Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Sexual Orientation Regulations - The Demo

I am still a little cold almost an hour after I got home. But looking back and having listen to the news, it was all worth it.

The World Tonight on Radio4 have just reported that after 3 hours of debate which were unusually well attended, the challenge to the new regulation lost the day by a majority of 131. 68 Lords supporting Lord Morrow's motion to annul the regulations.

Crowds singing

Outside of the House of Lords where I found myself tonight, there were "hundreds of people" (again according to the BBC but I would say about 2000) demonstrating in support of the motion. Of those, there were about 100 gay and lesbian people in total who had come spontaneously to show their disagreement. Linda Bellos, Ben Summerskill and other Stonewall people, someone from Outrage! and gay Christians were in attendance too.

Considering the amount of free publicity achieved by the event in the media today (and that included the unusual inclusion by BBC News of all the details of location and times on its website), I don't think the turn out can have be deemed much of a success by the organisers.

This was supposed to be a multi-faith affair but it was overwhelmingly led by “Christians” and had a distinct evangelical flavour (about half of the attendance was black). People singing and brandishing placards (reading "Cry Freedom", "Christians Awake" or "Back the Bible"), applauding speakers (including Rev. George Hargreaves, who in a past life wrote the very gay song “Not So Macho”, in a Guantanamo style boiler suit!). Non-Christian demonstrators can’t have felt very welcome and included.

The (mostly) Christian demonstrators

Children had of course been drafted and brought to the fore. The old confused spectre of the paedophile always at easy and comforting reach. Some Christians managed to tear themselves from the chanting crowd to come and chat with us who were standing silently on the side. Lively but mostly good mannered debates ensued. There were unfortunately a few shouts and rude words from a couple of gay guys during a heat aside with a Christian woman.

I found myself talking shortly to a born again man who seemed fairly reasonable I had a longer conversation with Amanda, a thin blond woman in her early forties. She seemed nice enough but, together with her elderly friend had this particular brand of religious zeal that make people seem a little deranged. The fact that the older woman kept repeating that god had created me and loved me did help.

As was made clear in the protracted debate on the regulations, there is a lot of misinformation and confusion on the Christian side. Amanda and her friend didn't know about the Christian Institute which is at the forefront of the opposition to the regulations; neither did they know about their inflammatory advert in the Times some weeks ago. Amanda finally told me that she was there because she fears that her freedom of speech will be taken away from her. She seemed to have only a hazy idea of the regulations but when I told her that she would still be able to SAY what she wants, she did not want to believe me.

In the end the argument from the people I met is that homosexuality, in their view (supported by the Bible which in turn is the word of god) is a sin. They see the law as forcing them to be unchristian by allowing something they disagree with.
This is compounded by the fact that sex should for them only take place within the holy bonds of matrimony and there you go: you can’t have two gays in one Christian B&B room (which seems to be the main contention here)… They all said they would also ban adulterers if they knew about them.

There doesn’t seem to be any rational basis to their point of view, which means you can’t really argue with them or hope to get them to see the light (so to speak).

On the whole, as could have been expected, no one was convinced by the other side's argument. I want to hope, however that I (and other elements of a discussion he was taking part in) gave something to think about to (rather handsome) black man. He first seemed to consider homosexuality as a choice but when I asked him if he could bring himself to desire a man, he became silent. Later, he asked us gays how we had known we were gay. Again our answer seemed to make him pose for thought.

Slowly around 8pm, the demonstration slowly disbanded allowing people to rejoin the coaches they had been shipped on. As I was getting ready to leave myself, someone I know told me how on arriving he had heard a woman on the other side of the road saying to her companion that she was a member of the House and, on seeing the signs marked "freedom" in the crowd, that those must be a counter demonstration. Quite ironic really.

Interviewed by Gaydar Radio

A slightly different version of this post was publish on PinkNews.co.uk on 10 January 2007, with the header: It was not just protesters out last night in Parliament Square. Blogger Nicholas Chinardet went along to meet the enemy, and was surprised to find some of them confused about the actual nature of the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Here is his account of events outside the House of Lords last night.

Further reading:
* Another account of the demo, with (better) pictures.
* Discrimination law controversy By Jon Silverman, BBC Legal affairs analyst

Previous Posts:
* Anti-Freedom Demo Today Outside Parliament
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, Letter To Ruth Kelly
* Sexual Orientation Regulations, The Saga Continues
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again - Part 2
* Anti-Gay Christians Strike Again

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  1. Thanks for this post and the pictures especially.

    A great day for democracy (even if the Lords aren't elected).

    A bad day for religious bigots who have a lot of thinking to do.

  2. I found your link through Towleroad.

    Sounded like a fun night out, all things considered. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Yes, Da, it was actually good fun :O)


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