Stonewall undermines campaign for gay marriage
Ben Summerskill suggests marriage equality would cost too much
London, UK – 21 September 2010
Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Britain’s main gay lobby group, Stonewall, has reportedly defended his organisation’s refusal to campaign for marriage equality. He was speaking at the Liberal Democrat party conference LGBT fringe meeting on Monday night, 20 September.
Leading Lib Dems at the meeting – Stephen Gilbert MP, Evan Harris and equality minister, Lynne Featherstone MP – spoke out in favour of legalising same-sex marriage. Mr Summerskill did not. He explained why Stonewall was not campaigning on the issue.
According to a report on the Pink News website (copy below), he cited the cost of implementing marriage equality, which he claimed could total £5 billion – a figure that other campaigners question.
A recent online survey of LGBT readers by the Pink News website found that 98% want full marriage equality. Stonewall does not represent LGBT opinion on this issue. It is out of touch.
“Although Stonewall does a lot of valuable, important work, on this issue it is wrong,” said Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner and spokesperson for the LGBT group OutRage!
“It is, in effect, actively undermining the campaign for marriage equality.
“While many straight politicians now support same-sex civil marriage, Stonewall is refusing to campaign against the homophobic ban on gay and lesbian couples getting married. Among other reasons, it says equal marriage rights could cost £5 billion to implement.
“It is shocking to see a gay equality organisation declining to support equal rights legislation because it might cost too much. No other equality organisation makes equal human rights contingent on the cost. It is deplorable to insinuate that we can only have equality if it doesn’t cost too much.
“Where does Stonewall get this £5 billion figure from? If civil marriage and civil partnerships are the same, as Stonewall has always claimed, how could marriage equality cost more?
“Every other comparable LGBT organisation in the world is campaigning to end the ban on same-sex marriage, but not Stonewall. It is out of step with the British and global trend towards equal marriage rights,” said Mr Tatchell.
OutRage! has campaigned for marriage equality since 1992, when it launched the first UK challenge to the ban on same-sex marriage. Five lesbian and gay couples from OutRage! filed applications for gay marriage at Marylebone registry office in London on 19 March 1992. They were refused. But OutRage! has carried on the campaign ever since, and plans to file appeals against the ban to the European Court of Human Rights later this year.
Ben Summerskill: Stonewall not fighting for gay marriage equality because ‘it could cost £5 billion’
PinkNews.co.uk · September 20, 2010
The chief executive of LGB lobby group Stonewall, Ben Summerskill, this evening told a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrats party conference that the group is not actively campaigning for marriage equality because it would cost a staggering £5 billion to implement. The charity have been stonewalling questions on its exact position on marriage equality for some time.
Zoe O’Connell, who writes the Complicity blog, described the meeting: “Of all the bizarre places to come out against marriage equality, an event run in conjunction with DELGA, the Liberal Democrat LGBT organisation, would seem to be the most odd. But that’s just what Ben Summerskill, head of so-called ‘equality’ organisation Stonewall did today.”
All of the other speakers at the fringe event; Lynne Featherstone, the minister for equality; Evan Harris, president of Lib Dem LGBT group DELGA; and Stephen Gilbert, the Lib Dem MP who will tomorrow propose a motion in favour of marriage equality at conference, all said they support full LGBT marriage equality. Just Mr Summerskill spoke in opposition.
Last year, Mr Summerskill told PinkNews.co.uk “There are lots of lesbians who actually don’t want marriage”. But, last month, a survey for PinkNews.co.uk revealed that 98 per cent of the LGBT community favour full marriage equality. PinkNews.co.uk readers at the event report that Mr Summerskill claimed that it would be too expensive to introduce marriage equality because of increased pension payments to heterosexual couples who may theoretically wish to take up civil partnerships, if allowed. He claimed this would cost £5 billion.
After the debate, Mr Summerskill told a PinkNews.co.uk contributor who did not want
to be named that there was also the risk that straight, same sex, platonic friends might seek to have civil partnerships in order to make tax savings. Lib Dem MP Stephen Gilbert argued at the fringe meeting that marriage equality should not be subject to a cost/benefit analysis and claimed that if South Africa had adopted Stonewall’s approach, they would still have apartheid. Mr Summerskill reportedly labelled this view as offensive.
Mr Summerskill reportedly also offered the argument that there is a feminist view that the institute of marriage is fundamentally wrong. He also argued that for as long as people are being murdered in homophobic attacks, it is not the right time to campaign for marriage equality. Mr Gilbert responded saying that there is a need to send a clear message to those in society “that would try to discriminate that we are equal and we will not settle for any less than equality. As long as LGBT people are ‘othered’ in any way at all, attacks will continue.”
Mr Summerskill also accused PinkNews.co.uk of running an “unethical campaign” against Stonewall after it asked every LGBT rights organisation/ political group to outline their stance on marriage equality. Only Stonewall refused to answer.
Last Friday, Stonewall received an open letter signed by hundreds of people including two MEPs, two MPs and a number of human rights academics calling on them to clarify their position on marriage equality.
Further information: Peter Tatchell 0207 403 1790