” presented by equal marriage. Way to spread your ass in public, moron.

  • Cal

    Summerskill is clearly a self-loathing and self-publicising freak. This is the most ridiculous statement – and outrageous considering his initial stance on equality. What a shame he was is a position of influence for so long.

  • Peter Tatchell

    Stonewall does some amazing valuable work but on same-sex
    marriage they got it badly wrong by refusing to support marriage equality for
    five years.

    They told the government that there was little support for
    it within the LGBT community (untrue); adding that many gay people opposed
    marriage (in reality only a tiny minority). They said civil partnerships were
    sufficient (most LGBT people disagreed).

    As well as briefing against the Equal Love campaign,
    Stonewall also exaggerated the cost of equal marriage; claiming falsely that it
    would be very costly (as if equality can be reduced to a financial equation).

    Stonewall’s refusal to support the equal marriage campaign
    and its arguments against were quoted by homophobes to support their opposition
    to same-sex marriage. The homophobes gloated: “Even Stonewall doesn’t
    support gay marriage.”

    This was hugely damaging to the campaign for marriage
    equality.

    Stonewall only switched to support equal marriage after a
    coalition of other organisations had done the groundwork and after they faced a
    huge LGBT backlash – including harsh criticism from two of their founders, Ian
    McKellen and Michael Cashman.

    After being the latecomer to the campaign for equal
    marriage, now Stonewall brags that it won same-sex marriage; making no
    acknowledgement of the contribution of Equal Love, Out4Marriage, the Coalition
    for Equal Marriage – and many others.

    After appealing to straight people to support gay marriage,
    it is still refusing to support the right of straight couples to have a civil
    partnership. This comes across as selfish and sectarian. What happened to Stonewall’s mantra of equality?

    • Jesus_Mohammed

      Well said, Peter. It’s quite frankly amazing that Summerskill has obviously sought to revise history when throughout the equal marriage campaign we all so often commented upon Stonewall’s lack of support for it.

    • Benjamin Cohen

      Well said Peter

  • David Greensmith

    Summerskill opposed marriage equality until the momentum had already built up and he realised he’d nearly missed the bandwagon. Then he and Stonewall applauded the passing of marriage equality legislation as their victory. He can try to rewrite history in an image he prefers to the reality, but I am not hoodwinked by his mendacity. Nor, I suspect, are many others. This issue and Stonewall’s appalling attitude towards trans people’s rights mean that Stonewall, far from being any kind of real advocacy group, are just a corporate friendly badge whose approval companies and government organisations can use to indicate how gay-friendly they are without that endorsement actually meaning anything. That works for the corporate publicity machines, but doesn’t fool the rest of us.

  • Godric Godricson

    I always mistrusted Stonewall and see that organisation as ‘publicity whores’ ready to claim victories they had no right to claim. When will Ben stop? Even after leaving Stonewall he keeps going.

  • Paul

    Smacks of this being more about Pink News hatred for Ben Summerskill than anything else.

    • http://davepage.valueofnothing.org.uk/ Dave Page

      No, this is more about Summerkill’s hatred for the Lib Dems for exposing his bigotry and hipocrisy in 2010, than anything else.

    • Steven Gregory

      Did you read more than the headline and maybe the first paragraph?

  • kane

    duke of stonewall summerskil exhibiting his usual stupidity

  • Ra

    He is a shitting tool. If he joins labour as a candidate, they can be assured to lose my vote to the Lib Dems.

  • Robert in S. Kensington

    Doesn’t surprise me one bit. What really galls me is that after seeing overwhelming support for equal marriage across the country and especially in Parliament, Stonewall took and received most of the credit and acknowledgement, mentioned many times by MPs in fact with scant reference to C4EM, Out4Marriage, Pink News and others. I think this is a case of sour grapes. Let’s face it, StonewallUK came extremely late to the game but never deserved the recognition it received after the legislation was passed.

