By David Equality Watters Wed, Aug 31, 2011
With more than 1,650 signatures in support of the Equal Love Campaign, coordinator and Human Rights Activist Peter Tatchell and his team show increasing support in the UK.
Whilst it may have appeared that the United Kingdom’s Equal Love Campaign (www.equallove.org.uk) had gone a little quiet in recent months, Human Rights Activist and campaign coordinator Peter Tatchell and his team have been working behind the scenes to garner the support of an increasing number of MPs, MEPs, political parties and prominent religious and philosophical organisations in the UK.
Tatchell has also been tirelessly speaking at Pride Events and academic institutions, whilst others from the campaign have grabbed any opportunity to communicate with the public on local radio and in the press.
No interaction is worthless in such campaigns. One campaigner has made every effort to support one MA student to write a paper on leadership which focused on political activism, another who was producing a radio documentary on Marriage Equality and others who were recreating the story as part of their Drama Degree.
At the very beginning of the campaign, the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement – whose chief executive, Sharon Ferguson, is half of one of the couples participating in the campaign – unsurprisingly gave the Equal Love Campaign its support, saying in a statement that, “LGCM wholeheartedly supports the Equal Love Campaign. LGCM has always been at the forefront of the campaign for marriage for lesbian and gay couples and therefore totally supports our Chief Executive, Rev Sharon Ferguson, and her partner as the lead same-gender couple in the Equal Love Campaign”.
The statement from the LGCM continues: “It was a hard decision for the organisation to agree to the introduction of Civil Partnerships in 2005, but, at the time, the protection and legal rights that were offered were too great to risk by holding out for full equality. However, the time is now right to press forward once again” and “LGCM strongly believes that the current system, only allowing people either a marriage or a Civil Partnership, based solely on the gender of the person they love, is a form of sexual second-class citizenship. Both marriage and Civil Partnerships should be available to all couples regardless of gender. The choice of how to celebrate this lifelong commitment should belong to the couple, not the state”.
Also in support is the British Humanist Association, which released a statement indicating that, “As part of our own work to promote and realise equality in marriage law, whether on grounds of sexual orientation, or on grounds of belief, the BHA is pleased to support the Equal Love Campaign”.
Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, commented, “The primary reason why same-sex couples do not enjoy the same rights to marry as couples of the opposite sex is because of religious opposition to gay marriage. Although civil partnerships are a step in the right direction, they are not equal to marriage and send a clear message that there is one system for gay couples and one for straight couples. There is no legitimate argument for maintaining a system that, on grounds of sexual orientation, bars couples from marriage or from civil partnerships, and the continuing discrimination on those grounds is unjustifiable”.
In London on 2 February 2011, a European Court of Human Rights application was jointly filed by the 8 couples who are challenging the current marriage inequality laws. A copy of this submission can be downloaded (in PDF format) here: equalloveapplicationtoechr.
At the announcement, Peter Tatchell said, “We are confident that the European Court will eventually rule in our favour and require the British government to end sexual orientation discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law”.
On Monday, 25 April 2011, days before the Royal Wedding, the Equal Love Campaigners made themselves visible to a wider and much more international audience when they presented a giant wedding card for Prince William and Kate Middleton outside the gates of Buckingham Palace.
As well as wishing the royal couple “congratulations” and “a happy life together”, the campaigners highlighted the ban on gay civil marriage and urged Kate and William to support the right of same-sex couples to marry in a register office.
Cupcakes with Equal Love logos, made by chef and Equal Love campaigner Richard J. Hull, were handed out to tourists and passers-by.
The timing and location meant that many eager, international news crews were looking for a story, especially one with a connection to the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and his then future bride, Kate Middleton. The area all around Pall Mall and outside Buckingham Palace was also swarming with tourists, many of whom wanted to hear more about the campaign and many of whom offered their support.
It may have been the cupcakes which first grabbed their attention, or the pink Union Jack flags, but many stayed and asked questions, expressed understanding and signed the giant card which read:
“Congratulations, William and Kate, on your Wedding Day. We wish you a happy life together. You can get married, gay people can’t. We are banned by law. We ask you to support marriage equality. Equal=Love.”
“As well as wishing the royal couple happiness, our card highlighted the fact that William and Kate can marry, but same-sex couples cannot. In democratic society, we should all be equal before the law. The ban on gay marriage is discrimination and should be repealed,” said coordinator Peter Tatchell. “This event is an affirmation of our opposition to discrimination in marriage law. We want to show our support for the right of everyone to be able to choose whether or not to get married.”
June 2011 saw the launch of an online petition by the Equal Love organizers. This is currently online atwww.equallove.org.uk but unfortunately only eligible for United Kingdom residents to sign.
However, for readers living elsewhere who would like to but can’t sign the petition, reposting the website link on social networks is still a vital form of support which could make all the difference to the success of the Equal Love Campaign.
One UK resident who signed the petition did so stating, “Making everyone equal before the law will not damage heterosexual marriage, and I have yet to hear anything remotely convincing claiming it could. Admittedly, it could annoy some homophobic bigots, but should bigots be allowed to deny others their human rights?”
Another, a heterosexual ally, said, “I am in a heterosexual relationship, I plan to get married but I am strongly against the fact of discrimination between a ‘civil partnership’ and ‘marriage’; under no circumstances is this acceptable. Marriage is between two people who love each other and are willing to spend the rest of their lives together. As for homosexual people, not being allowed to get married in UK churches is unacceptable, bearing in mind we have one of the biggest homosexual communities in the world. Who is to say we do not have a choice with what we do with our own lives? Apparently the government can overrule what we can do with our own relationships.”
A third simply states, “Equality for ALL!”
For those UK readers, and I hope that there are many, after you HAVE signed the petition, the Equal Love campaigners ask that you take further action and email your MP & MEP and ask them to write on your behalf to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, urging him to bring forward legislation to end the bans on gay civil marriages and heterosexual civil partnerships.
To sign the petition go to: http://www.equallove.org.uk
You can find out who your MP and MEPs are, and email them direct, via this website: www.writetothem.com.
So, whilst it may seem that all had gone quiet on the Equal Love front, this is far from the truth. There are many approaches to achieving any goal, and constant high visibility is not always the most productive. Instead, a slow and steady burn, and tactical manoeuvring, are what will win the small battles, educate and enlighten, change public perception and ultimately win the war for true social equality.
The Marriage Equality victory in New York has taught us this and has also given us hope that eventually, with patience, perseverance and tenacity, we too can attain full legal recognition that our love is of equal value.
As Hafiz (rendered by Daniel Ladinsky) said:
“For I have learned that every heart will get what it prays for most.”