Is this a Christian Country? Answer: no.

I had a first bash at a post on this subject last year. I rewrote parts of it and version 2 now resides at the Lawyers Secular Society blog here .

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At the Stroke of the Midnight Hour

On 27th July 1967, at the stroke of the midnight hour, the Sexual Offences Act 1967 came into force. When they woke, thousands of loving couples, whose only offence had been being of the same sex, could look forward to a life free from fear of the policeman’s knock on the door; from fear of imprisonment; and from the state sanctioned chemical mistreatment for being yourself that this country inflicted on someone who contributed more to our victory over Nazism than anyone else. Gay people ceased to be criminals in their own homes. I can’t say I remember that day: I was ten. But I certainly knew by then that I was different and was going, as I thought, to have a life of being secret and different.

46 years have passed, and during those years many passionate and hardworking people fought to equalise the treatment of gay and straight people in this country. For their pains, they were frequently verbally and physically abused and forced to the margins of our society. Many of us have contributed in many different ways to that fight; many of us could wish we had contributed more and stopped being so secret somewhat earlier. Some battles were lost: at the worst point of that 46 years, decent same sex couples – and their children – were legislatively vilified as in a “pretended family relationship”.

Today, 13th March 2014, at the stroke of midnight, while we slept, most of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 came into force and the last major piece of legal discrimination in this country against gay people  – the right to marriage on equal terms with straight couples – fell away. And yesterday Her Majesty the Queen assented to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act,  allowing equal marriage in that nation.

So, job done? Is LGBT history over?

Not quite.

Although Great Britain now has full legislative equality for gay people, our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland suffer from considerable discrimination including in fundamental areas of family life; important aspects of the equal marriage legislation fail to adequately address transgender issues.

Around the rest of the world, the position is not so rosy. The nation that awoke to freedom “at the stroke of the midnight hour”, the world’s largest democracy, recriminalised LGB people last year. There has been a flurry of the most vicious anti-gay legislation in parts of Africa. The death penalty is imposed against LGB people in many parts of the world.

So if we sort all that out, job done?

No.

Human rights, respect and dignity cannot be siloed. You don’t have a different set of rights because you’re LGBT. Your rights to dignity, respect and freedom because of your sexuality are no different from your rights as a human being. Human beings have different ethnicities, genders, sexualities, gender identities, beliefs and lack of them, abilities and social background. They are all entitled to be respected, to be part of the safe space that good global employers provide for their employees. We should all work to advance those same principles in the wider community.

If we can get all that right, the job really will be done.

Note: this is an edited version of a post I offered to my colleagues at work today on the coming into force of same sex marriage legislation in England and Wales.
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Annoying Delay in our Marriage: a Letter for MPs

Many of our friends have kindly asked Jonathan and me when we are going to get married. Sadly, the answer ids that at the moment we can’t. People already in a civil partnership may, according to the marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, convert their civil partnerships to marriage; and the effect of that conversion is that the civil partnership is dissolved and the newly created marriage is backdated to the date of the civil partnership, in our case April 2006. That warrants a celebration of course – and some of our female friends wanted plenty of notice, for hat buying purposes. 

Most of the Act of 2013 comes into effect in March and the first same sex marriage ceremonies will take place on 29 March 2014, the birthday of the evil old bigot Lord Tebbit. I hope it makes him choke on his birthday cake.  But for those of us already committed in a civil partnership there is no date. The Government alleges that it will take to the end of the year to change IT systems and to train staff. This strikes me as complete baloney – both of these things were presumably necessary before the introduction of marriage for same sex couples not in civil partnerships. 

We have written to our MP  about it. Here is an edited version (we personalised it based on our MP, the excellent Emily Thornberry, being a prominent Labour supporter of equal marriage)  which others in a similar position may wish with appropriate alterations to use. We’ll let you know the response.

 

Dear

We are writing to you about the unexplained and unacceptable delay to the implementation of section 9 of the Act. Section 9 is the section that permits same sex couples in civil partnerships (like us) to convert their civil partnerships into marriage and have the resulting marriage backdated to the day of their civil partnership. This delay means that we, and many thousands of couples like us, must remain in the lesser status of civil partnership until at least the end of this year, almost 18 months after Royal Assent to the Act on 17 July last year.

The Government is implementing with reasonable promptitude the parts of the Act which allow couples who are not in a civil partnership to marry: those provisions enter into effect on 13 March, from which date foreign same sex marriages will be recognised and same sex couples not in a civil partnership can give notice of their intention to marry, meaning that they can marry on or after 29 March. We’re happy for those couples and glad that the Government was able to bring these provisions of the Act into force earlier than originally announced.

The announcement made by the Government originally about implementation of the Act, as reported in the press, simply mentioned the summer of this year as the date of implementation. We, like many other couples, pencilled in a date in late summer for a wedding celebration. As it became clear that the summer date did not include us we have had to rub that date out!

