Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Kat, Tom and Will

In London this morning, Tuesday 24th November 2009, Tom Freeman and Katherine Doyle will give "notice of their intention to form a civil partnership". Nothing strange about that, you might think, but, as their names suggest, they are of opposite genders. And, just as marriage is not allowed for gay couples, so civil partnership is legally not allowed for straight couples. It is for precisely that reason that Kat and Tom are taking this step: they do not believe in discrimination on the grounds of sexuality; they do not want to be part of an institution that is closed to their friends because the bigots say so. They registered for their ceremony by giving only their initials (want to bet THAT won't happen again?) and at 1030 UK time this morning they will be there at Islington Town Hall, along with the great civil rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, to make their statement in support of this great cause.

Meanwhile, over the pond in Arkansas, just a few hours later, a ten year old boy named Will Phillips will sit down at school, and seated is how he will remain while his classmates are reciting the pledge of allegiance. He refuses to make an oath about "liberty and justice for all" while homosexuals are denied liberty and justice in the form of marriage. Now, Arkansas is one of the reddest of red states (in other words, dominated by repuglicans), and Will has been subjected to abuse, taunts and teasing over his stance. But he has refused to give up and insists he will not do so until his gay friends have the same rights as he does. What a moral giant of a young man.

Gay equality is our modern day civil rights struggle, arguably the last great such struggle, and it is important to all of us, gay, straight or bi. Until we are ALL free, none of us is completely free, and until we are all granted the same rights under the law, including the right of marriage, we are not all free. Why should it be my business or yours who someone falls in love with or chooses to spend their life with? No one tells me whether I should have a life partner with blond or dark hair, blue or green eyes, light or dark skin, so why the hell should they be allowed to tell me they must have a vagina and not a penis? As it happens, my intended is a brown eyed, brown haired, light skinned woman from New York, and that is my choice (and hers of course). We will get married; and we see no reason why all our friends should not have the same option. It is ridiculous to tell people they must go through this or that door depending on the dangly bits of their lover, as offensive as telling them what lunch counter they can sit at on the basis of their skin colour. What the religious do in the privacy of their own churches, mosques, synagogues or whatever is entirely up to them, but they have no right to dictate to the rest of us what happens in public spaces or the public realm-- and homophobic bigotry is primarily religious in nature. I will not willingly put up with bigotry against my fellow citizens, and nor will Kat, Tom or Will.

Respect to them all, and congratulations and a long, happy life together to Tom and Kat.

Update: To no one's great surprise, Kat and Tom were of course turned away at the town hall and refused their civil partnership, as detailed here: they are now taking legal advice and intend to take their fight all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.


  1. I'm overall sympathetic to the cause, but sorry, this is not the "big one". I think women's rights is going to be the defining issue of the 21st century. Gay Rights is not the last great struggle--for 52% of us the struggle has never stopped, and progress has been so paltry that men still own 99% of the world's property. 99%--enough said.

  2. I'm a feminist, but with women's rights the basic argument is already won although there is still a shamefully long way to go before the battle is finally won. With gay equality, and specifically in terms of marriage equality, we're still having to fight the basic entitlement to equality. That doesn't mean other struggles stop or lose importance in any way-- there are still sexists and racists and they still have to be fought-- but the struggle for homosexual equality has only relatively recently been joined on a large scale, and the fight for marriage equality is VERY recent. Certainly it is more recent than the feminist or anti-racist causes, and that's all I meant in calling it "the last".