Robert Hampton

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18th July 2013

La Reyne le veult
Posted by at 11.27pm | Gay, In the News | No responses

Rainbow flag fluttering in sunlight50 years ago, homosexuality was illegal. In an amazing turnaround, by the middle of next year, gay relationships will be on an (almost) equal footing to heterosexual ones, as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2013 is now the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, after Royal Assent was received on Wednesday afternoon.

I’ll be honest – there were times when I didn’t think it would happen. From the minute the plans were announced back in 2011, a formidable campaign against same-sex marriage was launched, unleashing old-school attitudes and opinions that I naively thought had disappeared from public discourse. Certain sections of society are not nearly as tolerant and accepting as we thought they were.

The leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland (or, as he is now known, the disgraced former leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland), Cardinal Keith O’Brien, launched an astonishing diatribe, describing same-sex marriage as a “grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right”. The Telegraph and the Daily Mail were vociferous in their opposition.

The Coalition for Marriage – which described itself as a “grass roots” campaign despite being launched by luminaries such as the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, and reality TV star Anne Widdecombe – set up a petition which, at the time of writing, has a rather pleasing 666,493 signatures. The Government’s own consultation ignored the organised petitions and form letter campaigns, but still revealed widespread opposition.

The cynical view was that this bill was David Cameron’s attempt to “modernise” the Tory party image. If that was his goal, it failed – more Conservative MPs voted against the bill than for it, and Tory MPs have been the most vociferous in their criticism of the bill. Political commentators talked of divisions in the Tory party and rumours swirled of leadership challenges to the Prime Minister. The very real lives and loves of LGBT people were rather lost amongst all the punditry.

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12th May 2012

If you love Obama so much, why don’t you marry him?
Posted by at 7.53pm | Gay | No responses

Obama on a UnicornThis week has been a rollercoaster ride for gay rights advocates in America. On Tuesday, an unpleasant and discriminatory anti-marriage law was approved by voters in a referendum in North Carolina. Less than 24 hours later, President Obama, presumably tired of the splinters he’d been getting from sitting on the fence, finally confirmed what almost everybody suspected: he supports marriage for same-sex couples.

This was big news in the States. The ABC network, which conducted the interview, went to extreme lengths to safeguard their exclusive, and then interrupted their normal schedule to carry the newsflash.

It’s a largely symbolic announcement: the issue of who can or cannot get married is largely decided by the individual states, and an intervention by the federal government would be difficult for many different reasons. Even so, for Obama to make a statement now is a brave move. Few issues arouse more passion than LGBT rights, and same-sex marriage in particular is guaranteed to get people riled up. The numbers are moving in the right direction, though: Gallup’s figures show that 50% of Americans support same-sex marriage – down slightly from 53% last year, but a significant increase from the 27% who were in favour the first time the question was asked in 1996. That is a massive shift in just 16 years.

Just before Obama’s announcement, the Guardian crunched some numbers and concluded that the President’s re-election campaign has nothing to fear from his announcement. That’s not a view shared by other pundits, but whatever the numbers say, there’s little doubt that Obama is on the right side of history. As gay people leave the closet behind forever to live openly and proudly in society, the question of equal marriage rights is a matter of “when”, not “if”.

The endorsement of the most powerful man on earth is also a welcome boost to the gay rights issue elsewhere in the world. The timing is very apt for us in the UK, where reports are circulating that the coalition government’s same-sex marriage plans are in turmoil and could be postponed. I have some more thoughts on the pro-marriage campaign here in the UK, but I will save them for a future post. In the meantime, you might want to check out the new campaign (Out4Marriage) which has been set up to complement the existing C4EM petition.