Posts Tagged ‘gay marriage’

As a piece of policy-making, same sex marriage sets a bad precedent

24/05/2013, 07:00:40 AM

by Kevin Meagher

Putting aside the question of whether same sex marriage is a modest extension of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples or the handcart society will be pushed to hell in – and judged purely as an exercise in policy-making – this week has been a disaster.

The refrain that the measure was not in any party’s manifesto at the last election and didn’t even make it into the coalition’s programme for government is no less important given the frequency with which it’s cited as a grievance by opponents of the bill.

Neither, for that matter, was there a green paper to allow proper deliberation; just a rushed public consultation, which saw a significant majority of respondents strongly opposed to the idea.  And as it now stands, the legislation is lopsided with the failure to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.

Moreover, the law of unintended consequences means most religious communities who opposed the encroachment of the state into their affairs are left with threadbare assurances they will be unaffected by the change. Case law will in due course ensure that they are.

The church hall test will see priests and vicars forced to defend a policy of letting heterosexual couples use their premises while barring gays and lesbians. Meanwhile the charitable status of religious organisations who do not readily accept this new definition of equality will be endlessly challenged. The culture war will rage long after this week passes.


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Whip’s Notebook: Who does the PM ask to find out what’s going on with his flagship equal marriage bill? The Labour whips

07/02/2013, 01:16:13 PM

by Jon Ashworth

If you want to find out what is going on in the Commons you ask a Labour whip, so said a Tory MP to the Labour whips’ office on the night of the equal marriage vote. While I can’t claim to know what is always going on I certainly know that the prime minister’s party management skills were again called into question this week.

This blog has already argued David Cameron’s modernisation of the Tory party is on its last legs. This week we had more evidence. On something that Cameron himself had decided was a touchstone issue, the majority of his MPs voted against him. In fact 136 voted no, 127 voted yes and 36 abstained. More starkly roughly 40 per cent of the “payroll” vote failed to back him – including nine out of fourteen in his own whips office – the very people who are supposed to enforce the will of the prime minister.

Of course the issue was a free vote but Cameron, Michael Gove, George Osborne and Theresa May were all out in force in recent days desperately trying to persuade their backbenchers to back the prime minister, and yet amazingly 70 per cent of Tory backbenchers ignored them and refused to vote the same way as the Prime Minister.

The free vote on Tuesday evening was on whether to give the bill its second reading and so the bill will now go off to committee to be scrutinised line by line before returning to the Commons and then the Lords. Immediately after these second reading votes the Commons also usually agrees a “programme motion” which timetables the bill though committee, a “money resolution” which agrees the relevant funds for the policy enacted in the bill and a “carry-over motion” to agree that the bill can be “carried over” to the next Parliamentary session should its passage not be completed in this session. The Commons often, though not always, agrees these motions without “dividing” i.e. voting on them.

But on Tuesday evening some Tory backbenchers were determined to cause as much trouble as possible for the Tory leadership and so forced votes on all of them.

And yet despite the scale of the vote against second reading, the Tory whips either were not motivated or caught unaware as to what would happen next. Perhaps it was a bit of both.


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The conventional wisdom is wrong, David Cameron has been strengthened by the Tory rebellion on gay marriage

06/02/2013, 07:00:42 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Tory splits, MPs in open revolt and a beleaguered Conservative prime minister; it all seems rather 1990s. Labour tacticians are rubbing their hands in barely concealed glee. The political fall-out will be devastating, or so the conventional wisdom goes.

Weak leadership, political incompetence and an out of touch party do indeed dominate today’s news stories. And Labour does seem to be receiving a poll boost from this latest bout of Tory fratricide.

But David Cameron is not John Major, and in the medium term he will be strengthened by the rebellion.

Three points differentiate what happens next for the current prime minister from the fate of his Conservative predecessor.

First, the vote was won. Even with the Tory rebellion, this bill which David Cameron has staked so much upon, will become law. Yes, it was only won with Labour and Lib Dem votes, but to the general public this is a nuance: the prime minister emerged triumphant.

In the 1990s, the truly memorable occasions were when John Major was defeated.  Think Maastricht or VAT on fuel, few remember the countless near defeats where Major somehow squeaked through. A win is a win and Cameron will now have a genuine legacy achievement to point to.

