Lynne Featherstone proudly takes credit for railroading gay marriage legislation

Last night I was sent this email from a friend who is a Liberal Democrat member.  It’s from Lynne Featherstone MP, the ex-Equalities Minister who oversaw the same-sex marriage consultation, boasting of her achievements surrounding gay marriage legislation.  They said they were disgusted by what they read.  Hopefully you’ll see why when you read it:

It’s been an amazing day for equality today as the Coalition Government announced it will introduce legislation to open marriage up to same-sex couples.

I am so proud of our Party because – don’t let anyone fool you – it’s because of Liberal Democrats that this is happening.

It all started two years ago when LGBT+ Lib Dems and Conference broke new ground. In September 2010, Liberal Democrat members voted to support equal marriage and end the separation between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. I took that vote to heart, saw an opportunity, telephoned Nick to say that I was going to go for equal marriage in my role as Equalities Minister at the Home Office. Nick gave me his support and his blessing – and quite frankly – at sticky moments during its passage his full-on powerful interventions when and as needed.

We’re two years on and it has been a hard battle. As Equalities Minister I was in charge of putting together the consultation on equal marriage. I met with LGBT groups, campaigners, lawyers, faith groups and many others. As we all know, marriage is an ancient institution, often tinkered with, but I had no idea how confusing the patchwork of legislation that governs it was. At one point the naysayers were making ominous noises about how it would lead to disestablishment of the Church if I pushed ahead with this!

Now you all know me better than these people did. It just made me more determined to show we could achieve this without the world as we know it ending. When we launched the consultation the Government was deluged by so many anti-equality voices trying to stop me (and recently Jo Swinson who took over from me in the reshuffle) pushing for this in government.

These voices were heard not least on the backbenches of our Coalition partners by those who still get somewhat hot under the collar when you talk about a modern, diverse and open Britain! Still – with Liberal Democrats firmly behind this policy, David Cameron has the votes necessary to defy them.

It became clear during the consultation that many same sex couples wanted to get married and wanted to do so in a full religious ceremony. And there were many religious organisations who wanted the freedom to conduct same-sex marriages. With Nick’s help we delivered this victory for religious freedom, at the same time protecting the rights of those religions who do not want to conduct such services.

It’s been a proud day for me and you should feel proud too. Without us – this would never have happened!

Lynne Featherstone MP

I’ve been talking over the last few days about government ministers taking little notice of those who don’t agree with changing the institution of marriage.  Here before us we have proof of the extent to which this happened.  The fact that Ms Featherstone is  so brazen and open about the way she went about her business is frankly deplorable.  Her description of those who have disagreed with her displays a worrying level of intolerance that should never be expected from someone in her position.  There have been legitimate concerns aired by Conservative MPs and others and yet she has used them to become even more aggressive in her actions.

She talks of many religious organisations wanting to conduct same-sex weddings, but I’ve only heard of  the Quakers, Liberal Jews and some Unitarian Churches being mentioned in the press, which isn’t exactly a huge number.  It’s hard to describe what has happened as a ‘victory for religious freedom’.

Lynne Featherstone wants me to be proud of her achievements, but who in their right mind would want to praise a sham consultation run by partisan ministers who laugh at those who might disagree with them.  Which bit of this are you most proud of Lynne?



Categories: Government, Homosexuality, Marriage

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18 replies

  1. Thanks for this. Surely the point of a government consultation is that the minister is supposed to act on public concerns and modify legislation to meet those concerns. Instead it seems that this government minister’s reaction to consultation responses from “so many anti-equality voices” was that “It just made me more determined” to push through the original legislation. That is the fundamentally anti-democratic issue here.

  2. Pffft that wasn’t public concern she was pressing ahead despite of it was the ++York/CofE’s pathetic attempt to blackmail her. Read it again but slow down on the longer words and sound them out if it helps.

  3. The consultation itself wasn’t on whether gay marriage should be introduced, but how, so dissenting voices were excluded from the conversation before it was even begun.

