A Time to be Proud
“I know a lot of people wont agree with this blog, but that just makes it more important we talk about such issues, address concerns, debate developments, after all people were once against women having the vote, even owning property, well the world didn’t come to an end. It won’t come to an end with this wonderful development…………”
“The God I worship, the example of how to live my life given to us all by His Son, teaches us to accept others regardless, to include people, to reach out to people, as long as it is consenting, as long as it is loving, as long as it is legal and does no harm, then why should I care who someone sleeps with……….”
“If a relationship is founded in love and people wish to affirm that love in the presence of God, then I am opened armed to accept them, accept their relationship as a loving union between two consenting adults………….”
Over generations there has been a steady development in the laws and presidencies which govern or society. Some of these laws have been born out of hatred, some born out of war or the need to control, some over the centuries were as wrong as one could imagine, even in the context of the day they were passed into law. Some laws, a few rare pieces of legislation, don’t just make you sit up and take notice but change our society for ever. These are the jewels we have that are usually fought hard against by both opponents and supporters of change. I flashed back to my own childhood, sat enthralled in a history lesson with Mr Hawtree telling us about the lives given so freely to put pressure on the Government. But the Government and the rich of the Country fought back so hard that they brought in laws to stop the campaigners, imprisoning them for meeting in groups, for speaking out at the obvious wrong that was being done; well, wrong by our standards. But at the time the people in power were adamant that this change had to be stopped at any cost. Supporters continued to campaign regardless of the risks they ran going up against the ‘system’, but as the death toll rose, the level of injuries from mounted Police increased, the tide started to turn in their favour. Finally, the Government caved in and gave women over the age of 21 the vote in 1928.
I felt captivated and inspired at what these women gave up to achieve their aims. Such radical views in the late 19th Century and early 20th. These views were incomprehensible to the majority at the time, but now are taken for granted, and that is such a shame – that the blood that was spilt so hard is so easily forgotten. We cast an arrogant eye over this period and say how stupid they were not to see that women should have the vote, have equality, how backward they must have been. We look back on this era with sneering, pious, condemnation at how ignorant they were in an era of where men were seen as superior to women legally. But to demonstrate how difficult this change was, this was following Queen Elizabeth the 1st 45 years on the throne and Queen Victoria’s near 64 years on the throne, which only ended in 1901. So even with 100 years or more of female rule still the society of the time would not change and agree women could vote. I tell you this just to demonstrate how difficult it is to change society for the better, how hard elements of society will fight to resist change, change that will happen regardless. The harder society resists the harder campaigning elements fight. But what is remarkable is that most of the time these changes are looked back on by generations not born yet. Are admired, taught in history and have books written about them; scholarly works that are applauded by academic communities.
1327 The deposed King Edward II of England is killed was openly gay and having a love affair with the Earl of Cornwall;
1558 Elizabeth I ascends the English throne and reinforces the sodomy laws of 1533;
1680 A same-sex marriage was annulled. Arabella Hunt married “James Howard”; in 1682 the marriage was annulled on the ground that Howard was in fact Amy Poulter, a ‘perfect woman in all her parts’, and two women could not validly marry.
