2010 October

Stonewall finally supports marriage equality

Stonewall has finally decided it does support same-sex marriage after all.

Peter Tatchell of OutRage! said:

“This is good news, at last. Thanks to everyone who lobbied Stonewall to change its policy.

“We are pleased that Stonewall has finally joined other LGBT organisations in seeking to overturn the homophobic ban on same-sex civil marriage. We can now move forward together, united in our commitment to marriage equality.

“It is, however, very disappointing that Stonewall is still refusing to oppose the ban on heterosexual civil partnerships. This stance is de facto support for discrimination. It looks uncaring and sectarian. It doesn’t help build the LGBT-straight alliance that we need to win full equality.

“OutRage! is pressing ahead with its Equal Love campaign. Our aim is to end sexual orientation discrimination in both civil marriage and civil partnership law. We oppose the ban on heterosexual civil partnerships just as strongly as we oppose the ban on gay civil marriage.”

‘Equal Love’ Launch Press Briefing

Equal Love campaign launch — London 26 October 2010.
OutRage! legal bid to overturn the twin bans on same-sex civil marriage and opposite-sex civil partnerships. Equality for all, gay and straight.

The Equal Love campaign

To find out more about OutRage!’s Equal Love campaign, visit www.equallove.org.uk

‘Equal Love’ campaign launched

Legal bid to end sexual orientation discrimination

Britain’s new Equal Love campaign was launched today with a news conference in London.

It aims to challenge the twin bans on gay marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships, with eight couples filing applications at register offices and then, when they are refused, bringing a joint legal action in the courts to secure a change in the law.

Today’s news conference was chaired by the Equal Love campaign coordinator, Peter Tatchell, and included the campaign’s legal advisor, Professor Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at Kings College London.

Also in attendance were four of the sixteen future plaintiffs: the lead same-sex couple, Rev Sharon Ferguson and her partner Franka, and the lead heterosexual couple, Katherine Doyle and Tom Freeman.

The Equal Love campaign is being organised by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender human rights organisation OutRage!

“Starting on Tuesday 2 November, eight couples will file applications at their local register offices. Four same-sex couples will apply for civil marriages and four heterosexual couples will apply for civil partnerships. Every week until 14 December, one couple will make an application,” said Peter Tatchell.

“If the couples are turned away, as we expect they will be, we plan to take legal action. Denying them equal treatment is contrary to the Human Rights Act.

“Our legal team will argue in the courts that the bans on gay marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships are an unlawful and unjustified discrimination.

“In a democracy, gay and straight couples should be equal before the law. Both civil marriages and civil partnerships should be open to everyone without discrimination,” he said.

Rev Sharon Ferguson, who is an ordained minister of religion and chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said:

“Franka and I have been together for over two years and we recently started talking about having our commitment to each other recognised.

“Although I fully appreciate the benefits of civil partnerships, I don’t feel they are appropriate for us. As chief executive of LGCM, and also a pastor in the Metropolitan Community Church, I spend my life campaigning for justice and equality. The simple fact is that no matter how good civil partnerships are with regard to the legal protections and rights they provide, they are still a separate system that was put together to stop gay and lesbian people from being able to marry.

“Like most people in this world, we were brought up to believe that one day we’d fall in love and get married. This is what we want to do and our sexual orientation should not be an impediment,” she said.

Katherine Doyle added:

“We have been together for nearly five years and would like to formalise our relationship. Because we feel alienated from the patriarchal traditions of marriage, we would prefer to have a civil partnership. As a mixed-sex couple, we are banned by law from doing so. By filing an application for civil partnership, we are seeking to challenge this discriminatory law.

“Our decision is also motivated by the fact that we object to the way same-sex couples are prohibited from getting married. If we got married we would be colluding with the segregation that exists in matrimonial law between gay civil partnerships and straight civil
marriages. We don’t want to take advantage of civil marriage when it is an option that is denied to our lesbian and gay friends,” she said.

The Equal Love campaign’s legal case is being prepared by Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at Kings College London.