  4. it’s got nothing to do with dissenting voices. If you don’t want a gay marriage don’t have one. The only people who need consulting are LGBTQ people. Featherstone went beyond this by tracing the evolution of marriage, an institution which is not static, and engaged with wider communities and across parties.

    No one is being forced to have a gay marriage, no religious minister is being forced to register a gay marriage. Dissenting voices are still free to dissent from same-sex marriages. What they cannot be free to do is force the rest of us to dissent with them.

    If you don’t want a gay marriage don’t have one.

  5. I think the problem Keith is that the government may not be in a position to protect religious ministers or the church because of European equality legislation. In Canada many dissenting voices have been criminalised and disadvantaged in the work place and that has also been true of a handful of cases in the U.K. I wonder if it is really worth it bearing in mind there is no material inequality but rather an extending of the name. The central question is ”What is the nature of marriage and what are its primary functions” The welfare of the family and children are important to society in general so i think all people deserve to be consulted.

    • “”What is the nature of marriage and what are its primary functions” The welfare of the family and children are important to society in general so I think all people deserve to be consulted.” They were consulted, I believe. Consult does not mean one has to take action and accept all comments from that consultation. All things are considered, the for and against, and the status quo. Some people are bombastic in their approach others are devious, some are erudite and some are dogmatic. A manner of dismissive attitude maybe based on something we do not know about; the result of events and peoples attitudes. The same as a dogmatic type my be basing his considerations of an issue solely through the apparatus of tradition, power and control. Liberty, freedom and multi-dimensional society may not be his consideration.

      In most consultations and policy issues there are “winners” and “losers”. You cannot please all of the people all of the time. In some cases none of the people none of the time.

      Christians can see things from their creeds and dogmas. They can see life through their values. Others do not. Churches have a role to play. They have their values to teach. They have their creeds and dogmas to adhere to. They were consulted on a public orientated issue. Voices were heard. Lynne Featherstone was not the only person involved. If she wishes to boast, then so be it. There is always more to a story than meets the eye. If the bill is passed then it will be interesting to see if the uptake and fallout will be as big as the doom-sayers predict. I believe the Lord will do as always what we fail to do as humans. Intervene so that his word the Gospel is the focus, not the traditions of man.

  6. Consultation generally means views are discovered, collated and put in a drawer. There is not actually much point to consultation, its far too passive. If people want their voices to be heard they should be activists not consultees. There are too many people in the church who feel they have engaged with politics because they read a paper and signed a petition and then complain they are not taken seriously.

    This issue is not the only one where people have expressed a view and felt it went unheard – there are many more – significant ones, and many where the issues affect the most vulnerable who have no voice such as the curtailing of disability benefits and legal aid. The church is very much less interested in those voices being heard than it should be because it is fire fighting issues that are not at the core of the gospel. You are not called to regulateor judge sinful behaviour – in fact we are specifically adjured not to!!

    I agree with the implicit message Ms Featherstone that you cannot expect church values and standards to be upheld by other communities. I believe that since under legislation same sex couples can legitimately raise children by adoption they deserve the right to marry not so much for the public legitimacy of their relationship though that is significant but for the rights of those children and the legal issues of wills, parental responsibility etc.

    Those families are not second class, and they don’t stop existing based on your disapproval. The bigger issue is the fact that whether same sex or heterosexual marriages and relationships are collapsing at an alarming rate. How are you addressing the definition of love, Christians and the fact that its not lasting? By responding with judgement? The definition of marriage much less contentious in that context since its becoming a temporary contract. That’s where the debate should be. How do we help families hold together and widen the understanding of what love is in a real practical sense in our country today.

    • You’re right. Commitment in marriage is on the decline and that is far from a good thing and there needs to be a concerted effort from those who can elevate the ideals of marriage to do so. I would say exactly the same for civil partnerships. Stability and security make for lasting and strong relationships.

