Are Stonewall Kelly’s heroes?I am absolutely furious with Stonewall!
It goes without saying that they do some tremendous work for which I, as a gay man, am eternally grateful, but they’re running the risk of becoming another Labour QUANGO. Their defence of the appointment of Ruth Kelly as Equalities Minister is beyond the pale!
Ruth Kelly is a member of the conservative Catholic sect, Opus Dei, whose attitude to homosexuality is in line with the Vatican’s clear antigay stance.
When asked whether she personally thought homosexuality was sinful, she refused to answer.
Not only that, but she has absented herself (“as a matter of conscience”) from almost every single parliamentary vote on gay equality issues – ever.
Except two: One was a quite fairly uncontroversial vote to address homophobic bullying regardless of Section 28, but disgracefully she voted with the Anne Widdecombe and the other homophobic Tories on an amendment to specifically EXCLUDE gay couples from adopting children.
This is not the type of person we want championing equality, but still she has received the backing of Stonewall’s chief, Ben Summerskill. Summerskill told The Independent:
“We accept Ruth's assurances that she is absolutely committed to delivering the policy of the Labour Party and the Government.”
I checked on the Stonewall website. There’s nothing about Ruth Kelly at all. Not a word of criticism, not even a murmur of disquiet or concern.
I don’t suppose the fact that Summerskill’s previous job was as a Labour councillor has anything to do with this misplaced loyalty?
Summerskill should ask himself whether Trevor Phillips of the CRE would be an apologist for an Education minister who, when asked for their view of the controversial subject of differences in intelligence between the races hedged their answer with an evasive “I’m not going to get into that,” instead of giving a clear and resounding answer in favour of equality. Would anti-racist campaigners accept that a minister’s private view would not affect their professional performance? I doubt it – especially if the minister concerned had absented themselves from every parliamentary vote on racial equality (“as a matter of conscience”) and indeed had voted in favour of racial discrimination on one of the rare occasions they’d actually bothered to vote.
Would the Government even try to get away with it? Of course not, which demonstrates their dismissive attitude to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people when our community is deemed an inconvenience.
Stonewall do a sterling job of standing up for the gay community on almost all fronts. It’s a pity their judgement is blurred when it comes to New Labour. Surely Summerskill can see in a single equalities unit, when Ruth Kelly has an Archbishop or Cardinal demanding one concession (or exemption) on one side, and the gay community is seeking full equality on the other side, she’s unlikely to be impartial. If, deep down, she thinks we are sinners, how on earth is she going to identify with or empathise with gay issues?
When the single equalities unit was mooted, the first thing most gay campaigners wondered was how our community’s interests would find parity with the demands of religious groups. The religious organisations are the only ones actively campaigning in favour of inequality and for exception from compliance with equality legislation. I guess they now have their champion, and we have our answer.
Surely, ‘equalities’ is an important portfolio which relies on community confidence. The government simply cannot afford to place a person with such a controversial and equivocating background in that role. Surely?
The head of the Catholic Church in Britain, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor has written to The Times in defence of Kelly.
“Homosexual people are first of all persons, and have the same entitlement to legal rights as anyone else.”
Thanks CCMC. That’s a step forward. But you also say…
“The Church has consistently spoken out against any discrimination against homosexual persons, and will continue to do so.”
… which is quite simply untrue. Laughably so!
In 1992, the Vatican issued a declaration, which remains in force, calling on all Catholics to oppose lesbian and gay equality. In the UK, prominent Catholic leaders have consistently opposed the repeal of Section 28, same-sex adoption and civil partnerships. Ruth Kelly, of course, absented herself from two of these votes. The one she did turn up for, but only in order to vote in accordance with Church policy.
Ruth Kelly’s job is to champion equality. Yet she has absented herself from some of the most important equalities bills in recent history on “conscientious” grounds. She is quite simply not suitable for the job.