“If the couples are refused, we will mount a legal challenge. These bans violate the UK’s Human Rights Act and are open to challenge in the courts,” said Professor Wintemute.

“By excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage, and different-sex couples from civil partnership, the UK Government is discriminating on the ground of sexual orientation, contrary to the Human Rights Act. Specifically, the twin bans violate Article 14 (protection against discrimination), Article 12 (the right to marry) and Article 8 (the right to respect for family life).

“The rights attached to civil marriage and civil partnership are identical, especially with regard to adoption of children, donor insemination, and surrogacy. There is no longer any justification for excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage and different-sex couples from civil partnership. It’s like having separate drinking fountains or beaches for different racial groups, even though the water is the same! The only function of the twin bans is to mark lesbian and gay people as inferior to heterosexual people,” he said.

Mr Tatchell added:

“Our aim is to secure equality in civil marriage and civil partnership law. We want both systems open to all couples, gay and straight, so that everyone has a free and equal choice.

“Denying couples the right to civil marriage and civil partnership on the basis of their sexual orientation is wrong and has to end.

“In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law. The ban on same-sex civil marriage and on opposite-sex civil partnerships is a form of sexual apartheid – one law for gay couples and another law for heterosexual partners. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

“Just as gay couples should be able to marry, civil partnerships should be available to straight couples.

“Same-sex marriage is the growing trend all over the world. It exists in Canada, Argentina and South Africa, as well as seven of our European neighbours: Portugal, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Why can’t we have marriage equality in Britain too?

“Political support for ending the ban on gay marriage is growing. London Mayor, Boris Johnson, and former 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 of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, and by the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats.

“Both the Liberal Democrat and the Green party conferences have voted overwhelmingly in favour of ending the bans on gay civil marriage and heterosexual civil partnerships,” noted Mr Tatchell.

Public attitudes have shifted strongly in favour of allowing gay couples to marry. A Populus opinion poll 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.

Videos of the news conference can be viewed here:
http://www.youtube.com/user/OutRageLondon

Legal challenge to ban on gay marriage & straight civil partnerships

Gay couples will file applications for civil marriages

Heterosexual couples will apply for civil partnerships

Legal bid to end sexual orientation discrimination

NEWS CONFERENCE
Equal Love campaign
10.15am, Tuesday 26 October 2010
Halfway to Heaven pub, 7 Duncannon Street, London WC2N 4JF (off Trafalgar Square).

See map here:

This news conference will be chaired by Peter Tatchell, and the Equal Love campaign’s legal expert, Professor Robert Wintemute, and two of the eight plaintiff couples

A simultaneous legal challenge to the twin bans on gay marriage and on heterosexual civil partnerships is being organised by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans human rights organisation OutRage!

“Starting on 2 November, eight couples will file applications at their local register offices. Four same-sex couples will apply for civil marriages and four heterosexual couples will apply for civil partnerships. Every week, through to 14 December, one couple will make an application,” said Equal Love campaign coordinator, Peter Tatchell, of OutRage!

“If the couples are turned away, we plan to take legal action. We will argue in the courts that in a democratic society gay and straight couples should be equal before the law. Both civil marriages and civil partnerships should be open to everyone without discrimination,” he said.

The lead same-sex couple, Rev Sharon Ferguson and Franka Strietzel, and the lead heterosexual couple, Katherine Doyle and Tom Freeman, will attend and speak at the news conference.

The Equal Love campaign’s legal case is being prepared by Robert Wintemute, Professor of Human Rights Law at Kings College London.

“If the couples are refused, we will mount a legal challenge. These bans violate the UK’s Human Rights Act and are open to challenge in the courts,” said Professor Wintemute.

“By excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage, and different-sex couples from civil partnership, the UK Government is discriminating on the ground of sexual orientation, contrary to the Human Rights Act. Specifically, the twin bans violate Article 14 (protection against discrimination), Article 12 (the right to marry) and Article 8 (the right to respect for family life).

“The rights attached to civil marriage and civil partnership are identical, especially with regard to adoption of children, donor insemination, and surrogacy. There is no longer any justification for excluding same-sex couples from civil marriage and different-sex couples from civil partnership. It’s like having separate drinking fountains or beaches for different racial groups, even though the water is the same! The only function of the twin bans is to mark lesbian and gay people as inferior to heterosexual people,” he said.