  • Jones

    How about you appoint a LGBT person as Chief Executive of Stonewall instead of someone who claimed there was no support for equal marriage within the gay community.

    • http://davepage.valueofnothing.org.uk/ Dave Page

      Stonewall’s new acting Chief Exec, Ruth Hunt, has been pretty good so far at being more aware of B&T issues, and more politically neutral, than Summerskill. Stonewall have a long, long way to go to regain credibility but Ruth’s helping them take the first steps.

    • Tiger Lily

      LGB* you mean. Stonewall is not a charity for trans people. Plus, the added transphobia in which they prop up.

    • Harry

      I have grave doubts about Ben S – bu I did not realise that he was straight! Is that right?

  • Guest

    I would like to thank Pink News, Benjamin Cohen, Peter Tatchell & many others for exposing Ben Summerskill’s hypocrisy over the Equal Marriage campaign.

    I was appalled by Stonewall’s undermining of the Equal Marriage campaign. That an organisation founded to lobby for Equal Rights should chose to give succour to our opponents is an utter betrayal of both itself & those it seeks to represent.

    I myself do not seek to use our new found right to marriage, but that didn’t stop me contributing time, effort & money for those who do. Human Rights are not a zero sum game. If we deny them to others then how can we claim them for ourselves.

  • Sakyamuni

    I would like to thank Pink News, Benjamin Cohen, Peter Tatchell & many others for exposing Ben Summerskill’s hypocrisy over the Equal Marriage campaign.

    I was appalled by Stonewall’s undermining of the Equal Marriage campaign. That an organisation founded to lobby for Equal Rights should chose to give succour to our opponents is an utter betrayal of both itself & those it seeks to represent.

    I myself do not seek to use our new found right to marriage, but that didn’t stop me contributing time, effort & money for those who do. Human Rights are not a zero sum game. If we deny them to others then how can we claim them for ourselves.

    Hywel ap Dafydd

  • john p

    Ben Summerskill is a disgrace for these comments. The only person trying to gain party political mischief, and that’s perhaps too mild is Mr Summerskill himself. The Lib Dems and prior to the the Liberal Party as long promoted Gay rights even before it was thought politically correct to do so. To accuse the Lib Dems of something underhand with their acceptance and wanting to legalise gay marriage is ludicrous. Indeed thanks to the Lib Dems and their coalition government partners the Conservatives we now have it on the statute books. It may be possible to criticise the Lib Dems in government over somethings they have done, but not this for this we should rejoice and thank the government and all MPs that voted for it. Ben Summerskill does himself nor his political playmakers any favours with his childish churlish comments – do grow up Mr Summerskill.

  • Harry Underwood

    Sooo…y’all have an “HRC” in the UK, too? And I mean that in a negative way, BTW.

    And how much more of an idiot could he possibly be?

    • Jesus_Mohammed

      Sorry, Harry. “HRC”? “Homosexual Rights Commission”? “Human Rights Campaign”? What do you mean? :-)

  • Jeremy Wright

    Does anybody really care? A former Lib Dem MP for crying out loud with so many of them due to be “former” at the next election. To be honest Evan Harris is an opportunist at the best of times. He is a profoundly self important individual who is looking to get onto a bandwagon and the fact is the issue may have put water between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives, but the irony is if it weren’t for Labour votes and their blocking of a wrecking amendment equal marriage would have never have come to pass. I am sick of the Lib Dem’s synthetic rage.

    • vversatile

      Yes, Evan Harris has always been an opportunist. But he has also always been a very vocal supporter of LGBT equality.
      Ben, However has always been someone who tries to score cheap points (regardless of the facts). He was the same when he was a reporter.

      • Jeremy Wright

        Well, I can’t say I have encountered much of Ben’s reporting but Evan didn’t object that all the government gave on LGBT equality was a semantic change, rather than what LGBT people have in the Netherlands for instance, but then he isn’t an MP so I can’t see what the fuss is about frankly. He should spend time in the company of his lab rats he might get a better reception and make more of a difference to science than in a party that will be soon to dwindle away at the next election.