  7. Gillan, your work in these posts is most appreciated as are the contributions from Peter, Graham, Crow, Richard & Martin. I’ve long avoided involvement other than for taking a somewhat positive scriptural overview at http://wp.me/p1Y1yB-2xN.

    The minister’s email conveys the woeful ignorance of the implications and price to be paid. I believe Rev Billy Graham’s late wife said something along the lines that if LGBT agenda becomes legally ‘right’ then God would need Sodom & Gomorrah’s forgiveness!

    But Jesus said their inhabitants would have repented and lived had they witnessed His miraculous works, whereas His fellow Jews refused. Therefore, He decreed “…it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgement than for you” (Matt 11:20-24). So, if not just pockets of ‘God’s Presence’ but the wider church starts doing ‘the greater works’ Jesus spoke of, then there will be hope for modern disbelievers awakening to spiritual – NOT religious – realities. (Bless them Lord out of their ignorance of the difference.)

    The core of the issue is ‘LGBT Pride’, and this arrogant attitude is proudly displayed in the email. Those in Christ know God’s attitude to the proud. Pride was found in the king of Tyre and likened to that of Satan (Ezekiel 28) and is ruled by the Spirit of Leviathan.

    What the Lord told Job is highly instructive in implying a link with ‘equality’ : “..Nothing on earth is his equal – a creature without fear. He looks down on all that are haughty; he is king over all that are proud”. (NKJV has ‘king over all the children of pride’) Job 41.34NIV

  8. I can’t see what you are getting so hot under the collar about. This e mail just reads as if it is by someone who believes she has done the right thing in the face of considerable opposition. She has kept true to what she believed in. Also you list a number of religious institutions as being favour but don’t include the CofE. Just for the record a large number of members of CofE do support this move and I am fed up with those who don’t agree speaking as if we don’t exist. I have no problem with different points of view of this matter but just want to be in the position to discern God’s will locally in Church and community I am in.

    • Lynne Featherstone has every right to her views, but she hasn’t done a very good job of expressing them in a way that gives the impression she fully knows what she is talking about. Making rude comments about people you disagree with isn’t the way to impress anyone unless they already agree with you. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking through this issue and have challenged myself on whether my views are the right ones. I don’t get the impression that she’s done the same and the other difference is that she has been in charge for much of this. Despite all this there are going to be plenty of people in the C of E who won’t be happy that they’ll not see gay weddings. Whichever way you look at it, I wouldn’t describe it as a victory for religious freedom.

      • To be fair to Lynne, she was addressing an audience of Liberal Democrats who she assumed already agreed with her, and was not trying to persuade those who disagreed. She was right that the majority agreed with her, but that doesn’t mean that all did. But she still needs to be careful and consistent in what she says. This reminds me of Mitt Romney’s 47% remark, made to already committed supporters, which probably lost him the election because it revealed his true thinking.

        • We do have a habit of letting our guard down when talking to friends as you’ve pointed out Peter. I don’t think Lynne Featherstone is likely to be much worse when it comes to this sort of thing than many other politicians. It’s easy to think you’re right if you’re surrounded by people who agree with you. We’re just as guilty of this in the church at times too.

          It makes me wonder how much of this goes on in parliament on a whole range of issues.

    • What irks me is this part:

      “As we all know, marriage is an ancient institution, often tinkered with, but I had no idea how confusing the patchwork of legislation that governs it was…Now you all know me better than these people did. It just made me more determined to show we could achieve this without the world as we know it ending. ”

      If she’d done her homework first and then committed herself to making it work, I might agree with you Ian, but if she’s trying to convince her own party (never mind those who disagree with her) that she knows what she’s doing, this hardly seems to be the right way to go about it. It certainly puts me off voting Liberal Democrat if this is the kind of cavalier approach to policy they’re happy for their MPs to take.

  9. I get the impression there’s a certain amount of conscience salving going on with Lynne Featherstone. Wasn’t she one of the MPs who voted to keep Section 28? She almost lost the job because of it – or am I confusing her with someone else?

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