2010 September

Peter Tatchell’s Blue Plaque unveiled

Sir Ian McKellen unveiled a blue plaque honouring Peter Tatchell, campaigner for human rights, gay freedom and social justice. The ceremony took place on Wednesday 29 September 2010 at 11am outside Peter’s block of flats in Southwark, London.

Photo credit: Chris Houston

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Tide is turning in favour of same-sex marriage

Peter Tatchell

Same-sex marriage is an idea whose time has come. It is the growing trend all over the world, from Canada to South Africa and Argentina.

Why can’t we have marriage equality in Britain too?

Political support for ending the ban on gay marriage is growing rapidly. London Mayor, Boris Johnson, and Conservative Party Vice-Chair, Margot James MP, have both come out in favour of allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry in a registry office, on the same terms as heterosexual partners.

This view is also endorsed by the leader and the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes. Indeed, Hughes has predicted that the ban on same-sex marriage will go within five years.

All five Labour leadership contenders – Ed Balls, Diane Abbott, Andy Burnham, Ed Miliband and David Miliband – now back marriage equality, regardless of sexual orientation.

Public attitudes have also shifted strongly in favour of allowing gay couples to marry. A Populus poll for the Times newspaper in June 2009 found that 61% of the public believe that: “Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships.” Only 33% disagreed.

Some people say that civil partnerships are sufficient for gay couples. This is hypocritical. They would not accept a similar ban on black people getting married.

They would never agree with a law that required black couples to register their relationships through a separate system called civil partnerships.

It would be racist to have separate laws for black and white couples. We’d call it apartheid, like what used to exist in South Africa. Well, black people are not banned from marriage but lesbian and gay couples are.

We are fobbed off with second class civil partnerships.

Personally, I don’t like marriage. I share the feminist critique of its history of sexism and patriarchy. I would not want to get married. But as a democrat and human rights defender, I support the right of others to marry, if they wish.

That’s why I believe that civil marriage in a registry office should be open to everyone without discrimination.

Don’t get me wrong, civil partnerships are an important advance. They remedy many – though not all – of the injustices that used to be experienced by lesbian and gay couples. But they are not equality.

They are discrimination. Separate is not equal.

In terms of the law, civil partnerships are a form of sexual apartheid. They create a two-tier system of partnership recognition: one law for heterosexuals (civil marriage) and another law for same-sex couples (civil partnerships).

This perpetuates and extends discrimination. The homophobia of the ban on same-sex civil marriage is now compounded by the heterophobia of the ban on opposite-sex civil partnerships.

Just as a gay couple cannot have a civil marriage, a straight couple cannot have a civil partnership. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Sadly, the official policies of the Conservative and Labour parties do not support same-sex civil marriage. They oppose it. They support discrimination.

The Green Party and the Liberal Democrats are, so far, the only parties officially committed to giving same-sex partners the right to civil marriage – and heterosexual couples the right to civil partnerships.

In a democracy, we are all supposed to be equal under the law. The Con-Lib coalition’s professed commitment to gay equality cannot be taken seriously while it upholds the ban on same-sex marriage. Over to you, Dave and Nick.

Stonewall undermines campaign for gay marriage

Ben Summerskill suggests marriage equality would cost too much

Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Britain’s main gay lobby group, Stonewall, has reportedly defended his organisation’s refusal to campaign for marriage equality. He was speaking at the Liberal Democrat party conference LGBT fringe meeting on Monday night, 20 September.

Leading Lib Dems at the meeting – Stephen Gilbert MP, Evan Harris and equality minister, Lynne Featherstone MP – spoke out in favour of legalising same-sex marriage. Mr Summerskill did not. He explained why Stonewall was not campaigning on the issue.

According to a report on the Pink News website, he cited the cost of implementing marriage equality, which he claimed could total £5 billion – a figure that other campaigners question.

A recent online survey of LGBT readers by the Pink News website found that 98% want full marriage equality. Stonewall does not represent LGBT opinion on this issue. It is out of touch.

“Although Stonewall does a lot of valuable, important work, on this issue it is wrong,” said Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner and spokesperson for the LGBT group OutRage!

“It is, in effect, actively undermining the campaign for marriage equality.

“While many straight politicians now support same-sex civil marriage, Stonewall is refusing to campaign against the homophobic ban on gay and lesbian couples getting married. Among other reasons, it says equal marriage rights could cost £5 billion to implement.

“It is shocking to see a gay equality organisation declining to support equal rights legislation because it might cost too much. No other equality organisation makes equal human rights contingent on the cost. It is deplorable to insinuate that we can only have equality if it doesn’t cost too much.

