Yesterday, after writing about the same-sex marriage debate hosted by Soubry, I went off to an Oxjam meeting, thus unable to attend the meeting itself.
I soon started receiving some disturbing tweets and text messages from people who were there, and it sounded like things were not going too smoothly. I asked one of the attendees who tweeted me if they would write me a report on the meeting, which they kindly did. If anyone else wishes to send me some more details, please do. I’ll hand over to Jane Marshall for her take on the meeting:
Anna Soubry better than God???????: By Jane Marshall.
A tweet from Lord Beestonia prompted me to attend the Anna Soubry public meeting on Same Sex Marriage. As I strolled down Clarkes Lane behind a gay couple and walked in with two lesbians I congratulated myself on choosing to live in progressive, liberal, diverse Beeston rather than Step’Bridg’ford
But my euphoria was short lived when I entered the church hall to be met by the sea of grey, the buttoned up blouses and the rustle of The Daily Mail. 150 people, 140 Christians, standing room only. Let the battle commence.
Anna stated her case well on why she supported the bill: it was a matter for personal conscience and it was just the right thing to do. No applause. She then opened it to the floor and what followed was an hour of pure hatred, bigotry & small mindedness. Talk of the deviant act, the unnatural practices, the non evolutionary behaviours undertaken by those ‘homosexuals’ was rife; they didn’t want their grandchildren taught about gay sex. Anna asked if they were referring to anal sex, an act she said that was also undertaken by men and women in heterosexual marriage but she wasn’t particular partial to it herself. The smelling salts flew out of their Mrs T handbags.
More toxic comments on how AIDs would be stopped if we got rid of gays, how gay marriage was the slippery slope to incest and how marriage should be between a man & woman solely for the procreation of children. One woman in all seriousness asked Anna if the government had considered the cost of changing all the dictionaries to include this new fangled definition of marriage. Another asked about changing all the great novels ever written. Each clarified they were not homophobic; that had met a gay once and he had seemed ok; but each stated their own brand of Christianity, bible-believing, fundamental, evangelistic, catholic priest, vicars all trying to prove that they were more righteous than the last speaker, top religious trumps.( more factions than our local Labour party.)
Finally a lone voice spoke, a Christian who worked for the Samaritans said he knew the affects of intolerance, followed by a woman Christian preacher who helped young adults cope with being gay and a lesbian who had just got engaged to the woman she loved. The silent minority was finding its voice. Each was passionate about why they believed in this Bill and spoke about their disappointment at the ‘waves of hate’ flowing around this church hall. They wanted equality of rights, the same aspirations for all people, the legal backing of marriage that civil partnerships didn’t provide and for all people to marry the person they loved.
This meeting was a brave move by Soubry, these are her key voters in a marginal seat. The photo shows 1 empty seat where 1 man walked out saying he would never vote for her again (normally I would be giving it a hearty Here Here) but ‘So be it’ was her defiant response.
I left at 10pm, it was still going on like a bad Ken Dodd gig. The heavens opened and I heard a speaker saying she was there to represent God and this was the start of his retribution on us if we let this Bill through, the start of his damnation against us, the start of the persecution by gays against Christians.This caring, sharing God I had heard so much about tonight. As I went through the doors I saw the woman preacher and gave her a hug, grateful she had spoken out. Me hugging a Christian, cheering on Anna Soubry. God certainly moves in mysterious ways. Jane Marshall.
Post Script: We’re recieved a couple of other testimonials from people who attended the meeting, and I wanted to put these up in full. Please let us know what you think by leaving us a comment below.
I was there and as someone who is currently ‘engaged to enter a civil partnership’ (so romantic sounding, isn’t it?), it is something that I am passionate about.
The majority of people there were strongly opposed to same sex marriage, but then people are more likely to turn up complain about something than to support it. Also, holding it in a church isn’t very welcoming to LGBT people that may have had negative experiences with organised religion in the past, so they may have felt too intimidated to attend.
I have read that the meeting ‘descended into bigotry’ and I admit that it was hard to sit and listen to people saying that my love and my life is sinful and unnatural, especially when it was often born out of misinformation and prejudice. Much of what was said was offensive not just to gay people but also to anyone who has a ‘non-traditional’ family (ie have children out of wedlock/adopted children, etc). I would say though that attending has helped me to understand others’ points of view; I only hope that they can say same.
In terms of what was said, some views held on the basis of religion (or how that person interprets their religion) I disagreed with, but respect people’s right to hold them. Other opinions were misinformed, hurtful and even laughable. Still others, however were lovely affirmations that there are generous, kind people across different faiths, genders and sexualities.
I spoke about the inequality between civil partnerships and marriages, both legally and from a personal view point and a number of people came up to me afterwards to thank me for speaking and to wish me and my fiancee all the best in the future. That is what I’ll choose to remember about the night, not the hurtful views of some, but the wonderful support of others. Amy.
Anna Soubry hosted a Q&A-style debate on the equal marriage bill on Thursday. I wasn’t expecting the numbers or supporters to opponents to be very favourable, not least because the event coincided with the second eurovision semi-final. But going to a debate to have your relationships and life scrutinised, judged upon and derided by complete strangers was never going to be an appealing prospect for many.
Anna almost showed up late to the meeting, held at Clarkes Lane Methodist Church in Chilwell, due to a blown-up tyre on her car. I can only assume this was a sign from God of the evening to come. Within minutes of thanking everyone for turning up it had spiralled into a homophobic hate-fest with all the arguments I’d naively thought had been laid to rest in the 1980s reappearing. Homosexuals spreading AIDS, coming into your children’s schools, having “unnatural” anal sex, living deviant lives, comparisons with incest. Some insisted that same-sex couples could never properly be married; they can’t consummate because homosexuals apparently don’t have sex. Plenty of talk about God and Jesus, as if they ever said anything about same-sex couples marrying or everyone in this country still believes in them.
Numerous self-declared “bible-believing Christians” (presumably keepers of slaves, who eat no fat and stone their stubborn children) spoke about their persecution. Teachers no longer able to teach kids that same-sex attraction is wrong. Never mind the 80% of LGBT youth who are bullied in schools. Bibles and prayer books having to be rewritten. Just think of the cost! It all reminded me very much of the American debates prior to Obamacare. I had thought myself lucky to live in a country where that kind of hysteria and spreading of misinformation on an issue I’d assumed most civilised people would have no problem with wouldn’t happen. It seems I was wrong.
I’m a young gay man. This wasn’t a debate about a policy disagreement. It was a debate about my life and my future. I’ve been assaulted, spat at and bullied; but sitting for two and a half hours in a room full of supposedly good Christians through all those jeers and all that hatred has to be one of the most unpleasant and uncomfortable experiences of my life. A small number of other LGBT people attended, including some from deeply religious backgrounds, and spoke passionately about their relationships and desires. They happen to be exactly the same as everyone else’s there. Love and commitment. Why would anyone have a problem with that? Why would other people’s marriages disintegrate because some of us want the same rights?
I don’t think the debate should have happened, especially in a church. It wasn’t a safe space for LGBT people. Anna, to her credit, kept her cool throughout and defended the legislation. I’m not thanking her for her commitment to a yes vote. Doling out or accepting gratitude for simply acknowledging other people’s lives, futures and expectations as equal to anyone else’s is an absurd concept. But her handling of that meeting and resilience in the face of such hysterical hostility really is worth some respect, on this issue at least. Stewart.