Lobbying the Lords

This lunchtime I went and posted letters to several members of the House of Lords asking them to support the marriage bill. As it has it’s second reading in the Lords on Monday, it couldn’t be more important than now to write to some Lords and encourage them to support the bill.

You can easily contact members of the Lords via WriteToThem, and for some inspiration I’ve included my own missive below:

Dear Lord X,

I wanted to take the opportunity to write and ask you to support the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. I could make a deeply personal and emotive appeal to you – marriage equality would mean a great deal to my partner and I – but I’d like to focus instead on the benefit to society.

This debate has demonstrated how important marriage is to society. The commitment that marriage entails doesn’t just strengthen individual relationships, but society more broadly. It fosters stability and is a public demonstration of love and commitment. As marriage makes society stronger, it follows that allowing all couples to marry, regardless of their gender, will make it stronger still.

By backing the bill with such a sizeable majority, the House of Commons sent a signal to LGBT men and women that they are valued and accepted. This message matters. Attitudes towards homosexuality have undoubtedly progressed enormously, but the effect of the prejudice that remains is severe: gay and bisexual men are 7.5 times more likely to attempt suicide for example.

This untold tragedy is the consequence of a society where homophobic language is endemic in schools and LGBT men and women are implicitly told that they are lesser. This bill triumphantly declares that this is untrue. By legally recognising that same- and opposite-sex relationships are equally valid, we will open the door to visible, committed same-sex marriages that reinforce this message.

I can’t ignore the topic of religion; it’s clearly important to respect religious belief. The Church of England has said the so-called quadruple locks ‘do what they are intended to’, i.e. protect religious groups from being forced to marry same-sex couples. But it also allows groups who wish to marry same-sex couples to do so.

The voices of religious group in support of marriage equality have been drowned out by a very vocal minority; we cannot allow the religious freedom of one group to trump another’s. I use the term minority advisedly. Polling consistently shows that a majority support marriage equality; YouGov’s most recent poll shows 54% support and 37% opposition. This support rises as high as 74% among 18-24 year olds.

Opponents of marriage equality argue that we shouldn’t redefine marriage. In reality, marriage is an institution that has always evolved to reflect society. Polling shows that society’s definition has and continues to expand to include same-sex couples. The time is right for our legal definition of marriage to reflect that.

I urge you to support the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its second reading on Monday 3 June.

Yours sincerely,
Will Knock

Update: Rushanara Ali and equal marriage

So, I haven’t received a response to my email yet, but Rushanara Ali has replied to someone else on Twitter:

“@E3Bloke: you are not on the list supporting Equal Marriage I’m surprised. Must be out of date. Count me in.

Good news then! I’m still looking forward to her full response to my email, but it’s great to know that my MP will be voting in favour of marriage equality. Can’t help but wonder though how the news will go down in some parts of the constituency….

Email to Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow

I’ve finally done something I’ve been meaning to do since I moved in June and have written to my new MP about equal marriage. So, an email is winging its way through cyber space to Rushanara Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow whose support or otherwise for marriage is currently unknown. (See the Coalition for Equal Marriage support page).

The text of my email is below if you’re interested, and I’ll look forward to posting an update when I’ve received a reply.

Dear Ms Ali

I’m writing to you today to ask how you intend to vote on the issue of equal marriage.

As a gay man in a long-term relationship, my partner and I would like to celebrate our commitment to one another through one of our oldest and most important social institutions: marriage.

For me, the introduction of Civil Partnerships was one of the great achievements of the last Labour government and they were clearly an important step in the right direction. I believe though that maintaining a separate legal institution for same-sex couples implies that my relationship is not valued as highly. Put simply, separate but equal is not equal.

I also believe that legislating for equal marriage is an important step for religious freedom. Many opponents of marriage equality argue that it will undermine religious freedoms. To argue as such is to ignore the religious freedoms of the many groups that wish to perform same-sex marriages, for instance the Quakers and Reformed Judaism. To maintain marriage inequality is to deny these groups their own religious freedom.

The government’s proposed safeguards will ensure that no religious group is required to perform a same-sex marriage. Marriage equality will grant religious freedoms for these groups without impinging upon those of any others.

Polling shows that there is majority support for marriage equality within the UK. Two polls by YouGov in December 2012 found 55% support  for ‘changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry’. To claim that a majority of the public are against equal marriage is disingenuous and inaccurate.

I believe that equal marriage is a good thing for our country. The majority of people in the UK are in support of it and it will extend religious freedoms.

Above all, marriage equality is important to me because the state will finally afford my partner and I, and countless more couples in Bethnal Green and Bow, the same respect and recognition as any opposite-sex couple. Words can’t express how much that would mean to me.