Second, by taking on his party, Cameron has defined very clearly that he is a different type of Conservative to most of the rest of his colleagues. While many of his MPs do their level best to live up to the billing “same old Tories”, Cameron is vividly showing how he isn’t.

One of the mistakes the Tories made under both William Hague and Michael Howard was failing to understand how their stance on individual issues impacted the public’s overall view of the party.

Their obsession with Europe and immigration might have made for good day to day headlines, and been popular with sections of the electorate, but at election time, mainstream voters looked at the Tories and concluded that if they were this right-wing on Europe and immigration, then they would probably also privatise the NHS and laugh as pensioners starved in their freezing homes.

By taking a liberal stand on gay marriage, David Cameron has helped buy himself the benefit of the doubt from voters on all the other issues where they might suspect a traditional Tory.


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Don’t judge my family

05/02/2013, 01:49:34 PM

by Julianne Marriott

It is a truth universally acknowledged by troublesome elements of the Conservative party that men and women should get married, especially if children are involved, and that same sex couples should not.

In an attempt to appease those resisting (and in some cases resigning from) the party’s direction of travel, the Tory leadership has pulled a marriage tax allowance out of the hat. They are, they say, sending a signal that they understand the value of commitment by recognising marriage (and civil partnershps) in the tax system.

However, Cameron and Osborne, while finding the image of a land of fantasy fifties families alluring, are not actually as out of touch with the public as many on the left like to think. They have no ideological commitment to a marriage tax allowance. They know that it is not the job of the government to judge commitment. They also know that this policy will not help those families that most need it. But they need to be seen to go through the motions to keep their party together to fight the next election.

So the rhetoric begins. (more…)

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Conservative MPs will be more, not less, reliant on David Cameron after the gay marriage vote

05/02/2013, 12:24:15 PM

by Mark Stockwell

Tonight’s vote on same-sex marriage will deepen the divide between Cameron and his party but ultimately it will make Conservative MPs more, rather than less, dependent on their leader.

The “rebels” (inverted commas, as it is technically a free vote) believe Cameron’s failure to win an overall majority marks him out as a loser and that they would do better without him. They were wrong to start with, and their actions over Europe and now same-sex marriage will make them even more wrong.  Cameron may be a “posh boy who doesn’t know the price of milk” but on both these issues he’s more in tune with the electorate than those who seek to displace him.

If there is damage to the Conservative party, it will be a result of the right refusing to acknowledge that they are a busted flush electorally and grieving publicly for the lost causes they continue to espouse. The impression of disunity is far more damaging than the exaggerated fears of a small and dwindling section of the population around the validity of institutions, social or political, that they seem to think they have exclusive rights to define as they see fit.

That said, it is astonishing that so many of the supporters of same-sex marriage, both in the upper echelons of the Conservative party and their supporters in the media, have such a tin ear for the sensibilities of the Conservative party in parliament and at large, that they have chosen to frame their appeals to the traditionalists in terms of how their vote may be perceived in 10, 20, 50 years’ time.

This is straight out of the Whig version of history – a view which is just not shared by this section of the Conservative party. In fact, the traditionalists, almost by definition, see themselves as a bulwark against precisely this sort of progressive view of the world. The past (stuff that’s already happened) and the present (stuff that’s happening here and now and might get them re-elected) matter much more than the future (stuff that may or may not happen some time after the next election if these lefty johnnies get their way).

Telling them they are ‘on the wrong side of history’ is the equivalent of pointing out to Luis Suarez that taking a tumble in the box may get him a penalty, but it will look bad in the TV replay.


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If gay couples can’t get married, my parents shouldn’t have been able to either

12/12/2012, 07:00:19 AM

by Mark Stockwell

At a recent event for “Conservatives in communications”, I was gently upbraided (cruelly mocked, some would say) by culture minister Ed Vaizey for my all-too-apparent ignorance of the fact that the government’s proposals on same-sex marriage would fall under the remit of his boss at DCMS, Maria Miller. In common with most of the population, I simply hadn’t given the issue a moment’s thought. So it had not occurred to me that the culture secretary, in her dual role as minister for women and equality, would be responsible for the legislation.

In all honesty, I’d rather not be writing this. I’ve got Christmas shopping to do, for one thing. And it’s not as if I’ve got skin in the game. I’m pretty certain I’m not gay. To the best of my knowledge and recollection, I’m not married either. As for the religious aspect, well, the closest I come to belief in the power of a supernatural being is my blind, unquestioning Tory faith in the guiding force of Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

In other words, the whole issue just didn’t seem that important to me. Certainly not important enough to spend time thinking or writing about. Until now.