Mr Tatchell added:

“Our aim is to secure equality in civil marriage and civil partnership law. We want both systems open to all couples, gay and straight, so that everyone has a free and equal choice.

“Denying couples the right to civil marriage and civil partnership on the basis of their sexual orientation is wrong and has to end.

“In a democratic society, we should all be equal before the law. The ban on same-sex civil marriage and on opposite-sex civil partnerships is a form of sexual apartheid – one law for gay couples and another law for heterosexual partners. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

“Just as gay couples should be able to marry, civil partnerships should be available to straight couples.

“Same-sex marriage is the growing trend all over the world. It exists in Canada, Argentina and South Africa, as well as seven of our European neighbours: Portugal, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Why can’t we have marriage equality in Britain too?

“Political support for ending the ban on gay marriage is growing. London Mayor, Boris Johnson, and former 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 of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, and by the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats.

“Both the Liberal Democrat and the Green party conferences have voted overwhelmingly in favour of ending the twin bans on gay civil marriage and heterosexual civil partnerships,” noted Mr Tatchell.

Public attitudes have shifted strongly in favour of allowing gay couples to marry. A Populus opinion poll 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.

Stonewall gay marriage survey “flawed”

Marriage equality question buried in long list

Question is headed civil partnerships, not gay marriage

Survey method is “biased and unethical”

“Despite being founded to secure gay equality, the gay lobby group Stonewall is refusing to campaign against the ban on gay civil marriage. It is not committed to full equal rights for lesbian and gay people,” according to human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

“Stonewall seems content with civil partnerships. The vast majority of gay people are not content. They want the legal right to get married in a civil ceremony in a registry office, on the same basis as heterosexual couples.

“Now, in an attempt to deflect criticism, Stonewall has announced a survey on whether its supporters want gay marriage legalised.

“But the survey method and process are flawed and unfair.

“Contrary to the impression given by Stonewall, it is not surveying its supporters specifically on the issue of gay marriage. It is conducting a general survey encompassing 12 different lesbian and gay issues.

“The questionnaire is headed: ‘Supporters Survey – October 2010’. There is no indication from the title or introduction that it is a survey on gay marriage.

“The question on gay marriage is buried near the end of the survey, as issue number eight.

“The question is not even called gay marriage. It is entitled ‘Civil Partnerships’, which is very confusing and misleading.”

The Stonewall survey question reads:

“Civil Partnerships – Work to extend the legal form of marriage to gay people.”

“The wording and methodology of the survey appear biased. I doubt that a reputable polling organisation would regard it as an acceptable way to survey people,” added Mr Tatchell.

“This does not strike me as a genuine, impartial survey. It seems designed to minimise support for marriage equality.

“Stonewall is out of touch. The vast majority of the gay community and the British public support the right of same-sex couples to get married in a registry office.

“Surveys by the Pink Paper and Pink News have found that 70% to 98% of LGBT people oppose the ban on gay marriage and want equal marriage rights.

“Every major LGBT organisation in Britain, apart from Stonewall, supports marriage equality.

“A Populus poll 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.

“Stonewall has done a lot of valuable important work. I salute its efforts to tackle homophobic bullying in schools. But on the issue of gay marriage it is seriously mistaken. It’s refusal to support equal marriage rights for same-sex couples is shameful.

“The ban on gay marriage is homophobic discrimination. Every gay rights organisation should be campaigning to overturn it,” urged Mr Tatchell.

Remembering the Gay Liberation Front

On 13 October 1970, the Gay Liberation Front was founded in Britain. It was a modest beginning, with 19 people meeting in a basement in the London School of Economics. But it grew rapidly and proved to be a defining, watershed moment in British queer history. From 1970 onwards, thanks to GLF, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) mindset changed forever, from victims to victors.

