Law and Sexuality

A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests

Stonewall, ‘Gay’ Parliamentary Votes and a Question of Stakeholders

A former student of mine from back in the day, and now all round good guy has put together an interesting piece on his new blog in response to a Stonewall press release that seeks to highlight how MPs have noted on ‘gay issues’. Check out his full blog post here as it includes a useful graph he’s put together. Mygayvote does a similar sort of thing with the data and represents them as party stats. Check that out here.

The trouble with this sort of thing is that it is always going to be a broad brush approach. Vote against the Equality Bill? Well you must be against equality. Debates about specific clauses are then lost on the vast majority of the public but to be fair to Stonewall, they do spell out on their webpage the specific votes they looked at and why. They were as follows:

  • Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2009
    19 March 2007
    The final key vote to approve important anti-discrimination protections covering businesses and public services.
  • Human Fertilisation & Embryology Bill – Amendment 21
    20 May 2008
    On the issue of removing the ‘need for a father’ requirement in fertility clinics. It treated lesbian couples unfairly.
  • Human Fertilisation & Embryology Bill – Amendment 12
    20 May 2008
    A second vote on the issue of removing the ‘need for a father’ requirement in fertility clinics. It treated lesbian couples unfairly.
  • Criminal Justice & Immigration Bill – Incitement to Hatred
    9 January 2008
    On the recently introduced incitement to hatred offence on grounds of sexual orientation.
  • Coroners and Justice Bill – Incitement to Hatred
    24 March 2009
    A second vote on the recently introduced incitement to hatred offence on grounds of sexual orientation.
  • Equality Bill – Third Reading
    2 December 2009
    The final House of Commons vote on the Equality Bill.
  • Equality Bill – Division 12 – Religious employers
    2 December 2009
    A vote on the extent of exemptions for religious employers.

They then awarded points to each MP on the basis of:

2 points if they voted in support of Stonewall’s position – for example, in support of the ‘goods and services’ protections.

1 point if they didn’t vote. They abstained or ‘double voted’ – voting both for and against.

0 points for a vote against Stonewall’s position – for example, they voted against the Equality Bill

Shock horror, the Tories bombed. Stonewall have already demonstrated their worth, or I would argue, potential worth, by producing a list of questions that they suggest you should ask of your MP or PPC and a set of (very short) demands for the political parties. Crucially, these are something they have previously shared with the aprties so it’s a good example of how Stonewall can affect change rather than simply position itself. That said, the ‘demands’ – their word – are to put it mildly, tame. The final one: ‘Beacon to the World’ is vomit inducing New Labour twaddle. Do I want Britain to be the most progressive nation when it comes to the law and our attitudes towards sexuality? You bet, but I find the lack of ambition by Stonewall depressing at times.

It would be fair to throw the question back to me – “so what should they talk about?”. Well, why not advocate a debate about the nature and form of marriage, the role of religion and the state in partnership rights? Massive themes to be sure, huge cans of worms but let’s not fear debate, let’s embrace it. Let’s also have an open debate about the huge variances in policing towards sexuality up and down the country – an issue that affects gay men and women every day. Let’s revisit the gay blood ban. Let’s also seek to re-connect politicians and groups like Stonewall with the needs and desires of ordinary gay men and women rather than a political and academic elite (which I am inevitably part of). That should get you started…

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This entry was posted on April 7, 2010 by in 2010 general election, campaign, Community, Stonewall.

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