I’m not sure whom I should blame for the fact that I now find myself hunched over my laptop typing this when I could be hunched over my laptop buying overpriced wooden toys for my nieces and nephews, and working out how to ship some of them to New Zealand in time for the big day. (Just in case my niece and nephew in NZ are reading this, yes, of course Santa will bring all your presents and no, he’s not a supernatural being, he’s absolutely real. I’m afraid you’ll have to ask your mum what “gay” means.)


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LGBT rights shouldn’t be stopped by offensive cardinals

13/03/2012, 07:00:06 AM

by James Asser

Last week, Kevin Meagher in his article for UncutGay rights and testy cardinals” raised some interesting points about the balance between faith and politics and the need for religion to have its voice and it’s say. Quite agree. All sections of society have the right to speak out, my concern over the comments at the weekend by Cardinal O’Brien, is less what he wants to say more the way he has chosen to say it.

Kevin makes the point that the cardinal “doesn’t mince his words” which is a nice way of saying he’s bloody rude and offensive. How else can we interpret the assertion that gay marriage will lead to the “further degeneration of society into immorality” or that gay marriage is “grotesque” or that in a convoluted and bizarre analogy that it is comparable to legalising slavery?

We’re told that tolerance and respect is a two way street, I agree and I respect the cardinal’s right to disagree, and to articulate it, but I see no tolerance or respect in the remarks he made, just abuse.

Of course what is being missed is that the government’s proposed consultation relates purely to civil marriage. There are no proposals to require churches to undertake same sex-marriage, no proposals that they should be made to embrace it; in fact the government consultation doesn’t even cover it. It’s not even as if this is a revolutionary new concept, it is the logical progression from civil partnerships and the work done by the last Labour government and we should be proud of that.

LGBT Labour would argue that if and when same-sex marriage is introduced churches should have the ability to opt in, much as they now have with civil partnerships. That way those faiths such as the Quakers, Unitarians, Liberal Judaism and Reform Judaism that have expressed support and a desire to carry out same-sex weddings can follow their own path, as much as the Catholic Church and C of E.


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Gay rights and testy cardinals: respect and tolerance is a two-way street

07/03/2012, 08:00:24 AM

by Kevin Meagher

In case anyone failed to notice, Cardinal Keith O’Brien does not mince his words. The leader of the Scottish Catholic church (and until the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nicholls is given his biretta, the UK’s highest-ranking Catholic), believes the concept of gay marriage is an attempt to “redefine reality,” a “madness” and “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”.

Wow, all that came from a single paragraph in his piece in the Sunday Telegraph, setting out his position fairly unequivocally ahead of an imminent government consultation on extending civil marriage to gay and lesbian couples.

But aren’t the rights of a gay couple already well-enshrined in the civil partnership legislation, as the cardinal also points out?  Why, then, the push to rebrand it as marriage?

Ah, but this is an issue about parity of esteem, comes the response. Love and commitment – regardless of sexuality – deserves respect and equality. So is this a rather overblown argument about the definition of a single word? On the face of it, yes, but, as ever, what lies behind this rumpus is more significant.

This is just the latest skirmish is a much wider conflagration between faith and politics which is now raging. It is a cold war too, fought using proxies; this time it is gay marriage, next time it will be something else. The fighting is often disproportionately fierce, and, like the Little Endians and Big Endians in Gulliver’s Travels, fought over seemingly esoteric issues.


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Full equality will only be achieved when civil partnerships are recognised as marriage, writes Waheed Alli

27/07/2010, 09:30:58 AM

As our party makes the transition from government to opposition, it seems that everyone is suddenly ‘reflecting’: on the failures and successes of our time in government, on the choices now facing our movement, on the type of leader we want to elect. With the immediate responsibilities of power lifted, we’ve found a little more space in which to see the bigger picture.

Welcome to my world.

Despite a lifelong relationship with the Labour party, I have never worked in the front line of politics. Over the last thirteen years, I continued my work in television and in business. And when I contributed to debates in the Lords, it was only if I thought I had something unique to add to the discussion.

For me, then, it didn’t take an election defeat to see the bigger picture. With the day-to-day agony of Westminster always at one remove, I felt more aware of the bigger, longer journey that we were taking.


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