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From: Omar Kuddus <omar.kuddus@...>
Sent: Wed, 22 September, 2010 19:51:26
20th September 2010: Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall, appeared at a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat Conference where he spoke about marriage equality. His comments were reported at PinkNews, but Stonewall disputed this article and reported their own account of the position taken by Ben Summerskill.
Andy Godfrey, founder of ‘Why the Silence Stonewall?’, wrote the following reply to Stonewall
Reply to Ben Summerskill
I authored an open letter to Stonewall recently on behalf of over 100 signatories asking you to support marriage equality. I apologise for pre-empting your reply to this open letter, but wanted to reply to the comments made by Mr Summerskill on this topic this week.
Regardless of what version of events at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference is correct (though the PinkNews article appears not to significantly contradict your own account), I would like to challenge a number of statements made in your own Party Conference Update.
“Ben made quite clear at the meeting that Stonewall is engaged in a process of listening and consulting with active Stonewall supporters, of whom there are almost 20,000, about the future of civil partnership.”
This may be the case with regard to active supporters, but Stonewall have not adequately listened and responded to the wider LGB community that they represent. When asked about your position on marriage equality by numerous individuals and even by PinkNews, you did not mention any consultation process – indeed, in many cases you did not answer at all. I’m sure you will recognise that it is vitally important to communicate transparently with the people you represent.
“While some lesbian, gay and bisexual people fully support changing civil partnership into marriage, there are others – including particularly some women – who do not want something that is either the same as or synonymous with marriage.”
Overwhelmingly many LGB people and their allies support equal laws for everyone, not segregated institutions – including the many people (and not just women) who would not wish to marry themselves.
Clearly, there needs to be some alternative legal provisions for those couples who do not wish to marry – whether that is civil partnerships or something else. For this reason, many people favour retaining civil partnerships AND marriages but opening them up to everyone, rather than “changing civil partnership into marriage”.
You respond to the possibility of opening up marriage and civil partnerships to everyone as follows:
“This is a policy on which Stonewall expressed and expresses no view (campaigning to end heterosexual disadvantage is not one of its charitable objectives, and Ben said that) however, with an estimated cost of £5bn over 10 years, people have understandably raised the question of whether it is likely in the current economic environment that such a policy would be implemented in the lifetime of this parliament.”
This deeply misrepresents the situation. It is not one of Stonewall’s objectives to end heterosexual disadvantage, but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid doing something that would also (by happy coincidence) benefit straight couples (or indeed opposite-sex couples where one or both partners are bisexual) who would prefer a civil partnership to a marriage. Nor should Stonewall completely disregard transgender rights. Marriage equality would give LGB people the right to marry without taking away the right to a civil partnership, it would acknowledge the existing and legal marriages of same-sex couples who have married abroad, and it would give transgender people the right to have their gender change legally recognised without being forced to divorce their partner.
It is also not Stonewall’s place to decide whether equality is affordable or politically feasible. Stonewall should be a tireless champion of equality, regardless of the economic or political situation. Even if this is not a priority campaign, nothing is preventing you from acknowledging the self-evident truth that marriage equality is better and fairer.
I urge you in the strongest possible terms to reconsider your position, and to engage more openly in future with the LGB community.
I look forward to your reply to our open letter, which I assume will be sent by Friday 24th September (i.e. within 5 working days of receiving our letter).
17th September 2010: The open letter below was sent to Stonewall with over 100 signatures, including representatives of numerous LGB&T organisations. If you would like to show your support, you can still comment below or join our Facebook group.
We are writing to ask you to end your silence and openly support full marriage equality.
A recent PinkNews survey found overwhelming support (98%) for full marriage equality. Other LGB&T organisations, including the LGB&T groups of the three main political parties, have also professed their support. However, Stonewall have declined to do so.
At present, there is segregation between the institution of marriage for opposite-sex couples and the institution of civil partnerships for same-sex couples. “Separate but equal” is not equal, and many couples who wish to have their relationship recognised as a marriage are denied this right (conversely, there are also opposite-sex couples who are denied the right to a civil partnership).
