There is no underestimating the difference that a change in the law can make to people who happen to be gay or lesbian. Civil Partnerships gave a level of legal protection that changed people’s lives forever. Equal marriage extended that protection by giving people the chance of being able to be regarded as equally fit to enter the institution of marriage. It was about more than rights – it was about dignity too.
However, notwithstanding the great gains that have been made in recent years, the journey is not over. We have established that people of goodwill are prepared to champion gay rights whether or not they happen to be gay themselves. The time has come to begin working on the next step on the journey.
We must be eager to ensure that children receive age appropriate sex education that is inclusive of LGBT identities. We must be sure that governments pursue foreign policy that is works towards extending the rights that LGBT people in the UK possess to those in other countries. But we must not rest there. There are still real things that need to be done in the UK where a change in the law can make a material difference to gay lives.
Today I propose a new change that is worth campaigning for – it’s time to campaign for the government to remove the charitable status of any organisation that campaigns against gay people. It is a simple change to the law but an important one.
There are still many organisations that take an anti-gay position in public. Very many of them get tax-breaks through the Gift Aid system by becoming charities. It’s time to end tax-breaks for those who work to limit gay rights.
Will this ever come about?
When I first started campaigning on reforming marriage law to include lesbian and gay people, most of the people I spoke to, including many who ultimately became core activists simply didn’t believe that it was worth the time of day as it would never happen. The change I’m proposing today is much easier to enact.
Why should there be effective government sponsorship of homophobic organisations?
Why should any UK tax-payers have to live with so-called charitable organisations campaigning against them?
Charities which tried to campaign against people because of their race would soon have their charitable status removed. Why not those who campaign against gay people?
The time has come. Time for change. It’s time to remove the charitable status if any organisation campaigning against LGBT people.
Q and A
Would this mean curtailing freedom of speech?
No – organisations and individuals would be free to say whatever they liked within the law. A charity simply could not receive Gift Aid support in any given year if it were to campaign against LGBT people during that year.
Isn’t this persecution of Christians?
No – this change is proposed by a Christian priest and would apply to all charities.
Would church congregations lose their charitable status?
There’s no reason for church congregations to lose their charitable status so long as they don’t campaign against the rights of LGBT people. As there is strong and increasing support for LGBT people in the pews (if not amongst Christian leaders) this is something that many Christians will campaign for. Some denominations might prefer to be free to forego their charitable status in order to continue anti-gay campaigns. Others will not.
What about the Muslims/Catholics/Evangelicals?
This policy would apply across the board to all charities.
How can this be brought about?
Engagement with activist organisations, within charities and with those seeking election.
Isn’t charity law devolved – why would it be appropriate for people in Scotland to bring this up during a Westminster election?
Some charities registered in England campaign against gay rights in Scotland (eg the Mothers’ Union). This is an issue facing both the UK as a whole as well as Scotland.
Would this cost tax-payers money?
No – just the opposite. Money that formerly had been given to anti-gay organisations would hitherto be available to the government to spend on the common good.
Further questions and comments welcome.