A friend of mine lives in Brent. In the 2010 General Election he voted for Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather. He wrote two letters to his local MP, the first before the parliamentary vote on marriage equality and second after Sarah Teather voted against marriage equality. I found both letters very moving and with his permission I am publishing them on this blog.
Letter 1 – before the parliamentary vote
I’m writing as one of your constituents to ask that you support the equal marriage bill due to go to Parliament on Tuesday. Based on your past support for equality, I am confident that you will do the right thing. However, vile and hurtful comments against equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples have been given a large amount of media coverage. Very little has been made of the fact that this is a simple matter of equality and just what equality means on a personal basis for millions of gay men and women.
I am proud to say as a gay man approaching 40 that I have the privilege of being Godfather to 3 children from 3 families, and I am honorary ‘uncle’ to a half dozen more. I grew up with an unequal age of consent and Section 28. I grew up being told by society that my rights would always be limited because of who I was. Times have changed but the impact of growing up knowing that I was, literally, in law, a second class citizen, has had an impact on me as it has on many gay men and women. It narrowed my expectations about what I had a right to expect from life. It continues to be a source of great pain that members of parliament, some religious leaders and the minority who are against equality still feel it is acceptable to compare equal marriage with paedophilia, bestiality and incest. I hope one day in the not very distant future that too will be unacceptable.
As a teenager I campaigned against apartheid and wept for joy when I watched Nelson Mandela walk to freedom. I know that my Godchildren will, when they are my age, wonder how there could even have been a debate about marriage equality. In the same way that we now wonder how apartheid could have survived so long. The 20 somethings I work with now can’t believe that in their lifetime gay men and women experienced such open, legislated prejudice. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by friends who love me for who I am and who support my right to full equality. But had there been marriage equality when I was growing up, had I been in a country where right from the very beginning I had known that all opportunities could be mine, perhaps my life would have been different. Perhaps even I would have been a father rather than just an uncle.
The next generation of gay men and women have a right to grow up with dignity, knowing that the rights available to heterosexuals are also their rights. I do hope that I can count on you to support equal marriage rights
Letter 2 – after Sarah Teather voted against marriage equality
I recently wrote to you asking for your support of marriage equality. At that time I was confident that you would vote in favour of this bill. I was upset to learn that you voted against. It is difficult for me to express just how let down by you I feel this evening.
I have read your blogpost on this matter and on many levels it is deeply insulting to me. I must say that I find the notion that marriage equality could contribute to a destabilisation of family, utterly absurd, nonsensical and deeply hurtful. Your attempts to justify your decision in this way only serve to deepen my disappointment and distress.
I noted with interest that you reference Roman Catholicism in your blogpost but do not go into detail as to how this impacted on your decision. I too am from a Roman Catholic background as are my parents and many of my friends and relatives. They all support marriage equality. To use this even partly as an excuse for your decision is lazy and ill judged.
In voting against the bill tonight you told your gay and lesbian constituents that they do not deserve to be treated the same as their heterosexual counterparts. I have supported you since your first election and displayed your campaign posters in my living room window. As a result of your choice this evening and the comments that you made on your blogpost I will be unable to vote for you in future elections.