Monday, 4 February 2013

Tories locally out of touch

The issue of Equal Marriage will tomorrow be decided and I for one am looking forward to the vote and settling this issue once and for all.

Over the last fortnight I have been surprised to note the level of vitriol from a significant number of Conservative Councillors in Medway including senior portfolio holders on the Conservative Group side. It highlights to me just how out of touch our Council leadership are with reality and the lives of people on the ground.

This is not to say that many on the backbenches in the Conservative Party are not in support; many probably do support Equal Marriage; but for some reason sit passively behind the raucous caucus that has been left to use the Labour Group position as proxy for pious outrage. 

The simple truth is that a number of Conservative contributions at that Council meeting verged away from what should be considered fair and rational discourse on the subject and were simply reactionary and poorly evidenced. 

When one Tory can stand up and say that the large majority of LGBT people opposed equal marriage it borders on unbelievable... because it is well, unbelievable. When another claimed that LGBT people should just 'fit in' with the rest of society it almost felt like the sterile debates over civil partnerships and equal age of consent (both opposed by many Tories) all over again. When another can say it is slippery slope towards polygamy and other forms of association it becomes ridiculous. 

The motion submitted was not divisive (see below) because it specifically praised the Coalition Government, and the efforts of the same aforementioned government to recognize same-sex unions as equal; it was also not ill-timed given many minds are now focused on the second reading of the Bill tomorrow afternoon.  The Council also has responsibility for registry offices; manages venues which have probably held Civil Unions and has a responsibility to ensure the national curriculum is open to all opinions.

In addition many of our MPs are also making clear that they are open to listening to constituents on this matter; what better forum to communicate resident judgement then a Full Council of elected representatives. It is not as if the Council has no record on such positions

It is clear to me however that the Labour position locally is being used as a proxy by Tories opposed to Equal Marriage; and that is sad because that was not the spirit of how the motion was written a fortnight ago. 

The letters and resignations by the 'blue-blooded' and the outrage received in the Messenger letter columns just reinforce in my mind how the Conservative Party has not changed; or if it is changing is still woefully and painfully slow at it. 

If they think that it is sensible to attack Labour (and myself last week) on Equal Marriage when all polling shows significant support then go for it; because I am happy that Labour is the Party - once again - that represents a modern, diverse and tolerant society which is comfortable with loving relationships be they straight or gay.


Full Motion to Council below 

Medway Council recognises that all residents should be treated equally and should not be barred from any aspect of civil society either because of their beliefs, race, gender status, disability or sexual orientation.

Medway Council notes the recent Government consultation on extending the legal form of marriage to same-sex couples, and the commitment of Medway Council to non-discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons.

Medway Council acknowledges and welcomes the positive efforts of the last Government to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, including:
·      Equal legal age of consent;
·      Adoption rights for same-sex couples;
·      Fertility treatment rights;
·      Introduction of civil partnerships for same-sex couples

Medway Council supports the current government's efforts to build on this progress and legislate for equal Civil Marriage and also calls for equal Civil Partnerships.

Medway Council requests that the Chief Executive and the Leader of the Council write an open letter to Mark Reckless MP and Rehman Chisthi MP requesting they vote in favour in any parliamentary vote supporting the equal marriage rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered couplesto bring any proposed legislation to a reality and that they lobby for equal Civil Partnerships.

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