In Scotland the consultation on equal marriage is closed and we can expect the report around April, which is just about when in England and Wales, the consultation on equal marriage is to be launched. In England and Wales, David Cameron has restricted the terms strictly to secular marriage: same-sex couples will still be banned from being legally wed in church.
This has not stopped the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, from speaking his mind on gay marriage (he’s against it).
On 4th December the Guardian published a kind of checklist I wrote on what we can expect from the anti-gay marriage brigade. Let’s see how Sentamu matches up against it.
“Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” says Dr Sentamu. “I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.”
Allowing same-sex couples to marry redefines marriage. The ba’s on the slates, the penguins are out on parade, the definition of marriage is already changed. Scotland for Marriage means marriage as a privilege from which some groups are barred – just as Focus on the Family means some families aren’t included. It’s as if they think there isn’t enough marriage or family to go around.
In the Independent on Sunday on 22nd January, Brian Brady reported:
Spain has indicated it could block an independent Scotland’s accession to the European Union, sources said. It has already refused to recognise Kosovo’s existence as an independent state. Madrid fears such moves will encourage separatist ambitions in Spanish regions, particularly Catalonia and the Basque region. Spain’s refusal to recognise Kosovo has frustrated the former Serbian province’s ambitions to enter the union.
Reading this story with reasonable care and attention, however, it appeared that the source for this piece of journalism wasn’t Spain, but Whitehall. Throughout the story, the only direct claims are sourced to “senior Whitehall sources” and “A senior UK minister said”:
“We understand the Scottish view is they would wish to join the UN but they would not wish to join Nato. They might wish to join the EU, but we fully expect Spain to block it, fearing it might encourage the separatist spirit on their doorstep.”
This made me cynical, but the story was more effectively skewered by Craig Murray, a Foreign Office diplomat of 20 years experience, who debunked the story in three paragraphs. The reality:
Firstly, nobody in the EU has ever left the EU voluntarily, let alone been expelled, and the idea that 5 million EU citizens in a stongly pro-EU country would be thrown out against their will is not in the realm of practical politics. The whole dynamic of the EU is expansive, with countries continually accepted into membership who technically should not be. Everybody knows, for example, that Romania and Bulgaria were not remotely close to compliance with the acquis communitaire when they were admitted. There is no appetite anywhere in the EU to argue that an EU member successor state would have to re-apply.
One hundred and ninety-three years apart, Robert Burns and Peter Tatchell share the same birthday, 25th January. Today Alex Salmond announces the launch of the consultation for the independence referendum, but let’s talk about Tatchell and Burns, first.
[Update, 14:49 - the independence consultation is now live, and will be open till 11th May 2012 - 14 weeks.]
Peter Tatchell Day
You are maddening.
You are threatening.
You are insanely brave. – A Poem For Peter Tatchell, By Stephen Fry
Peter Tatchell was born in 1952, in Australia. He’s been an activist for human rights for nearly his entire life, beginning at school, where he campaigned to set up a setting up a scholarship scheme for Aboriginal pupils, and to abolish the death penalty. He came to the UK in 1971, and joined the Gay Liberation Front. Over the four decades since then, his campaigning activities have ranged from sit-ins in pubs that refused to serve “poofs” to attempting to arrest Robert Mugabe for torture – during which he was beaten unconscious by Mugabe’s bodyguards. He’s marched with Moscow Pride and stood for by-elections (once, ironically, losing to a closety bisexual Liberal candidate because the Liberal party went all-out in homophobic attacks on Tatchell): he has always stood up for equality and human rights, wherever he thought it right and at considerable personal cost.