A widely publicised campaign against government plans on gay marriage has sparked the creation a new coalition in favour of the proposals.
The Coalition for Marriage (C4M), launched last week by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey and a host of mainly Christian high-profile signatories, is campaigning against opening up marriage to same-sex couples with the tagline ‘Don’t play politics with marriage, one man + one woman’.
The counter-campaign, the Coalition for Equal Marriage (C4EM) began in more modest fashion, started by a same-sex couple ‘who might just want to get married some day’. It uses the tagline, ‘Don’t let bigotry stop two people in love getting married.’
Whereas C4M is a predominantly ‘Christian’ campaign, C4EM recognises that most religious individuals and organisations acknowledge the validity of marriages conducted outside of their own tradition, whether they are civil marriages or those of a different faith.
The anti- campaign anticipates’profound consequences’ to gay marriage, including ‘sidelining’ traditional marriage, and suggests that ‘People’s careers could be harmed’, without elaboration.
C4EM responds point by point to Lord Carey’s concerns, pointing out that marriage has been previously redefined, such as the introduction of divorce in the UK, by the Church of England no less, as well as improvements to married women’s rights. ‘If marriage is redefined (again), those who believe in the modern definition of “traditional” marriage will still be married,’ argues C4EM. ‘Peoples’ careers will remain intact, the sun will keep shining, and toast will still have a tendency to land butter-side-down.’
Lord Carey’s petition was widely described in the press as a ‘grassroots’ campaign. But that is contested by creators of the pro- campaign, James Lattimore and Conor Marron, a long-term couple from Newcastle.
‘The grassroots stuff was nonsense, just spin,’ said Mr Marron. ‘The anti- campaign was launched to huge media coverage, by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, backed already by a variety of Anglican Lords, bishops, and right-wing MPs. Whereas we’re just a couple who might want to get married some day. When we saw they were trying to derail gay marriage, I made James get out of bed to knock up the website.’
Mr Lattimore commented, ‘We didn’t know what would happen with our petition, but without any media coverage or even a Facebook page we’ve already seen thousands of signatures coming in. I’m still not sure where from! We said on the site that people had to think of it as a coalition of individual supporters, but once we had a few thousand signatures without doing anything except putting the site up, we thought this could go further. So we reached out to existing groups to make it a real organisational coalition. That’s now happening and we’re announcing the first supporters today, and we’re talking to more.
‘Obviously C4M has a head-start on us in terms of their petition, but we already know most people in the UK support opening up marriage to include same-sex couples, including most Christians, and working with these organisational supporters we aim to prove it.’
C4EM’s first coalition partners include both religious and non-religious organisations, demonstrating the broad national consensus. The C4EM coalition supporters announced today are:
The LGBT+ Lib Dems said, ‘We are delighted to be partners in the Coalition for Equal Marriage. … LGBT+ Liberal Democrats believe that cross party consensus is paramount to ensure the passing of this legislation by 2015.’
The British Humanist Association said, ‘The BHA fully support the aims of C4EM campaign. There is no suggestion that religious organisations should perform marriages against their will; all that is asked is that these faith groups demonstrate some basic humanity and toleration, and not obstruct same-sex couples who wish to publicly and legally recognise their relationship.’
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said, ‘It is clear… that the current system is no longer sustainable and that all people should have the option to commit to the person they love in marriage regardless of the gender of that person.’
A spokesperson for Stonewall, the gay rights campaigns charity, also commented on the formation of the coalition. ‘Stonewall wishes the Coalition for Equal Marriage every success. Marriage equality is an incredibly important aim for gay people throughout Britain, which is why Stonewall is campaigning for it in England, Wales and Scotland. Our message to those who disagree with same-sex marriage is simple: don’t marry someone of the same sex.’
The Coalition for Marriage Equality petition can be found at c4em.org.uk.
C4EM partners: press contacts
Coalition for Equal Marriage
Conor Marron (Co-creator)
Outside office hours only: 07734149173
Coalition for Equal Marriage
British Humanist Association
Pavan Dhaliwal (Head of Public Affairs)
020 7079 3585
Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement
Rev Sharon Ferguson
020 7739 1249
LGBT+ Lib Dems
Adrian Trett (Chair)
Other press contacts
Andy Walsley (Spokesperson)
020 7593 3469
C4EM supporters’ quotes in full:
British Humanist Association, Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal: ‘The BHA fully support the aims of C4EM campaign. There is no suggestion that religious organisations should perform marriages against their will; all that is asked is that these faith groups demonstrate some basic humanity and toleration, and not obstruct same-sex couples who wish to publicly and legally recognise their relationship.’
Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, Chief Executive Rev Sharon Ferguson: ‘LGCM has been heavily involved in the fight for full and equal recognition of same sex relations both under the law and within the church. This is why we have been integral in the Equal Love Campaign and now also lend our support to C4EM. It is clear to me that the sheer fact that two campaigns have been instigated to challenge the current discrepancy in marriage that the current system is no longer sustainable and that all people should have the option to commit to the person they love in marriage regardless of the gender of that person.’
LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, Chair Adrian Trett: ‘We are delighted to be partners in the Coalition for Equal Marriage. The Liberal Democrats are the first and only major party to support marriage equality, and will be encouraging people to respond to the consultation to say that equal civil marriage should be introduced in the context of the Liberal Democrats’ party policy for equal civil and religious marriage, and equal civil partnerships. LGBT+ Liberal Democrats believe that cross party consensus is paramount to ensure the passing of this legislation by 2015, and we are very happy to work with all organisations and bodies from grass-root activists to fellow political groups to ensure this goal is achieved. Thanks goes to James and Conor for starting the ball rolling and inviting all those in favour of equal marriage to work together in a united stand against Coalition for Marriage whose campaign is not based on grass-roots beliefs but lead by a group of Bishops, Lords and right-wing MPs with bigoted and prejudiced views that do not belong in the 21st century.’