“Where does Stonewall get this £5 billion figure from? If civil marriage and civil partnerships are the same, as Stonewall has always claimed, how could marriage equality cost more?

“Every other comparable LGBT organisation in the world is campaigning to end the ban on same-sex marriage, but not Stonewall. It is out of step with the British and global trend towards equal marriage rights,” said Mr Tatchell.

OutRage! has campaigned for marriage equality since 1992, when it launched the first UK challenge to the ban on same-sex marriage. Five lesbian and gay couples from OutRage! filed applications for gay marriage at Marylebone registry office in London on 19 March 1992. They were refused. But OutRage! has carried on the campaign ever since, and plans to file appeals against the ban to the European Court of Human Rights later this year.

March against Pope’s intolerance

Cameron urged to “distance” from Pope’s “bigoted” views

Saturday 18 September 2010
Assemble 1.30pm Hyde Park Corner, London W1K 1QZ (by the start of Piccadilly)
March to Downing Street for a rally at 3.30pm

This Saturday’s Protest the Pope march and rally will condemn the Pope’s sexism and homophobia, his collusion with the cover up of child sex abuse, and his welcome back into the church of the holocaust-denying bishop, Richard Williamson.

The British government is being urged to publicly distance itself from the Pope’s “bigoted, backward” teachings.

Speakers at the rally include Richard Dawkins, Catholic priest Father Bernard Lynch, President of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association Andrew Copson, LGBT human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, science writer Ben Goldacre, sex abuse survivor, Sue Cox, Iranian secularist Maryam Namazie and Asian feminist campaigner Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters.

Protest the Pope co-organiser Peter Tatchell said:

“We are urging David Cameron and Nick Clegg to disassociate the British government from the Pope’s often harsh, intolerant views.

“Pope Benedict XVI does not deserve the honour of a State Visit. He says women are unfit to be priests, childless couples should be denied fertility treatment and potentially life-saving embryonic stem cell research ought to be banned. The Pope insists that rape victims should be denied an abortion, using condoms to stop the spread of HIV is immoral and gay people are not entitled to equal human rights. On all these issues, Benedict is out of step with the majority of British people, including many Catholics.

“Most shockingly, the Pope is accused of covering up child sex abuse by clergy. In 2001, he wrote to every Catholic bishop in the world, ordering them to report all child sex abuse cases to him in Rome. They did. He therefore cannot claim that he was unaware of sex abuse. Moreover, his letter to the bishops demanded that they observe ‘Papal secrecy.’ It did not advise them to report abusers to the police.

“Even today, the Pope refuses to open the Vatican’s sex abuse files and hand them to the relevant police forces worldwide. Many people see his inaction as collusion with sex crimes against children. Such a person should not be feted by our government,” said Mr Tatchell.

Details of the Protest the Pope march and rally on 18 September:

Info about other Protest the Pope events:

Pope cover up of gay Cardinal Newman

Letters reveal Newman loved Father Ambrose St. John

“He was my earthy light…I was his first and last,” wrote Newman

This Sunday, Pope Benedict will make a saint of the nineteenth century English theologian, Cardinal John Henry Newman, while denying the strong evidence that Newman was gay and loved Father Ambrose St John.

The Pope’s sainting of Newman will take place near Birmingham, England, on Sunday, during his current Papal tour of Britain.

“Newman and St John were mentally and spiritually in love; sharing a long-term same-sex relationship. They were inseparable. They lived together for over 30 years, like a married husband and wife,” said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who has studied the evidence of Newman’s homosexual orientation.

See here:

“Newman wrote in his diary about Ambrose’s love for him: ‘From the first he loved me with an intensity of love, which was unaccountable.’ He later added: ‘As far as this world was concerned, I was his first and last,'” added Mr Tatchell.

“Newman also stated that St John had come to him as the angel Raphael came to Tobias, as Ruth to Naomi.

“Reflecting on St John’s death, Newman stated: ‘This is the greatest affliction I have had in my life….he was my earthly light.’

“Newman and St John were buried side-by-side in the same grave when Newman died in 1890. It was what Newman wanted. He wrote to his executors shortly before his death stating emphatically: ‘I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Father Ambrose St John’s grave – and I give this as my last, my imperative will.’

“It is impossible to know whether the relationship between Newman and St John involved a sexual dimension. Equally, it is impossible to be certain that it did not. There is no proof that Newman was heterosexual or that he abstained from sex. The Pope cannot substantiate these claims.

“To err on the side of caution, it is likely that both men had a gay orientation but chose to abstain from sex. Sexual abstinence does not, however, alter a person’s orientation. A person can be gay and sublimate their gayness into spiritual and other non-sexual relations and pursuits.