Although civil partnerships were a huge step forward and you are to be commended on your work to bring them about, they do not have the same status as marriage. They confer the same legal rights, but there are nonetheless still some significant differences. For example, transgender individuals must divorce their partner if they wish to obtain legal recognition of their gender change under the Gender Recognition Act. Furthermore, at present revealing one’s status as a civil partner (for instance, on forms) is tantamount to revealing one’s sexuality – often in wholly irrelevant contexts. Finally, it is demeaning to same-sex couples who have legally married in other countries that the UK does not recognise their marriage.
At present, your website contains no mention of your position on marriage equality and you have repeatedly declined to respond to questions on the subject (including an invitation from PinkNews to clarify your stance). If Britain’s largest and most influential LGB rights organisation will not even support the principle of marriage equality, calls for marriage equality from the LGB&T community (and its allies) will be undermined.
You have a duty to the people you represent and we urge you to make your voice heard on marriage equality.
Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Activist, Outrage! (in personal and official capacity)
Benjamin Cohen, PinkNews.co.uk (Founder) (in personal capacity)
Stephen Gilbert MP
Caroline Lucas MPJean Lambert MEPKeith Taylor MEP
Christine Burns MBE, Equality and Diversity Specialist
Omar Kuddus, GayAsylum UK (Founder) (in official and personal capacity)
CN Lester, Queer Youth Alliance (Founder)
Rob McDowall, LGBT Network (Chair)
Katherine Doyle, Marriage Equality Campaigner
Tom Freeman, Marriage Equality Campaigner
Professor Celia Kitzinger, Marriage Equality Campaigner
Professor Sue Wilkinson, Marriage Equality Campaigner
Rosey Cox, Nottingham Pride 2010 Committee (Chair)
NUS LGBT Campaign
Adrian Trett, DELGA Liberal Democrat LGBT (Acting Chair)
Dave Page, DELGA Liberal Democrat LGBT (Treasurer)
Stephen Glenn, Liberal Democrat Candidate 2005 and 2010 Westminster elections for Linlithgow and East Falkirk
Don Harrison, DELGA Liberal Democrat LGBT
Darren Naylor, LGBT Labour (Student Officer) (in personal capacity)
Phelim Mac Cafferty, LGBT Greens (Chair)
Lesley Hedges, LGBT Greens (Female Co-Spokesperson)
Joseph Healey, LGBT Greens (International Officer)Darren Johnson AMJenny Jones AMGregor Murray, Out for Independence Scottish National Party LGBT (Acting Governor)
Rev Sharon Ferguson, Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement (Chief Executive)
Martin Reynolds, formerly of Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement (Formerly Director of Communications)
George Broadhead, Pink Triangle Trust
Adam Knowles, Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (Chair)
Peggy Sherwood, Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group (President)
Aron Sterk, Manchester Liberal Jewish Community (Chair), Keshet Manchester (Co-Founder)
Rebekah Gronowski, Scottish Rainbow Covenant (Scottish LGBT Jews), DELGA Liberal Democrat LGBT
Jay Singh, Sarbat.Net, Website and Support Group for LGBT Sikhs (Moderator)
Ruth Cochrane, Love Scotland Ltd (Director)
Silvio Grasso, Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus (PR & Communications)
Bernard Greaves, Leicester Lesbian and Gay Action, Lib Dems for LGBT Action
Al Herrera, Pink Singers London LGBT community choir
Lewis Rowe, Southampton Gay Community Health Service
Andrés Duque, LGF Top 100 Blogger (http://blabbeando.blogspot.com/)
Will Kohl, LGF Top 100 Blogger (http://www.back2stonewall.com/)
Zoe O’Connell, Trans Activist, Blogger (http://zoe.complicity.co.uk/blog/)
Professor Leslie J. Moran, Birkbeck College, University of London (Professor of Law, author of The Homosexual(ity) of Law and Sexuality Identity and Law)
Dr Richard Dunphy, University of Dundee (Senior Lecturer, Author of Sexual Politics)
Dr Matthew Waites, University of Glasgow (Senior Lecturer, Member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission LGB Research Network and the Journal of LGBT Youth Editorial Board)
Professor Robert Wintemute, King’s College London (Professor of Human Rights Law)
Dr Paul Baker, Lancaster University (Senior Lecturer, Associate of the Gender and Language Research Group)
Professor William J Spurlin, University of Sussex (Professor of English, Director of the Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence & Cultural Change)
Dr Hugh Stevens, University College London (Senior Lecturer, Editor of The Cambridge Companion to Gay and Lesbian Writing)
Annette Behrens, University of Bath LGBT Society (Co-Chair)
Hefin Jones, University of Bath LGBT Society (Co-Chair)
Sam Bartlett, Bath Spa LGBT (Male Representative)
Sophie Kelly, Bath Spa LGBT (Female Representative)
Hamzah Hamid, University of Bradford LGBTQ Society (Acting President)
David Pleavin, LGBrighTon (Campaigns Officer)
Andrew Kirby, Chester Pride LGBT Society (Captain)
Elizabeth Lincoln, Coventry LGBT+ Society (President)
Oliver Lee, University for the Creative Arts (LGBT Voluntary Representative)
Daniel Wilkes, Dundee University LGBT Society (President)
Carlton McGuirk, University of Hertfordshire LGBT Association and Society (President)
Felix Millne, Imperial College IQ LGBT (Events Officer)
Ed Cripps, Leeds University Union LGBT Society (Co-Chair)
Carissa Parnell, Liverpool Guild LGBT (Co-Chair)
Abi Alcock, University of Nottingham LGBT (Campaigns Officer)
Elizabeth Goddard, University of Nottingham Students’ Union (LGBT Officer)
Stuart Neyton, University of Nottingham LGBT (Campaigns Officer)
Elliot Reed, University of Nottingham LGBT (Social Secretary)
Beth Evans, University of Oxford LGBTSoc (Trans Rep), NUS LGBT Campaign (Trans Rep)
Laura White, Oxford Brookes LGBT Society (President)
Mark Whiley, University of Reading LGBT (Committee Member), DELGA Liberal Democrat LGBT
Lauren Dackombe, University of Southampton LGBT Society (Vice-President)
Stephen Lynch, University of Southampton LGBT Society (Committee Member)
Alexander Melhuish, University of Southampton Students’ Union (LGBT Students’ Co-Ordinator)
Casey Bourne, University of Winchester (LGBT Representative)
William Haakon Smith, University of York (Trans Rep)
----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Omar Kuddus <omar.kuddus@...>
Sent: Wed, 22 September, 2010 17:44:13
Subject: Homobia in Britain 2010
07522208835Dear Ms Featherstone,I realise the strict policy in regards to MP's and constituents but i am not writing to you as my MP, but as the Junior Equality Minister.
As the Liberal Democrat junior equality minister you said that the coalition government has a "long-term" strategy for equal rights.
could you please inform me as to what exactly these "long term" strategies for equal rights involve and are about?
Speaking at the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool you, she said that you was "proud" of successful motion calling for marriage equality and promised that the government would tackle homophobic bullying, protect gay parents and use Britain's influence abroad to encourage an end to homophobic laws.
Does the coalition government mean to keep these promises, and in particular its stance on, to " use Britain's influence abroad to encourage an end to homophobic laws".
You added that the government would get its policies "in order" on gay and lesbian asylum seekers fleeing persecution.
Does that mean that it intents to follow the Dutch and German example on Homosexual persecution for asylum seekers, or will the standard response of "discretion" still overrule and be the main factor in declining LGBT asylum applications?
I note, Ms Featherstone that you ,also attacked Labour's record, saying the party which legalised civil partnerships had turned equalities into a "burden", saying "[Equality] became a byword for bureaucracy and red-tape.
"Less about liberation and more about frustration. And if ticking boxes and filling out forms led to equality, then Britain would be a utopia of fairness and optimism."
But would this not be easier and achievable if the government granted equality and similar rights to everyone, despite their sexual orientation and hence make the county a fairer and equal place for all its citizens, and thus exclude a second class society.
In the past (MAY 2010) you criticised your own party's coalition negotiators for being too "male" and "pale" and now added: "We also recognise that trans gender issues are often distinct and sometimes need to be addressed separately. That is why this government will be the first ever to produce an action plan on trans gender equality."
The question again is when, for words are cheep and at all party conference's promises are made that never materialise.
The conference may have voted in favour of a motion supporting marriage equality, which in essence means, that the party will lobby for civil partnerships and marriage to be opened up to all couples regardless of sexuality. But again the question remains when, for no time scale or concrete proposals have been put into place, or even indicted.
In the mean time LGBT's in Britain are still to be regarded and classified as second rate citizens/ nationals.