Monday, May 20, 2013

My open letter to Liberal Democrat MPs on same sex marriage - it's not about you, it's about fairness and equality

This is what I've spent the morning drafting and sending to Liberal Democrat MPs on the same sex marriage bill. I've sent it to everyone unless I know for sure that they are wholeheartedly and enthusiastically supporting the Bill and not voting for any of the Tory Wrecking Muppetry.

I have had two replies so far - one from Malcolm Bruce, who can't be at Westminster today but who supports the Bill, and from David Heath's office, confirming his support.

Dear

I’m writing to ask you to enthusiastically support the same sex marriage bill today.

I’m a huge fan of marriage. In August, my husband and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary and it pains me that many of our friends, who love each other just as much as we do and whose relationship has been just as enduring, do not have the chance to have their union recognised in an equal way.

I’ve been incredibly proud of how our MSPs and Willie Rennie have championed its cause in Scotland, and have stood up to the churches who have been unreasonable in the demands that they have made and deeply offensive in the language that they have used.

I don’t want to take up too much of your inbox, but here is why I’d like you to support the Bill:

It’s the most liberal outcome

Couples are free to marry if they wish to do so.

Religious organisations don’t have to marry same sex couples if they don’t believe in doing so.

That’s a win for everyone, with all rights respected. If anything the balance is too much in favour of religious organisations. They have more than enough protections – not just belt and braces, but superglue, stapes and sellotape too.

Liberals are here to curb the excesses of powerful organisations

So, church and religious leaders want to stop less powerful people having rights which do no harm to anybody? Are we going to allow that to happen? Seriously? It’s the very essence of liberalism to protect people from this sort of stuff. Our default position as liberals should be to protect and respect individual choice where no harm is done to others. I hope none of you would ever try to assert that two people making a lifelong commitment to each other is in any way harmful to the rest of society.

And, of course, all religious organisations have LGBT members, and the evidence suggests that a significant proportion, even a majority of church members do not agree with the stance taken by their leaders.

Imagine some arbitrary legal obstacle to your relationship

My husband is 16 years older than me. I often wonder how I would feel if there was some arbitrary law saying there couldn’t be more than 10 years between husband and wife. I think how much we would have lost. Ok, we could have stayed together, or taken an option for couples like us which would really just encourage discrimination against us, but it’s not the same. A distinction on grounds of sexual orientation is just as silly. Why would you pass up the chance to enact full equality?

What other inalienable rights would you want to have a referendum on?

I am really hoping that you are not considering voting for the amendment calling for a referendum before legislation. Would you do the same on the death penalty? Or to remove the right to join a trade union? Or to remove human rights from criminals? Equality is not negotiable.

Don’t vote for “son of Section 28”

That amendment on schools would entrench and enshrine discrimination against LGBT people in exactly the same way as Section 28 did. Please do not vote for it.

Exemptions for registrars

Why should public servants be exempted from providing a service that is legal to access? If they don’t approve of same sex civil marriage, then they shouldn’t be registrars. It’s quite simple. You’d soon rightly tell BNP members where to go, in no uncertain terms, if they demanded exemption from marrying people from different ethnic origins. Why would you even consider exemptions for those who object to same sex couples?

Extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples

I personally don’t have any objection in principle to this, but, and it’s a big but, why would the same group of Tories who proposed the rest of the daft amendments be proposing this? Tories are supposedly in favour of marriage above all else, so why muddy the waters in this way? This smells of an attempt to wreck and I think should be avoided at all costs.

It’s not about you and what you believe about same sex marriage

For me, this is a fundamental issue of liberalism and equality. It doesn’t actually matter what your own view on same sex marriage is. A vote in favour of this Bill is a vote that is entirely consistent with our principles as a party and I hope that you will support it.





1 comment:

tris said...

Good post and good letter. Well done.

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