It’s that time of year when the great and good of the LGBT community are invited to Parliamentary and Government shindigs for freebie glasses of wine, bubbles, soft lobbying and a lot of self congratulations. Peter Tatchell spoke out today in a press release about being not bothered that he wasn’t invited to today’s Downing Street bash. I don’t know about you, but when I’m absolutely not bothered about something, the first thing I do is bang out a press release to say I’m not bothered. Almost as rapidly as if I am in fact bothered about something. Oh yes.
I’m perhaps being a little unfair to Peter. He is an amazing activist and he does have a point that the fact he’s not there shows there is a degree of danger around his invite (what will he do? will he arrest a fellow guest? scream, make a noise? unfurl a bright banner? dress Philip May in a feather boa?). Having some LGBT activists who are unpredictable, who might be awkward, who might make a scene; is important. That there appears to be just one left in the UK is something worth noting.
Earlier this week Pink News had their Summer Parliamentary Reception at Westminster in which the great and the good were once again gathered. Commons Speaker, John Bercow, launched the event and once again highlighted his concerns about ban on same-sex couples getting married by the Church of England, commenting that: “I still feel we’ll only have proper equal marriage when you can bloody well get married in a church if you want to do so, without having to fight the church for the equality that should be your right.”
Well, maybe. Another way of looking at things would be to completely separate Church and State (at least, when it comes to Marriage). Rather than focussing on battling to allow same-sex couples to enter into civil legally-binding ceremonies amidst religious ceremony, we could simply strip all religious institutions from the ability to conduct marriages. Instead, the State could just recognise a civil ceremony as marriage. Everybody would then be equal. If people then wish to enter into some sort of religious ceremony, they can do so. Whether that’s based on a Star Wars theme with Darth Vader presiding or on a ceremony cobbling together various conflicting and antiquated theories, you go for it.
Some might dismiss this as just religion bashing. Yet, this separation of Church and State was good enough for the next Head of the Church of England. Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, married Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005. His mother was not present. Their legal marriage took place in a registry office before they then went to a religious ceremony (where the Queen was present) at St George’s Chapel. When was he married? Legally, he was married at the civil ceremony. For those of a more religious disposition, it was the Windsor Castle ceremony, which was after all where monarchs and representatives of governments from around the world gathered. What we’re talking about therefore, is far from unthinkable, but it would equalise marriage (addressing Bercow’s concern of inequality) and also modernise the relationship between Church and State.