Just to put a couple of things in the public domain…
I have just written to Avon and Somerset police asking them to reconsider allowing the English Defence League to march in Bristol on the same day as Pride, on July 14th. I’ve been told after making earlier representations that the EDL have a gay section, so they’re not homophobic [perhaps should clarify this – “so they’re not homophobic” was reporting what I was told, not my own conclusion], but their message of intolerance and their intimidatory tactics run counter to everything that Pride stands for… and many people will be worried about attending Pride if there’s a chance that violence could kick off between the EDL and anti-fascist protestors in the city centre, or if EDL thugs could be hanging around the city after the official events have finished and the police presence has diminished. This isn’t about curbing the right to protest; it’s about making sure Pride is a success and that everyone who wants to – including LGBT people from BME communities – feels comfortable attending.
There is, by the way, a petition onthe council’s website about this: http://epetitions.bristol.gov.uk/epetition_core/community/petition/1858
I have also pledged my support for the Coalition for Equal Marriage campaign. (I think in the early hours of this morning on Twitter I also found myself pledging my support for allowing gay penguins to marry, although I’m not sure the heterosexual penguins bother?)
I don’t actually think the proposed law – well, the floated but now shelved law – goes far enough in fact, in that it’s mainly about terminology and ending the distinction between civil partnerships and civil marriages. It doesn’t tackled to thorny issue of religious services, and I can see that there would be difficulties in persuading all religious establishments to co-operate (although if we don’t allow discrimination by religious B+B owners, should we allow it elsewhere?) But if a church is happy to conduct a gay marriage I don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed.
The example I always use is Chris Bryant MP, a former priest who has married at least one MP in the St Mary’s Undercroft Chapel in the Houses of Parliament (ie officiated over her marriage to her now husband) and also christened Tom Watson’s kids there. But when it came to his own civil partnership, he had to hold it in one of the Commons dining rooms. Atheists like me could do a Britney Spears and just waltz in off the street and get married in the chapel (well, perhaps not, I suspect you have to book) but someone who actually is a Christian and a regular church-goer – and in Chris’ case, an actual priest – can’t, because they happen to be gay.