Today is May Day, the international day of solidarity for workers, and I thought that in its honor I would coopt the famous slogan “Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains” for this post, although it has nothing to do with the labor movement.
Same sex marriage is not legal in the United Kingdom. According to Wikipedia, since 2005, they have had civil partnerships that supposedly provide the same rights and responsibilities of marriage but, as I discovered earlier, this is still not full equality since, for example, if such partners travel abroad they do not have the same rights as married couples.
The Liberal Democrats in 2010 endorsed the goal of same sex marriage and in September of last year the coalition government announced as its goal to allow same sex marriage before the next general election. It should be noted that the coalition is dominated by the Conservative Party, so this is a significant step. The Labour Party has not yet officially endorsed same sex marriage but it is hard to see them opposing it if it comes to a vote.
Interestingly this quickening drive towards full equality for same sex relationships has created a powerful new ecumenical movement by members of the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim communities in the UK who are trying to form a united front to fight this change. So religions that for millennia have been deep enemies and were, and still are, willing to kill each other because of differences in their beliefs about their imaginary father figure in the sky, are now uniting against their biggest common enemy – gay people.
The Catholic Church is, as they did here, trying to use its schools to propagandize its bigoted message. But as in the US, the younger people are the most supportive of same sex marriage, with polls showing over 70% saying they approve either strongly or somewhat with the proposition that “Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships”. It is only in the age group of 65 or over that there is a majority that disagrees with the statement, and even then it is just barely with 52%.
In their efforts to indoctrinate students, the church schools are facing the familiar situation of pushback from the students, as we read in this report:
A pupil at St Philomena’s Catholic high school for girls in Carshalton, in the south London borough of Sutton, told the website PinkNews.co.uk that children aged 11 to 18 had been encouraged to sign the anti-equality pledge by their headteacher.
She said: “In our assembly for the whole sixth form you could feel people bristling as she explained parts of the letter and encouraged us to sign the petition. It was just a really outdated, misjudged and heavily biased presentation.”
She said some pupils had responded by buying Gay Pride badges to pin to their uniforms. “There are several people in my year who aren’t heterosexual – myself included – and I for one was appalled and actually disgusted by what they were encouraging,” she said. “After all, that’s discrimination they were urging impressionable people to engage in, which is unacceptable.”
Keep up the good work, religious bigots. By alienating young people with your opposition to equal rights for gay people, you are doing more to kill off religion than any atheist could ever hope to do.
When I was growing up in Sri Lanka, there were periodic bursts of ecumenical fervor consisting of attempts to join the various small churches into one larger church, with people in favor making the reasonable case that it did not make sense for the small Protestant community (less than 1% of the population) to be split up into so many smaller groupings. But despite the earnest efforts of a few, nothing ever seemed to come of those moves. The arcane doctrinal differences between the various Protestant sects, coupled with more Earthly concerns such as power and control and money and property, always seemed to win out in the end and apart from a few symbolic gestures of unity, nothing happened. It was really hard to get people to see beyond the differences and parochial interests.
But it seems that nothing unites religious believers like hatred of the common enemy and in the UK the religious bigots have found one.