    • http://davepage.valueofnothing.org.uk/ Dave Page

      Ironically, this “Labour votes were needed to pass” shibboleth has become another part of rewriting history.

      For the Second Reading, 217 Labour MPs voted for the Bill, and 22 against. It passed by 395 to 170. If no Labour MPs had voted for (but 22 against), it would have passed by 178 to 170.

      For the Third Reading, 194 Labour MPs voted for the Bill, and 14 against. It passed by 359 to 154. If no Labour MPs had voted for (but 14 against), it would have passed by 165 to 154.

      In the Lords, the Dear Amendment to wreck the passage was supported by 16 Labour Peers, and opposed by 160. It was defeated by 390 to 148. If no Labour Peers had voted against (but 16 for), it would have passed by 230 to 148.

      The votes would have been tighter, but the support from almost all Lib Dem MPs oversaw the slim majority of Tory MPs who voted against. No Labour votes in support were required.

      The irony is that you’re using a story where Summerskill is trying to rewrite history, to try and rewrite history. Now that’s sickening, and inspires genuine rage.

      • Jeremy Wright

        You have it wrapped around your neck I am afraid because it is assumed that the opposition parties oppose the governing party’s motions. If Labour had chosen to oppose the legislation, the government would have been heavily defeated ergo it passed on account of Labour votes, because the government couldn’t garner 324 votes of its own, and indeed the majority of votes “for” came from Labour 217/395 at second reading and 194/359 at third reading. Stop manufacturing history and raging about it because Ben is entirely in the right.

        • http://davepage.valueofnothing.org.uk/ Dave Page

          Oh I see, you’re not saying “the Bill only passed because lots of Labour Parliamentarians voted for it”, which is the obvious interpretation of what you said, and untrue. You’re saying “The Bill only passed because Labour didn’t vote en masse against same-sex marriage just because they didn’t put the Bill forward”.

          Well whoop di fucking do, I guess we should be grateful that Labour didn’t actively oppose the thing they merely failed to act on in Government.

        • http://davepage.valueofnothing.org.uk/ Dave Page

          Oh I see, you’re not saying “the Bill only passed because lots of Labour Parliamentarians voted for it”, which is the obvious interpretation of what you said, and untrue. You’re saying “The Bill only passed because Labour didn’t vote en masse against same-sex marriage just because they didn’t put the Bill forward”.

          Well whoop di do, I guess we should be grateful that Labour didn’t actively oppose the thing they merely failed to act on in Government.

          • Jeremy Wright

            Well they could have let the Tories sweat it out for a while longer, especially given the bind they were in then and actually had a manuscript amendment not been tabled by Kate Green to counter the Loughton amendment it is highly unlikely we would be having the first same sex marriages now.

            Labour acted on principle, and frankly what we got from the Coalition, with what supposed Lib Dem influence, was a semantic distinction. Welcome nomenclature notwithstanding it’s a pretty trifling little bill.

          • http://davepage.valueofnothing.org.uk/ Dave Page

            Labour acted on the principle that they adopted after the Lib Dems and Tories.

            Really not sure what you would have preferred out of the “pretty trifling little bill” that Labour would have given you, but it sounds to me like you’re trying to dismiss what is generally considered to be a pretty major step forward for equality in this country, just because it didn’t come from Labour. That isn’t principled, it’s deeply sad.

          • Jeremy Wright

            If it meant my partner and I could get married in a British embassy or consulate anywhere in the world that would be a big change, if it meant that marriage as defined by statute is regardless of the genders that would be a massive step forward. But, this bill doesn’t do that; it changes the nomenclature but not the practicality because it adds a new category of marriage rather than actually redefining civil marriage. Yes one can call oneself married officially which is great but people were already doing that after civil partnerships anyway.

      • bobbleobble

        I suspect however that Cameron would not have risked bringing the votes in the first place had Labour support not been so strong. I also think that without Labour’s backing and the resulting sense of inevitability about the whole thing the votes could have gone the other way. How many Tories and indeed Lib Dems voted in favour because they wanted to be seen as being on the right side of history? It’s impossible to say but I suspect that there are more than enough to overturn the majority.

        The maths doesn’t tell the whole story.

        • http://davepage.valueofnothing.org.uk/ Dave Page

          And what makes you think that Labour didn’t support it after being bounced into touch by support from the Lib Dems and the Tories? After all, they didn’t support it before…

          I just don’t buy this “same sex marriage only happened because of Labour’s good grace in choosing not to vote it down” line. Like you say, the maths doesn’t tell the whole story.

          • bobbleobble

            I don’t know what moved Labour to support SSM. I suspect some of it was shame at being caught on the hop by the Tories and the Lib Dems. However, support it they did and in huge numbers.

            And I genuinely do not believe that Cameron would have risked bringing the issue to a vote had he not known that Labour members would support the proposal.

            You were the one arguing that Labour votes didn’t matter, an argument which I find preposterous at best.

          • http://davepage.valueofnothing.org.uk/ Dave Page

            I haven’t said that Labour votes didn’t matter. Every vote for SSM from any party mattered. What I have said is that the votes of those Labour MPs and Peers in favour were not strictly required for the legislation to pass. That was the original claim which I was rebutting.

          • bobbleobble

            You said, and I quote, ‘No Labour votes in support were required.’ It’s up there in black and white.

          • http://davepage.valueofnothing.org.uk/ Dave Page

            And I also provided evidence for that fact.

            What I’d like is for every party to take pride in its Parliamentarians who supported this legislation, and to be concerned about the ones who did not. What I won’t accept is one party trying to take unilateral credit for the passage of the Bill. Is that so hard?

          • Jeremy Wright

            This is appalling backtracking it really is. First of all you said Labour weren’t even needed even though more of them voted for the legislation than the coalition parties combined. My own MP David Burrowes was the lead speaker against the Bill I am not amazingly concerned, I knew what he was like when he was elected. If there are some people who don’t like equal marriage who gives? I don’t expect everyone to change their view overnight. It’s happened – they will adjust eventually.

          • Matt

            “You don’t get politics do you? It is assumed the opposition will oppose, the government could not have won the vote on its own terms without Labour votes as they didn’t command a majority.”

            You really don’t get politics do you? How can you dispute the actual votes? Without any Labour MPs, all the votes in favour of same sex marriage would still have been won. What’s hard to understand?

          • Jeremy Wright

            Goodness me: what is happening with numeracy in this country? This is blindingly simple, at second reading 565 voted and 5 abstained in the vote right, so how many votes were needed to win the vote (if one excludes the abstentions) 283, did Con+Lib Dems have 283 votes between them…no not even close. Same is true at third reading, 520 or so votes net of abstentions Con+Lib Dems nowhere near 260.

            Is your understanding so warped that we have a fantasy where only government votes count and that we discard opposition votes just so the Lib Dems can put a pathetic gloss on things for their own purposes? Truthfully, however they voted didn’t actually matter as there were enough from Labour and Conservative to do the job. Go back to secondary school, have some maths lessons and then we might have an adult discussion about this rather than Lib Dem delusions of their own influence. Sooner parliament is rid of them the better.

          • Jeremy Wright

            You don’t get politics do you? It is assumed the opposition will oppose, the government could not have won the vote on its own terms without Labour votes as they didn’t command a majority. Civil Partnerships got through on account of Labour votes because they had a whopping majority they didn’t need Tory votes and could have invoked the parliament act if Lords had kicked up more of a fuss.

  • Phil H

    I feel like I’m looking at a cavalcade of freaks. It’s clear this website has a very long standing dislike of Ben Summerskill (genuinely, I think Benjamin Cohen blames him for the loss of his favourite teddy). However, Summerskill also talks nonsense.

    Radical feminists seeing marriage as a form of oppression? Possibly (and they have an argument there…). Summerskill as the conquering hero who tamed them. Maybe not so much.

    As others have suggested, I say lazy politics play here which is really disappointing from a man who should be a ‘community leader’

    • Jesus_Mohammed

      Phil, the fact is that Summerskill has outrageously sought to rewrite history in the mainstream media and it is a journalistic duty, on the part of those who are in the know on this particular matter, to simply ensure that history is NOT rewritten.

    • Benjamin Cohen

      I haven’t seen my teddy bear Baa Baa since me and Ben fell out over his lack of campaigning for same-sex marriage. So perhaps you are onto something.

  • john

    I’m not convinced that Stonewall have really changed at all. I listened to a Radio 4 Today interview with a chap who was complaining about the delay in conversion of CPs; for some reason the BBC had got Ruth Hunt on to put the other side of the argument ??? She seemed to be saying that the delay by the Govt was quite reasonable; she described the conversion as being from a civil partnership to a “civil marriage” (rather than simply to Marriage); she then insisted on saying, inapproprietly as it seemed to me, that many couples did not actually want to convert their CPs, citing her own case (saying she had not yet finished paying off for the CP party and couldn’t yet afford another). I think she also said something along the lines that, whilst not everyone wanted marriage, Stonewall realised that it did mean a great deal to some.
    Overall Stonewall’s attitude to same sex people who want to be recognised as married has always come across as patronising and slightly mocking, as though we are stupid. This doesn’t seem to have changed. One person doesn’t make an organisation & I think Stonewall is still made up of the same old people who are stuck in an out-dated way of thought. They could be seen as depending upon perpetuating unequality.
    Between Ruth Hunt & John Humphires “Gay Marriage” was made to sound like a silly joke

  • RJBrown

    Stonewall have NEVER been a fan of the Liberal Democrats and have spoken out against them on many occasions when Ben Summerskill was in charge. Let us hope they can now actually campaign for everyone and not for those in certain political parties that they like.

    Mr Summerskill must have seriously memory lapses as Stonewall came to the ‘equal marriage’ debate very late in the game, years after the LibDems had been campaigning and fighting for it.

    SHAME ON YOU Mr Summerskill for now bringing Stonewall’s name in to disrepute.

  • john

    looking forward to Rev Richard Coles presenting the doco “Gay Rights: Tying The Knot? is on Radio 4 on Tuesday 18 March at 8pm” ….

    Radio 4 documentary revealing conflicts in campaign for gay marriage by gay rights orgs!
    It will also be interesting to see how many people do opt for CPs after the 29th March. My suspicion is that if the numbers of CPs after this date are small and much less that same sex marriage, the govt will use this as a justification of getting rid of CPs completely.
    Stonewall are still in denial over same sex marriage, they still think CPs are what gay people should want. I honestly don’t know who Stonewall regard as their stakeholders.

  • Vernal Scott

    Stonewall have let down black LGBT people, and continue to do so. They/Ben clearly think all we do is party and shag. Their efforts at consultation with us seemed to be all show and no substance.

    On no less than four occasions I wrote requesting their support, in advance of my meeting with the Jamaican High Commissioner to discuss homophobic murder and persecution in the country. All I got from Stonewall was absolutely nothing! I felt gutted. Phoning them was just as fruitless.

    I hope that Ben’s departure will mark a refresh at Stonewall, and see the organisation work for all lesbians and gays, not just the chosen few with big wallets and skin shades other than black.

    The above said, I am grateful for the things they did get right and, if the opportunity presents itself, look forward to helping them do better in the future. More substance and less gloss, please!

  • Geoff Hardy

    Peter is quite correct. Stonewall did not support same sex marriage until the campaign gained momentum. It was won by Outrage, Equal Love, Shropshire Marriage 4 All and other campaigns by groups and individuals. Stonewall should distance themselves from Ben’s comments and admit that, sometimes, they get it wrong! They do a lot of good work, but didn’t do well on this.

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