May 21, 2013

IconWe’re all just pawns to the Tories

For the most part, there has never been a better time in history to be LGBT on this earth. But every so often, in my Western middle class world, the march towards full equality halts for a breather, or there’s a skirmish by the baggage train, and you get brutally woken up to the fact that, actually, the reason there’s a campaign for equality is because there’s people in the world that actually don’t see you as human and deserving of respect.

I am referring, of course, to the Tories, of whom many appear to think gays are just a hippy newfangled case of political correctness gone mad and can be easily cast aside in pursuit of cheap political potshots at their party apparatus. Tim Loughton MP, egged on by sneaky right-wingers and what passes for the religious right in this country, tabled an amendment this evening to the Same Sex Marriage Bill that would open up civil partnerships to opposite sex couples. Now, I don’t think that there’s actually that many people that think that when same sex marriage comes in, gays should just keep civil partnerships all to ourselves in some sort of amusing gay privilege scenario, but for some reason this amendment would require the entire bill to be overhauled and put it back by several years, possibly cost £4 billion (claimed Cameron, Labour disputes this). The entire situation was less “free the straighties!” than “annoy David Cameron!” Labour, wanting to embarrass the government but also for teh gays, has been umming and ahhing all day over what to do in response.

I won’t comment on the madness of the determination of Conservative backbenchers to derail what is a serious effort by David Cameron to capture the centre ground politically and swipe Labour’s deservedly proud reputation for legislating on progressive social issues. But I was surprised by the sudden reminder that actually to some people, I don’t matter. I am 24 years old, and when I was in primary school in the 90s, I was shocked that they even had Simon and Tony on Eastenders. Then I grew up under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and the sea-change of attitudes and legislation that has brought Parliament to this point happened. When I was in secondary school, we had this peer sex education scheme where the sixth formers taught the Year 9s about sex – I was banned from mentioning homosexuality by one of the maths teachers because “there’s legal problems” and when I pointed out that said legal problems had been repealed three years before, was told firmly to drop it. But that was a strange incident because it was so unusual.

And now we’ve got members of our political class who have been democratically elected making out that the rights of gay and bisexual people are just another political ball to be thrown around, which is just appalling. I’m shocked and appalled. Wow, is this what is feel like to be gay in Missouri? Wow, was I just able to make a serious analogy of 21st Century Britain with Missouri? Because I can, because of this:

“I warn her, I fear the playing field is not being levelled I believe the pendulum is swinging so far the other way, and there are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this as but a stepping stone to something even further”

- Sir Gerald Howarth MP, this evening in the House of Commons, apparently making a serious claim that gays are planning to take over the world

Ironically, mere hours before the vote that took place, the Church of Scotland voted narrowly this afternoon to ordain and admit gay and lesbian ministers. Again, disappointing that it was narrow, but for the Church of Scotland it’s a leap forward. For the Tories to be rampaging around the House whining about “irrelevancy” and “discrimination against Christians” is a step backwards. Into a large, black hole of cynicism (for them) and sadness (for us).

In any event, Labour cleaned up their act, got behind the bill and voted down Tim “Lout” Loughton’s “wrecking” amendment 375-70 and the Same Sex Marriage boat sails onwards to the Lords, where more hostile Tories will continue to stab the gay community with a thousand tiny malevolent pinpricks. Hopefully, they’ll lose majorly there as well. But it’s sad that there’s still a significant minority of people at the highest levels of our society who don’t get that LGBT people want to get on with their lives and that marriage for many LGBT people is a part of that.

But enough sadtimes. Happy thoughts. I am going to be ordained on July 2014, and I am looking forward immensely to the legalisation of same sex marriage in 2015. I am so pleased that so many of my friends, who have been together for decades in some cases, will be finally be able to have their relationship recognised and publicly santified on the same basis as their straight counterparts. I am going to conduct as many gay weddings as my schedule will allow, and nothing will stop me. It’s going to be great! And gay. It’s going to be great and gay.

…as long as the bill passes, that is. Many Tories claim that the focus on the government should be on the economy and not on “social issues”. In which case, when the Bill comes up for the Third Reading, I suggest they think about the boost to the economy of all those extra gay weddings, and walk through that Yes lobby.

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Sarah McCulloch


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