From Criminality to Equality

I think this is one of the moments in the debates on marriage where there’s more wisdom to be heard in one speech made well than in acres of newsprint trying to analyse the vote in the House of Commons last night.

Here’s David Lammy giving it his all.

Let me speak frankly.

“Separate but equal” is a fraud.

“Separate but equal” is the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus.

“Separate but equal” is the motif that determined that black and white could not possibly drink from the same water fountain, eat at the same table or use the same toilets.

“Separate but equal” are the words that justified sending black children to different schools from their white peers – schools that would fail them and condemn them to a life of poverty.

It is an excerpt from the phrasebook of the segregationists and the racists.

It is the same statement, the same ideas and the same delusion that we borrowed in this country to say that women could vote – but not until they were 30.

It is the same naivety that gave made my dad a citizen in 1956 but refused to condemn the landlords that proclaimed “no blacks, no Irish, no dogs”.

It entrenched who we were, who our friends could be and what our lives could become.

This was not “Separate but equal” but “Separate AND discriminated”,

“Separate AND oppressed”.

“Separate AND browbeaten”.

“Separate AND subjugated”.

Separate is NOT equal, so let us be rid of it.

Because as long as there is one rule for us and another for them, we allow the barriers to acceptance to stand unchallenged.

As long as our statute books suggest that the love between two men or two women is unworthy of being recognised through marriage, we allow the rot of homophobia to fester.

And then again at the end:

The Jesus I know was born a refugee, illegitimate, with a death warrant on his name in a barn among animals. He would stand up for minorities. That is why it is right for people of religious convictions to stand up for this bill.

There’s a longer version of the speech (which he would have given if he had been given more time) on his website.


  1. His speech has been put up on YouTube in full:

    David Lammy: Separate but equal is a fraud.

  2. Bro David says

    Great speech.

  3. Extraordinary speech – very well done!

    That’s the Jesus I know too.

  4. Its the Jesus you and your team have been preaching about for as long as I’ve been coming to St Mary’s…

  5. Karen says

    I appreciate his reference to the American civil rights movement since I’ve been thinking a lot about this too. It is the reason I left the American Catholic Church. For me, if I stayed I would be no better than people who disagreed with segregation but stayed with the institutions that demanded it. He said it far more eloquently than I could. Thank you!

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