I was an activist in the GLF, aged 19 with long curly hair and living in Shepherd’s Bush with my 16-year old boyfriend, Peter Smith. I was student. He was a budding jazz guitarist. The age of consent for gay relationships was, at the time, 21. Our love was criminal and we were both at risk of imprisonment. We didn’t give a damn. We despised and defied the law.

GLF was a glorious, enthusiastic and often chaotic mix of anarchists, hippies, left-wingers, feminists, liberals and counter-culturalists. Despite our differences, we shared a radical idealism – a dream of what the world could and should be – free from not just homophobia but the whole sex-shame culture, which oppressed straights as much as LGBTs. We were sexual liberationists and social revolutionaries, out to turn the world upside down.

GLF espoused a non-violent revolution in cultural values and attitudes. It questioned marriage, the nuclear family, monogamy and patriarchy – as well as the wars in Vietnam and Ireland. Although against homophobic discrimination, GLF’s main aim was never equality within the status quo. We saw society as fundamentally unjust and sought to change it, to end the oppression of LGBTs – and of everyone else.

GLF aligned itself with the movements for women’s, black, Irish, working class and colonial freedom. We marched for troops out of Ireland and against the anti-union Industrial Relations Act. Although critical of the “straight left” and often condemned by them, most of us saw ourselves as part of the broad anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement, striving for the emancipation of all humankind.

Our idealistic vision involved creating a new sexual democracy, without homophobia, misogyny, racism and class privilege. Erotic shame and guilt would be banished. There would be sexual freedom and human rights for everyone – gay, bi and straight. Our message was “innovate, don’t assimilate.”

GLF’s critique of straight society amounted to more than condemning violations of gay civil rights and campaigning for equal treatment. Revolutionary not reformist, our goal was an end to “male chauvinism” and the “gender system”.

We saw queer oppression as a consequence, at least in part, of the way many LGBT people deviated from the socially-prescribed gender roles of traditional masculinity and femininity. According to the orthodoxy of millennia, men were expected to act masculine and desire women. Women were supposed to be feminine and be attracted to men.

We queers subverted this conventional gender system. Gay men love other men and many of us are deemed inadequately macho. Lesbians love other women and tend to be less passive and dependent on men than most of their heterosexual sisters. Queer males don’t have to sexually subjugate women and female queers have no need for men to fulfil their erotic and emotional needs.

This is a part of the reason why we’ve been persecuted for centuries. Our nonconformity threatened the gender system which has, historically, sustained the social hegemony of male heterosexuality and misogyny.

GLF positively celebrated queer deviance. We said the right to be gay includes the right to disobey straight gender norms. We singled out macho heterosexual masculinity, with its long tradition of domination and aggression, as the main oppressor of LGBTs and women. While not condemning all straight men, we saw sexist, homophobic straight males as a major roadblock to women’s and gay liberation. This is why GLF allied with the women’s liberation movement.

The “radical drag” and ”gender-bender” politics of GLF glorified male gentleness and gender role subversion. It was a conscious, if sometimes exaggerated, attempt to renounce the oppressiveness and privilege of orthodox masculinity and to undermine the way it functioned to buttress the subordination of women and gay men.

The dissolution of straight male machismo was, we argued, the key to ending LGBT and female oppression. True human liberation could only be achieved by breaking down the rigidity of the gender system and ending its tyranny. This transformation was necessary to allow gender-variant people – both gay and straight – to live their lives freely, without stigma or shame.

In contrast to the gay law reform movement, GLF’s strategy for queer emancipation was to change society’s values and norms, rather than adapt to them. We sought a cultural revolution to overturn centuries of male heterosexual domination and thereby free both queers and women.

Forty years on, GLF’s gender agenda has been partly won. Male and female roles are, today, less prescribed and inflexible than in 1970. There’s greater fluidity and gender variance is more accepted. Butch women and fem men – whether homo or hetero – are still rarely social icons but they are also less likely to be demonised and outcast. Girlish boys and boyish girls don’t get victimised as much as in times past. LGBT kids often now come
out at the age of 12 or 14. While many are bullied, many others are not. The acceptance of sexual and gender diversity is increasing. The women and men of GLF trail-blazed a social revolution. Bravo!