Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Equal Marriage bill in the house of Lords

Considering the Pink News headline that "Peers plan revolt against equal marriage bill as it goes to Lords", and calls from groups working for equality that we write to a peer to appeal to them support the bill, I decided, perhaps ambitiously, to write to Lord D Stoddart, as follows:
I write, as a gay man, as a Christian, as a member of the Church of
England Clergy, and as a proud citizen of the United Kingdom, regarding
the sensitive matter of equal marriage.

My partner and I have been together for five years, and love each other
deeply, and he proposed to me in November of 2011. He proposed that we
be married, not that we be Civil(ly) Partnered.  However, we quickly
discovered how deep the inequalities in society go.

Even though our love is sincere and we had a deep desire to commit to
each other for life, we are not allowed to do so, without seeking the
permission of any number of people who may object to that, for no other
reason than it offends them.

We cannot walk down the road holding hands, for fear of being pursued
and attacked ... something which, sadly, is on the increase, as some
feel - no doubt as a result of some of the deliberate scaremongering
and names used in the press about the Equal Marriage bill - that they
have the permission of the law of the land to ostracise and hate the
LGBT community.  This is made painfully clear in the attack on Chris
Bryant, MP.

We have to be extra careful when making travel arrangements, so that we
only pick venues that would be happy to have us stay, and not risk harm
or hatred when we're trying to relax away from work commitments.

We were joined together in a Civil Partnership in June of last year,
because we didn't want to wait an indeterminate amount of time for the
law to change.    If (dare I utter the word 'When'?) the law is changed,
it is our intention to convert our Civil Partnership to a marriage, as
that is how we view ourselves, and - frankly - how all our friends and
family view our relationship.

When the banns for our Civil Ceremony were published, no address
details could be published, as they are with straight couples, lest we
become victims of hate crime.

From the Church of England's perspective, before we could enter into a
Civil Partnership, I had to have a conversation with my Diocesan
Bishop, under the premise that we would only live together as
house-mates or platonic friends ... the Church of England officially
forbids us from having any kind of active sexual relationship (although
how they plan to police this is a mystery to all).

These are just the beginning when it comes to the inequalities faced by
us and many hundreds of thousands other gay couples.

Legally, there are plenty of other inequalities ...
My partner works for an airline, and is away from home and in another
country on average four days out of seven.  If something were to happen
to him while he was abroad, I would have no right to visit him in
hospital, or to access any information about him, should he be
incapable of speaking to me on the phone, merely because I am not his
legally recognised spouse.  This is true EVEN if we were to be
travelling together, and even if we were travelling in a country that
has Equal Marriage, because ours is not a recognised equal marriage,
but some in-between legal state.

I'm not sure if you're aware of the heartbreaking case of American Shane Bitney
Crone & his partner Tom Bridegroom, where Tom tragically died, and
Shane was forbidden by the hospital to access any information about
Tom, banned from seeing Tom, and where Tom's family were able to remove
possessions that belonged to the couple jointly and then banned Shane
from attending Tom's funeral.  There is a more detailed account of
their story at .

Add to this other inequalities that exist in our 'fair' society, such
as not being able to donate blood if you've had sex with someone of the
same gender within the twelve month period prior to donation (even if
that was exclusively with your long-term life partner), and it begins
to point out how little equality there is for the LGBT community, and
why we feel we're often regarded as second-class citizens.

Some who are against equal marriage are trying to paint this as merely
an attempt to avoid inheritance tax, which simply is not the truth.  We
want to be able to commit to the person we love, for life, the same as
everyone else, and not have a special term for it that identifies us as
different or 'less than'. We want to be protected in law, as
individuals and couples, in the same way that our straight brothers and
sisters are protected, and we want to be able to love our partners,
without fear of expulsion, attack or belittling.

With regard to the religious arguments against equal marriage ...
they're very emotive, but - and I say this as a member of the clergy
who deeply believes that religion has a role to play in blessing and
supporting committed relationships - is not relevant for the law of the
land.  Marriage was not invented by the Church, nor is it a purely
Biblical principle. It is something that is mentioned in the Bible, but
the context, the circumstances and the regulations surrounding it
change several times within the same book.  Some will argue that the
Old Testament manifestations of marriage (marrying widows as the spoils
or rewards of war, marrying slaves, marrying your brother's widow,
etc., etc..) are made irrelevant by the New Testament, but these same
people will then lean heavily on other Old Testament scriptures from
Leviticus & Deuteronomy, to condemn LGBT people, and ignore the fact
that the person of Jesus Christ was mute on gender orientation.

Our understanding of morality changes from area to area, age to age,
culture to culture, world view to world view and faith to faith.  I
believe that faith should be a support, a comfort & should bless
committed relationships, and support them in forming cohesive
communities.  If, however, a particular church or faith community felt
that they were unable to support same-sex couples in seeking that
community's blessing for their relationship, I can't see that that
would be a problem, as many churches currently will not remarry
divorcees, and are under no pressure to do so. Indeed, some churches
only marry members, and others still - members who are regular
attenders.  The idea that all faith communities will be forced to
conduct Equal Marriage ceremonies is merely an attempt at manipulating
the emotions of people to support the status quo, and keep the LGBT
community as second-class citizens, who have to love in private,
surrounded by an aire of suspicion and fear.

I do hope that you can see the hurt behind these words, and my
desperate hope that the law will be changed to allow us to be equals in
society, able to care for each other, able to love each other, and able
to provide for each other, without some people feeling they have the
right to forbid us from doing so, or hate us for doing so, because the
law encourages them to see us as different.

I also hope that you will lend your support to the bill, and encourage
you to get in touch if you have any questions.

With kind regards
As we're always asked to write personally, rather than just add our name to pre-prepared letters, I decided to try a personal and heartfelt approach.  Some of this may be clumsily written, but it is as it went out, so bear with me.

I received an instant automatic reply, which is strange, considering they themselves don't like instant, automated emails.  The reply came in the form of a .doc attachment (they didn't even have the decency to paste my name at the top ... reinforcing the message that we're second-class citizens), which simply said,

Re. your email

Lord Stoddart of Swindon will be supporting Lord Dear’s amendment to refuse a second reading to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on 3rd June.

I appeal to anyone in support of Equal Marriage to make sure that you write to someone in the House of Lords, and appeal to them to support the bill.  I shall now send my email to Lord Dear ... no harm ...


  1. you are invited to follow my blog

    1. Thanks for your interest, Steve. Your views are ones I, too, held for years. However, they're not where I sit theologically any longer. Your blog title is correct, it is "A Christian view," but it is not the only Christian view or "THE definitive Christian view."

      The strength of our gospel is that it transcends cultures, ages, languages, ideologies and nations.

      You are welcome to your understanding of it, but to use it to condemn others would, by nature, be unchristian.

    2. Excellent response to Steve's comment, Andy. And very charitable too. I wouldn't be able to be as diplomatic. Marriage Equality is all about respect for all couples. I look forward to the day when my friends can marry and won't have to put up with a lesser status any longer.
      Thanks so much for sharing your letter to Lord Dear.

    3. Thanks, Giselle. Bless you. I understand Steve's perspective, as it was mine for many years, as I desperately tried to deny who I was - even submitting to conversion therapy for a number of years.

      He no doubt feels he is acting faithfully, but it's important that he - and others like him - realise that faithfulness can never include condemnation or finger-pointing. To do that is no different to the Zealots in Jesus' time.

      We are all in need of mercy, and are all equals in God's eyes.