“Ahead of making Newman a saint, the Vatican has sought to suppress knowledge of Newman’s relationship with St John. Last year, against Newman’s wishes, it ordered that his grave be dug up, in order to separate the two men and to turn Newman’s bones into holy relics. However, the grave was empty. His remains had fully decomposed. The Vatican’s heartless plans were thwarted by nature. 

“This homophobic desecration of Newman’s grave and the denial of Newman’s gayness is entirely consistent with the Vatican’s long-standing cover up of its many past and present gay priests, bishops, cardinals and popes. Pope Benedict has a well-known anti-gay agenda. He is too bigoted to concede that Newman loved a man.

“Newman was, of course, unaware that he might one day achieve sainthood. But he was mindful that the church might, after his death, seek to intervene in determining the placement of his remains. Although a modest man, he was conscious of his international status as a Cardinal and an esteemed Catholic theologian. He feared there might be attempts after he died to transfer his body to a mausoleum. That is why Newman three times added notes to his instructions to his executors which, according to the scholarship of the Christian historian Alan Bray, variously “confirm”, “insist” and “command” that he be buried with St John.

“Nothing could be clearer. Newman was absolutely insistent that should be buried forever alongside the man with whom he shared his life, home and love.

“The Pope’s spin doctors have gone out of their way to rubbish claims that Newman was gay. He was a cardinal and deeply devout, they say; claiming that such a person would never have a gay relationship. This is nonsense. Thousands of Catholic priests, and even some bishops and cardinals, are gay and have active same-sex relationships.

“The Catholic hierarchy denies the Newman’s homosexuality in the same way that it denies the existence of thousands of gay clerics and in the same way that it has lied about sex abusing priests and has covered up their crimes against children.

“The Vatican is well known for lying and suppressing the truth. It lied, for example, in its anti-safe sex propaganda which claimed that condoms have tiny holes through which the HIV virus can pass.

“The lies and denials about Newman should be treated with the same contempt.

“Although we cannot know for certain, it is not unreasonable to believe that Cardinal Newman might have had a loving, stable, long-term same-sex relationship. The passion of his letters and writings about Ambrose suggest this possibility.

“Down the ages, lots of clergy have had gay relationships. Indeed, at least a quarter of the current Catholic priesthood is estimated to be gay. Many are in long-term gay relationships. Why should anyone be surprised by the suggestion that Cardinal Newman might have had a same-sex relationship? It would not be extraordinary. It is fairly normal in the priesthood.

“Newman was not exactly macho. His soft, gentle, effeminate demeanour is typical of what we often associate with some gay men (and some straight men too). There were allegations during his lifetime about his circle of young homosexual friends. Platonic relations and close friendships with women did not feature at all in his life,” said Mr Tatchell. 

Perhaps we should look to Newman’s memorial stone at Birmingham Oratory for clues. It has an inscription that could be read as a posthumous coming out concerning their relationship:

“Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem” (from shadow and images into truth)

Some people say that Newman’s body lying in a grave with the body of Father Ambrose reveals the truth about their love and relationship.

March against Pope’s homophobia

Gay speakers headline anti-Pope march & rally

Saturday 18 September 2010
Assemble 1.30pm Hyde Park Corner, London W1K 1QZ (by the start of Piccadilly)
March to Downing Street for a rally at 3.30pm

This Saturday’s Protest the Pope march and rally will condemn the Pope’s opposition to gay equality and his claim that all gay people posses a tendency towards “evil.”

Many of the leading speakers at the rally are gay, including Catholic priest Father Bernard Lynch, President of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association Andrew Copson and LGBT human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Other (non-gay) speakers include Richard Dawkins, science writer Ben Goldacre, sex abuse survivor Sue Cox, Iranian secularist Maryam Namazie and Asian feminist campaigner Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters.

Protest the Pope co-organiser Peter Tatchell said:

“In 1986 and 1992, when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope authored a Vatican document that condemned homosexuality as an ‘objective disorder’ and a strong tendency towards ‘an intrinsic moral evil.’ Rejecting the concept of gay human rights, the document asserted that there is no ‘right’ to laws protecting homosexual people against discrimination; suggesting that the civil liberties of lesbians and gay men can be ‘legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct.’ He said discrimination against LGBT people was justified in professions such as teaching, youth work and the military.

“The Pope has attacked same-sex marriages as ‘evil’ and vilified supporters of gay equality as ‘gravely immoral.’ He has also denounced homosexual equality as a ‘deviant trend’ and condemned same-sex love as being ‘without any social value.’ He even threatened to deny mass and excommunicate Catholic legislators who voted for gay rights laws,” said Mr Tatchell.

Details of the Protest the Pope march and rally on 18 September:

Info about other Protest the Pope events: