Thursday, January 11, 2007

Guest houses, printers and schools

OK, let's cut to the chase - the debate about the sexual orientation regulations (one of the most vicious and homophobic debates in recent times) comes down - after you've sifted through the lies, exaggerations and misrepresentations (including some senior and - one might have thought/hoped - intelligent people) to 3 main areas of concern.

Guesthouses Same sex couples might sleep in the same bed. Woopy-do! Notice how a certain religious mind gets drawn immediately into sex. Who's doing it, how often and with whom - their lives must be so boring that they can't stop obsessing and filling every waking hour with the thought someone might be having moments of closeness and tenderness (which may or not invovle sex). They can't conceive of the fact that the two people concerned may be experiencing some degree of closeness and maybe they went to Bournemouth (Filey, Harrogate, Swansea, Eastbourne .....) to attend a wedding/funeral/Civil Partnership/ visit relatives/have a short weekend break.

Maybe - if attending a "Chrsitian" B+B they will experience the warmth and kindness of the proprietors and start thinking about the gospels and think about things like prayer and going to church. Maybe the proprietor is surprise to find they quite like the people they're recieving as paying guests and find that God is saying something to them and letting them think again about some of their pre-conceptions about life (always one of life's richest rewards).

Instead they want to be allowed to put up a sign saying "No gays" or "No same sex couples". A 16 year old boy walks past the sign on his way back from school after experiencing homophobic abuse and learns a lesson about society - from Christians.

Printers Does anyone know any Christian printers? [There may be Christians who work in printing, but a specifically Christian printer.....] If you're arranging a Gay Pride event (or anythign for that matter) you want a printer you can rely on. Someone who will deliver on time and do a good quality of work. You are not going to seek out, deliberatly, a printer who finds it difficult to do the work.

Back in the real world - maybe a Christian would be glad of the work. In any case, printers can always turn down work or recommend another printer.

People might be forced to teach that Civil Partnerships exist for same sex couples.... Well, excuse me but they do exist. What kind of education is it that spends about 10 years shielding young people from what exists. Well, they know that LGB people exist, that Civil Partnerships are possible (why not inform young citizens of their rights under the law?). What they learn is not the ignorance aimed at - they know these things - but a very important lesson - there's an unspoken law about talking about Civil Partnerships and being gay or lesbian.

Isn't it time we broke out of this?

The view opposing the regulations on sexual orientation - apart from being incredibly crude and exaggerated want a kind of society where love and tenderness between two people is despised, where a culture of fear is cultivated and where the law of silence reigns.

The Equality Act passed in 2006 and the promised Single Equality Act (can't come soon enough) are about, must be about, making people equal, doing away with inequality.

Religions may lag behind - let them have freedom of religion, conscience, speech and association, but we are surely coming to a time when wanton and unchecked discrimination and all the misery that brings, whether disablism, racism, sexism or homophobia get to be honestly tackled and thos who would perpetrate it are told - politely - that equality is the birthright of all citizens.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The regulations - a political view

A few more things -

Here is a link to the breakdown of the voting in the House of Lords as well as a link to the Hansard report of speakers.

Of particular note are speeches by Lord Smith, Lord Alli and Lord Lester.

Interesting that the majority of the votes against are from Conservative peers and that a large majority of Conservative voting Lords were against. Clear and uncontrovertible evidence, if any were needed, of the probability of any Tory Government (even with Cameron at the helm) enacting any socially progressive legislation at all.

All of the Labour and Lib Dem peers who voted were in favour.

After watching the debate on the Parliament channel I was struck by several facts:

- the motion to annul was moved by someone who sounded like Ian Paisley
- Lord Tebbit started by being nice to Chris Smith to show he really was a nice person, then procedded to talk about 'sodomy', rather spoiling the effect
- there was genuine warmth in the Chamber for Lords Smith and Alli, with lots of 'hear, hear's' and silence greating those speaking in support of annullment
- a really warm reaction of the Chamber to the announcement of the result.

Overall a very positive experience (if you could manage to sit through the Tory and DUP speeches).

There has been some really interesting articles which are well worth a read on the Guardian comment is free site:

Peter Tatchell (Take a bow your Lorships), AC Grayling (Halting Progress), Inayat Bunglawala and Abdurahman Jafar (None are more equal than others) and Dave Hill (Hate the sin, not the sinner). All good articles and well worth a read.

To summarise in sketch form, Peter Tatchell argues the vote in the House of Lords is a body blow to US style religious right being introduced into the UK; Bungwala and Jafar make a cogent argument for Muslims to support the regulations, A C Grayling makes a powerful argument against religious forces foisting discrimination upon society; meanwhile Dave Hill's piece makes a subtle and interesting argument that we apply the phrase 'Hate the sin, not the sinner' to religious communities, also emphasising, rightly, that many of the religious (including myself) were campaigning in support of the regulations.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Praise Be!

Good News from Parliament.

The move to annull the regulations on sexual orientation for Northern Ireland has been heavily defeated 199 - 68 (defeated 3 to 1) in the House of Lords.

Massive victory for common sense and equality for all.

More to follow.

BBC News report

For some excellent blog coverage see Thinknig Anglcans here and here (loads of interesting links as always) as well the Zefrog blog (with pictures and a live account of events).

Monday, January 08, 2007

Death of David Ervine

Meanwhile, sad to note the recent death of David Ervine of the Progressive Unionist Party. He struck a rare note on the Unionist side in the Northern Ireland Assembly in speaking out against moves by Unionists to ask for the regulations to be withdrawn, as well as being widely praised for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process. (See an obituary notice in the Times).

Some quotes from his moving speech (see here for the full text, including interruptions):

"Equality is equality is equality. If we refuse any human being the entitlement to equality, we deny ourselves proper equality. It is either for everyone or for no one."

"We have the option to live in a modern, decent society, and if we choose to have equality, it must be for everyone. This is a nice country with a great opportunity, but it is a bit like the beautiful girl who goes to a beauty salon and comes out with warts on her nose."

"In reality, there are human beings who struggle to come through life with the realisation that they are different. It is a horrific condition for a young man or woman to realise that they are out of step with the rest of society. It brings immense pressure.

Let me give you some examples of things we could be talking about. Northern Ireland has the highest teenage suicide rate; one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates; the highest rate of heart defect; and the lowest levels of educational achievement in Europe.

Yet here we are, talking about ensuring that we guarantee that those ogres in the gay and lesbian community do not get equality."

"The sentiments and attitudes of people such as those in the DUP — and the DUP is surely not alone — is that it is OK to treat those people as inferior. They are not inferior; they are equal, and they should be equal in all aspects of life as far as it is earthly possible for us to deliver. Northern Ireland has the opportunity to deliver that equality."

No More Hiding Places for Prejudice

The TUC have just issued this excellent briefing 'No more hiding places or prejudice' commenting on the sexual orientation regulations and the religious pressure for exemptions, and giving some excellent examples, both of real life examples as well as of Christian groups who are in opposition to the hysteria being whipped up by groups like the Lawyers Christian Fellowship, the Christian Institute and Anglican Mainstream.

It's an excellent risposte to some of the more ludicrous pourings forth of the religious right.

Meanwhile this promises to be a busy week - Tuesday sees the House of Lords vote on a motion to annull the regulations; Wednesday the committee to scrutinise them in the House of Commons will be unveiled (not sure which days they will sit on).

The last day for the regulations to be annulled is the 20th January. The regulations covering the rest of the UK are due to come into force in April.