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.

Equal Marriage Parliamentary Reception

Had a great time at the Equal Marriage reception at the Scottish Parliament last night. A brilliant mixture of lots of good speakers, lots of great people and wedding cake.

There was a great opening speech from Rae Cahill of the Scottish Youth Parliament. Then, very much enjoyed hearing Rabbi Mark Solomon of the Edinburgh Liberal Jewish Community. Great and very moving speeches also from a couple who are caught in the bind of being required to divorce before one of them can legally be recognised in a changed gender, even though they wish to remain married.

Half time entertainment from the Edinburgh Gay Men’s Chorus and then it was on to some rousing stuff from MSPs from all the Scottish Political parties.

The clear message was that this isn’t an issue of party politics, it is an issue of consensus politics. Scotland has moved to a point where a majority of people believe that the law needs to be changed to allow gay couples to wed on the same basis as straight couples.

That majority runs through the membership of political parties and is apparent in the membership of Scotland’s main churches. It is an idea whose time has come and last night’s reception was a hugely encouraging step along the journey to equality.

Was great to meet up with MSPs, congregation members, fellow bloggers (including Caron Lindsay – yay!) and all manner of people of goodwill from all over Scotland. The place was packed out and people were in high spirits. One of those events when you can smell that change is on it’s way.

Huge respect to the Equality Network for bringing it all off and getting the press release together showing that all the opposition party leaders in the Parliament are now on board. (The SNP can’t comment as the Executive is still in a consultation process, though Alex Salmond’s support is on record too).