Go on Sarah, get Gordon Brown to lift the gay marriage ban
By Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner
The Evening Standard - London - 3 July 2009
We've come a long way, baby! In 1972, I helped organise London's first Gay Pride parade. There were only 700 of us. We got lots of boos and no support from MPs.
How times change. This Saturday, hundreds of thousands of gay people, and their straight friends, will converge on central London for the annual Gay Pride parade.
We will be celebrating the fastest, most successful law reform movement in British history. In less than a decade, centuries of homophobic laws have been abolished.
The parade has the official backing of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, which was unthinkable even 15 years ago.
To coincide with tomorrow's celebrations, David Cameron has sent greetings to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
In an astonishing repudiation of the Thatcher-Major governments, he has apologised for past Conservative "mistakes" such as Section 28, which he says was an "offensive" law.
Not to be outdone, Gordon Brown is hosting a special Gay Pride reception at Downing Street and has endorsed the parade: "I'm very proud of all that this Government has achieved on LGBT rights these last 12 years. We won't ever give up on the fight for equality - we are marching with you every step of the way."
The Prime Minister can't attend for "security reasons" but he is sending his wife, Sarah Brown.
I will be marching with her at the head of the parade, with a placard urging an end to the ban on same-sex marriage.
I'm hoping Sarah can persuade her husband to end the ban. It is the right thing to do and it has popular support. A recent Times newspaper poll found that 61 per cent of the public support gay marriage, not just civil partnerships.
Sadly, marriage equality is not supported by any of the big three establishment parties, Labour, Tories or Lib-Dems. They endorse the system of sexual apartheid where gays are banned from civil marriage (homophobia) and straights are banned from civil partnerships (heterophobia).
This two-tiered system of partnership law is not equality. It perpetuates discrimination. The Greens are the only party committed to giving same-sex couples the right to marry.
In other policy areas, too, Gordon's Government is defending homophobic discrimination. The current Equality Bill is supposed to harmonise the many different equality laws, to create a level playing field. It doesn't.
While others are protected, gay people are denied protection against harassment - even in schools, where there is widespread bullying of LGBT pupils.
The Government has recently exempted religious schools from its action plan against homophobic bullying.
They will be allowed to teach sex and relationship education in accordance with their religious values which, in some cases, includes the belief that gay people are sinners, unnatural, immoral and inferior human beings. Such attitudes fuel the prejudice that leads to hate attacks.
The Government and the National Blood Service enforce a lifetime ban on blood donations from any man who has ever had oral or anal sex with another man - even if they had gay sex just once 40 years ago, even if they always have safe sex, and even if they test HIV negative.
This ban is nonsense. It is depriving the blood service - and NHS patients - of much needed donors at a time of shortages.
The LGBT community has made great progress. London is one of the world's most gay-friendly cities. But the battle for equality is unfinished.
It won't be finally won until all homophobic discrimination is ended. Over to you, Brown
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