1690 King William III of England was also thought to have been gay;
1772 The first public debate about homosexuality began during the trial of Captain Robert Jones who was convicted of the capital offence of sodomizing a thirteen-year-old boy;
1810 The nineteenth century began with a wave of prosecutions against homosexual men;
1861 The Buggery Act was changed from a capital crime and with it the death penalty for buggery was finally abolished. A total of 8921 men had been prosecuted since 1806 for sodomy with 404 sentenced to death and 56 executed;
1866 Marriage was defined as being between a man and a woman (preventing future same-sex marriages);
1910 London homosexuals began to gather openly in public places such as pubs, coffee houses and tea shops for the first time;
1912 London’s first gay pub (as we now know the term), Madame Strindgberg’s The Cave of the Golden Calf opened in Heddon Street, off Regent Street;
1921 The Criminal Law Amendment Act was amended in the House of Commons to include a section to make sexual “acts of gross indecency” between women illegal, and was passed in the House of Commons. However the section was defeated in the House of Lords and thus never became law;
1939-45 World War II Over five million men served in the British armed forces during World War II. Of these, it’s likely that at least 250,000 were gay or bisexual;
1952 Sir John Nott-Bower, commissioner of Scotland Yard began to weed out homosexuals from the British Governmentat the same time as McCarthy was conducting a federal homosexual witch hunt in the US. During the early 50’s as many as 1,000 men were locked up in Britain’s prisons every year amid a widespread police clampdown on homosexual offences;
1957 The Report of the Departmental Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (better known as the Wolfenden report, after Lord Wolfenden) was published. It advised the British Government that homosexuality should not be illegal;
1965 In the House of Lords, Lord Arran proposed the decriminalisation of male homosexual acts (lesbian acts had never been illegal). A UK opinion poll finds that 93% of respondents see homosexuality as a form of illness requiring medical treatment;
1967 The Sexual Offences Act came into law and decriminalises homosexuality in England;
1969 Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) formed as the first British gay activist group;
1977 The first gay lesbian Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference took place to discuss workplace rights for Gays and Lesbians;
1981 The European Court of Human Rights in Dudgeon v. United Kingdom struck down Northern Ireland‘s criminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults. The first UK case of AIDS was recorded when a 49-year-old man was admitted to Brompton Hospital in London suffering from PCP (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia). He died ten days later;
1984 Chris Smith, newly elected to the UK parliament declares: “My name is Chris Smith. I’m the Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, and I’m gay”, making him the first openly out homosexual politician in the UK parliament;
1988 Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 enacted as an amendment to the United Kingdom‘s Local Government Act 1986, on 24 May 1988 stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”;
2000 The Labour government scraps the policy of barring homosexuals from the armed forces;
2001 The last two pieces of unequal law regarding gay male sex are changed. 2002 Same-sex couples are granted equal rights to adopt;
2004 The Civil Partnership Act 2004 is passed by the Labour Government, giving same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as married heterosexual couples in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
2004 The Gender Recognition Act is passed by the Labour Government. The Act gives transsexual people legal recognition as members of the sex appropriate to their gender (male or female) allowing them to acquire a new birth certificate, affording them full recognition of their acquired sex in law for all purposes, including marriage;
2004 The first civil partnership formed under the Civil Partnership Act 2004 took place on the 5th December between Matthew Roche and Christopher Cramp;
2010 Pope Benedict XVI condemns British equality legislation for running contrary to “natural law”;
2012 The Equality Act makes discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the provision of goods and services illegal;
2013 on the 5th February the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passes the House of Commons stage despite a Conservative backbench rebellion against the Bill;
Now I am sure there are other dates that are key in the rise of rights for gay and lesbian people, but the above gives the gist of it all, and the final entry is what I refer to when I say we can be so very proud. At last this Government has done something we can be proud of, something that will go down as one of the most significant events in history. To allow same sex partnerships to marry in the sight of God. Prime Minister Cameron, I know you went up against your own party and so many religious groups but you did, as you have said, “it’s the right thing to do”. For once a sincere well done to you for pushing this through. It is an historic event that we should be proud of and not trying to shout it down.
I do not profess to know what is in the mind of God, but if God is a state of grace and unconditional love, if we are made in God’s image and taught that we only have compassion in our hearts, that everyone is welcome in God’s church, then allowing same sex couples to marry in church in accordance with their faith is the right thing, is the right progression of our laws. If we are true about our belief in equality for all then this must also apply to religious communities, or else it is nonsense, and the God I believe in is open to all regardless of gender. The only bit of the Bill I object to is that churches can opt out of marrying same sex couples – this should be removed from the Bill. I see no reason why religious groups should be allowed to ignore the Equality Act of this future Act. It’s wrong by any judgement of our standards to allow any organisation to decide what is right or wrong legally, what laws they will and won’t follow. The religious communities need to modernise, need to come up to date, need to welcome a broader congregation and not to hark back to an era that was wrong then and is wrong now. Perhaps if religions start to welcome openly gay and lesbian people into their house of worship, start accepting women into the very heights of their ministry, then perhaps their congregations would start to swell. Move with the times or start to see the death of local churches, which is already happening in rural communities.
It is time for religious communities to embrace all and demonstrate the love they profess for all, open your minds, your hearts and your doors to all and abide by the laws of this land in full – time to let in the 21st century as it’s knocking on your church doors.
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