I look forward to receiving your response.

Yours sincerely,

William Knock

Lord Carey’s own goal

This internet has been abuzz today with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey’s article in the Daily Mail about gay marriage. Writing to coincide with the launch of the Coalition for Marriage, he sets out his stall for why same-sex marriage should not be legalised.

As is so often the case from gay marriage opponents, he makes three fundamental errors, that can only help the cause of those of us who believe in full marriage equality:

  1. Claiming allowing same-sex marriage ‘fatally weaken’ marriage as a whole. This will always sound like what it is, utterly ridiculous.
  2. Focussing on a supposed lack of public support, despite the evidence (in particular polling by Populus which showed 66% support for gay marriage). Furthermore, he bizarrely claims it is undemocratic for our democratically elected government to enact legislation.
  3. Having a homophobic tone that goes beyond just that issue of marriage, You just need look at his argument that marriage is an essential cornerstone to society, but that homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to marry. The implication is clear: homosexuals can’t be part of the cornerstone of society.

I for one am very happy to see such obvious mistakes continuing to be made by Lord Carey. The only effect his words can truly have is to win the hearts and minds of the tolerant to full marriage equality, who will see his article for what it is: full of hate and without any logic to it at all.

Is homophobia a fear?

Something that I’m constantly fascinated by is the speed with which the comments on a news article will descend into an argument about what the word homophobia even means.

It’s normally kicked off by someone who’s accused of being homophobic, and will submit their counter claim. ‘I can’t be because I’m not afraid.’

Now obviously, the choice to defend oneself through semantics rather than by defending actions is a pretty sure sign that they’re fighting a losing battle. But there is something I find utterly intriguing about the claim that homophobia isn’t a result of fear.

If we look at the hot issue of the day – same sex marriage – there is one argument presented against it that we find time and time again. It goes something like this:

I was brought up with a very well defined and cohesive set of moral values. Over my lifetime the law has changed to the point where almost all my values are now illegal or discriminatory and I can’t even discuss them without risk of prosecution. Do I think things have improved because of Liberalism? Quite the reverse and I now realise how important moral values and boundaries within a society are. The recent riots demonstrated that admirably well. Our traditional way of life, our value set is simply falling apart and Liberalism the lubricant. Never mind the financial crisis, this is an equally big issue. According to tradition, the demise of the Roman Empire was down to family breakup and I think we are going the same way.

That may sound ridiculously far-fetched, but it is in fact an actual quote!* The inference is clear: legislating for same-sex marriage will lead to the demise of modern society. Surely this is a totally irrational fear? A phobia, you could say.

More than anything, there’s one example of late that shows more clearly than ever that homophobic attitudes and actions are motivated by fear. That is a piece by Alan Craig, the leader of the Christian Peoples Party, entitled ‘Confronting the Gaystapo’.

I would normally expect to warn you that it’s bound to make you angry, but truth be told, it’s just laughably insane. Don’t get me wrong, of course there is offence in a piece that – as you can guess – compares the gay rights movement to the Nazis, but I found myself pitying him his hysteria rather than getting angry.

And hysterical fear is the correct description for a piece that warns that this is 1939 in the war against gay rights and that now is the time to rise up and prevent the annexing of morality. It’s just mad, and if that isn’t an irrational fear, then I don’t know what is.


*See this Daily Mail article, comment by David, posted 9:31 on 23/09/2011.

Desmond Swayne supports gay marriage because of, not despite, his Christian faith

While written a relative while ago, I only just came across this piece by Desmond Swayne where he outlines why he supports gay marriage because he is a Christian, not despite.

It’s really enlightening to read such progressive thinking being argued from a biblical basis, so I recommend you check it out!

Daily Mail Correction

Regular followers of my blog will know that I got a bee in my bonnet a few weeks ago about an article that the Daily Mail had published claiming that a majority of Britons opposed gay marriage (see here).

Well, following my complain to the PCC, the Daily Mail published a correction on Friday:

A recent article based on an Office for National Statistics report stated that most Britons still oppose gay marriage. While the ONS report did show that only a minority of Britons are in support of gay marriage, the more detailed statis- tics from the EU poll on which it was based suggest that the percentages for and against are about the same – 46% and 45% respectively – with a further 9% who ‘don’t know’. We are happy to clarify the position.

I’m basically quite smug at getting the Daily Mail to publish a statistic on page 2 showing more support for than against gay marriage. It’s a small victory, but I do think it shows that the facts are incontrovertible and the march to full marriage equality in nigh unstoppable.