We understand that the Government’s excuse for the 18 month delay is that alterations to IT systems are required. But IT systems must have had to be seriously altered to allow same sex marriages for new partners to start next month. We suspect that the Government is simply not giving any serious priority to this issue, perhaps because the necessary subordinate legislation requires an affirmative resolution of each house of Parliament..

The effect of this delay is in effect to prejudice those who made an early commitment to stable and permanent same sex relationships. We have to remain in state of inequality – having to say “no, but…” in answer to the question “are you married?”. Our relationship, which is of course marriage in all but name, it is not recognised here or abroad as a marriage: whenever we travel we have to present ourselves separately at customs and immigration as if we were two friends travelling together. And perhaps most importantly it gives bigots the opportunity to pretend in public that as a couple we are in some way different from opposite sex married couples.

This is depressing for us as a couple, especially as we genuinely don’t understand why the Government is delaying. We would be very grateful indeed if you could raise with the DCMS and Maria Miller the question of why this simple process is taking so long and delaying bringing into effect an important part of this important piece of legislation, which causes us some distress as a couple.

Thank you.

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UKIP and Equal Marriage

I have been debating on Twitter today with a gay UKIP supporter who claims that the reason for UKIP’s antipathy to marriage equality is solely due to the “threat” to churches that the European Court of Human Rights might force them to do so.  He cites Denmark, where the state church is of course obliged to carry out same sex marriages, with proposer protection for the individual consciences of clergy who decline. Most of us say that is no evidence whatsoever that the ECHR would force the Church of England to carry out same sex marriages because here the legislation explicitly forbids it and in Denmark the legislation explicitly requires it. National sovereignty in action. 

He states that he has seen in some article a statement that the only reason the Danish legislature so legislated was because of an ECHR case. He said he read it in the Telegraph. Can anyone help him find any reference anywhere (Telegraph or not) to an ECHR case originating from Denmark forcing a church to marry a same sex couple against the Church’s will? I can’t find anything…

Thank you!

 

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Why email accounts are sometimes greyed out on iPhones and iPads

Here, courtesy of my excellent email and web hosting provider http://www.luxsci.com, is the reason why this irritating issue, about which I have tweeted in the past, happens.

This may happen if you setup an IMAP account on your iPhone and check your folder list before you set the IMAP Path Prefix to “mail” in the Advanced Settings. It may also happen if you originally set the IMAP Path Prefix incorrectly in the Advanced Settings. The correct IMAP Path Prefix is “mail” without the quotes. Your “Inbox” may still be grayed [sic]  out even after changing the Path Prefix to the correct path. This is because the iPhone creates an additional “Inbox” folder when it does not find one, and this extra “Inbox” in your folders can cause the iPhone to get confused. To resolve this, contact support and have them delete or rename the extra “Inbox”. This should resolve the problem.

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Same Sex Marriage – a strange delay

I was very pleased today to hear that the first same sex marriages in England and Wales will take place in late March. This is much earlier than we expected and it’s great to hear.

What was less great to hear, however, is the delay in allowing those of us already in civil partnerships to convert those partnerships into marriage. This apparently is not going to happen until the end of 2014. People may say, what’s the hurry? People like Jonathan, my “civil partner” and I, have all the rights of a married couple anyway. So why can’t we be patient?

The answer is, that we have been patient for quite a long time. All the reasons that were discussed at great length in the Parliamentary debates and public consultations about equal marriage, civil partnership and marriage are separate and not equal. Jonathan and I have been looking forward to celebrating joining the heterosexual majority in an institution which is the gold standard for human relationships for a very long time. We had even pencilled in a date in the summer for the celebration of the conversion, relying on the government’s assurance that marriage would be implemented by June.

I know that there are many greater injustices in the world, but we feel hard done by. All that the government needs to do is create some very simple forms and have the orders prescribing the forms approved by both houses of Parliament. I think I could draft the forms in about two hours flat.

We have been waiting a long time and could Maria Miller please get on with it.

We will do the only two things we can: support Stonewall and write to our MP. Perhaps others would like to do the same.

After all, our female friends are desperate to buy their hats!

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Alan Turing “Pardon” Bill

Alan Turing was very badly treated by the British state. There is no doubt about that. And he is owed an apology. But the Bill, which looks as if it will find its way onto the statute book, is bad for two reasons.

First as many others have pointed out it is a bad bill because all gay people persecuted for being themselves should be pardoned, or none. See Martin Robbins’s excellent piece here.

Secondly the Bill is a drafting dog’s dinner. The first clause provides that Turing “is to be taken to be pardoned” for the offences. Then it says: “This Act does not affect any conviction or sentence or give rise to any right entitlement or liability.”

In other words, Turing is to regarded as pardoned but the pardon has no legal effect. This is mealy mouthed and silly. The bill should be quietly dropped. And the Government should dive into its (empty) pockets and found something meaningful in Alan Turing’s memory. Ideas, anyone?

(By the way, I wonder how Gerald Howarth will vote when this Bill reaches the Commons. Here are more aggressive homosexuals….)

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