Tag Archives: same sex marriage

Lynne Featherstone interview part 3: Same sex marriage and life as a Minister

In the hours following the icy gales of Storm Doris, I caught up with Lynne at Taunton’s most distinguished hotel, The Castle. This is the final instalment of our chat. You can read the others here.

You were and still are a campaigner against important issues such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), child abuse and violence against women. However, perhaps your greatest achievement is being the originator and architect of the equal marriage act, which was passed into law in 2013. No party had equal marriage in their 2010 manifestos nor was it part of the coalition agreement. Why did you take this issue on and why is it important to you?

When we entered into coalition, 20 ministerial posts had to be filled. After two days, I received a call from Nick Clegg offering me the post of Equalities Minister. In fact, I ended up with three-quarters of me as a Home Office minister and one-quarter as Equalities Minister. So I’m a minister in the coalition, we have Liberal Democrats in government, and I’m thinking to myself ‘I’ve got to do something to make sure everyone knows that there are Liberals in this government’. It never crossed my mind that it wasn’t in the manifestos or portfolio because to me it was an obvious piece of equalities work that needed doing. Labour were great with civil partnerships, but I thought they were a kind of apartheid – one rule for gay people and one rule for straight people. My view is that you should have marriage and civil partnerships for both gay and straight, both for both. The state’s job is to facilitate that union, not to judge if one is good or one is bad.

We were all new Liberal Democrat ministers and didn’t have a clue what we were doing, so the Institute for Government put on a morning instruction for newbie Liberal ministers. They invited Michael Heseltine and Andrew Adonis to advise us. Heseltine said ‘you are going to be really busy. You do not understand the tsunami of work that will hit you when you become a minister. You will have debates, orals, speeches, correspondence and endless other things. Your diary will be full from morning to night. If you do not ruthlessly prioritise one or two things you want to get done in your time in the sun, you will not achieve it. You will be a very good minister doing very important things but you won’t have done anything you went into politics for’. Adonis encouraged us to trust our civil servants. He said it wasn’t like The Thick of It or Yes Minister, although, I have to say, I thought it was quite like Yes Minister! He told us  ‘If you don’t direct your civil servants, they will fill your diary from first thing in the morning until midnight, all with very worthy things but you’ll just be executing what they want you to do. If you trust your civil servants, you have to direct them. They will go to the ends of the earth for you’. As I walked back from the Institute for Government to the Home Office, it just crystallised in my brain that I wanted to do same sex marriage because it was a piece of equalities legislation that needed doing. I came back into my office and said to one of my assistant private secretaries ‘I want to do same sex marriage, what do I do?’ That is literally how it started.

If I hadn’t had that morning, we would not have same sex marriage. It’s really strange how things happen.

Can you explain the process? What did you have to do?

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Lynne Featherstone’s “Equal ever after” is out now – how same sex marriage became a reality (with added Lib Dem flouncing)

Lynne Featherstone Equal Ever AfterLast night, at a glitzy party, Lynne Featherstone’s book, Equal ever after was launched. In it she tells the story of  her crusade as Equalities Minister to deliver same sex marriage.

The launch was attended by Nick Clegg, Jo Swinson, Julian Huppert and many, many more. Sadly, I wasn’t there, even though I was in London. I was at a meeting of the Federal Finance and Administration Committee instead.

You have to wonder what position Jo Swinson was in when she took this:

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Nick Clegg replies to Coalition for Marriage with pithy tweet

 

And here’s a reminder of two very happy young men who were definitely not forced to get married…

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Lynne Featherstone wins Stonewall Politician of the Year

Lynne Featherstone MP was named Stonewall’s ‘Politician of the Year’ at their annual awards ceremony yesterday. It was awarded jointly to Lynne and to this guy off Eastenders.

Lynne has been tireless in promoting LGBT+ rights over the last four and a half years and was the architect of the bill legalising same sex marriage.

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A trio of awards ceremonies for Lynne Featherstone

It’s a busy week for Lynne Featherstone. Last Tuesday, she won Pink News’s Ally of the Year award as the Minister responsible for setting the same sex marriage process in motion. She’s responsible for a great deal of happiness. She said of her win:

I’d like to thank Pink News for giving me this award, and everyone who was at the event for the reception they gave me – it’s so heart-warming.

Bringing about this positive social change is one of the greatest achievements of our generation, and I’m so thankful to all the organisations, politicians, civil servants and people who supported the successful campaign for Equal Marriage law from start to finish.

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Lynne Featherstone on shortlist for Stonewall Politician of the Year

Lynne Featherstone at PrideOn 6th November, Stonewall’s annual awards ceremony takes place in London. Many Liberal Democrats have had their issues with Stonewall in the past, but I’d say that they are definitely improving. For example, it’s good to see Stonewall Scotland’s “Some people are Trans, get over it” t-shirts. They may have come late to the equal marriage party, but they got there eventually.  On top of that,  their resources for schools are excellent.  Stonewall Chief Executive, Ruth Hunt, who is doing some great work in making the organisation more inclusive, spoke at our Conference in Glasgow.

Up for Politician of the Year is our own Lynne Featherstone, the woman who set the country firmly on the road to same sex marriage. Alex Neil, the Minister who was responsible for the Scottish bill, is also nominated. As an aside, it was announced yesterday that the first Scottish same sex marriages will take place on Hogmanay. That’s not a huge amount of time to organise a party, but I’m sure some will manage it.

The shortlist in full is:

Lord Cashman
Lynne Featherstone MP
Lord Fowler
Kerry McCarthy MP
Alex Neil MSP

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Baroness Barker: Nicky Morgan’s appointment “disappointing”

Protest against a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriageThe appointment of former treasury minister Nicky Morgan to the post of education secretary and minister for women and equalities has come under fire from Liberal Democrat peer Elizabeth Barker given Morgan’s recent opposition to same sex marriage (though it should be pointed out that the responsibility for the implementation of same sex marriage has been given to skills and enterprise minister Nick Boles).

Pink News has the story:

Speaking to PinkNews, Baroness Barker said: “It is good to see equalities firmly within education,

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Congratulations Ed and Russell! AKA The Lib Dem Wedding of the Year

ConffetiCongratulations from all at Lib Dem Voice to Ed Fordham and Russell Eagling, who were married yesterday, Saturday 5th July. Their happy day made the local paper:

Campaigner Ed Fordham, a beaten candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn at the 2010 General Election, married his partner of 17 years, the former Fortune Green councillor Russell Eagling. The ceremony took place at the Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel in Hampstead.

The pair got engaged in Parliament Square after Ed Fordham went down on one knee in front of a crowd of more than 1,000

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LDVideo: Nick Clegg – Let’s use Pride in London to celebrate advances in LGBT rights

Pink News reports that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has released a video celebrating Pride in London, saying we should celebrate advances made for LGBT rights. It quotes Nick saying:

“It is quite fitting that on the eve of London Pride weekend we were able to announce the final, crucial steps to making equal marriage a reality. From 10th December those couples who are currently in civil partnerships but want to enter into a marriage instead, will be able to do so.

“It has been a long struggle to get here and many people have worked tirelessly to ensure true marriage equality, but it has been worth it. This weekend we will be able to celebrate the advances our society has made for LGBT people, their friends and families.”

You can watch the video here

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LibLink: Lynne Featherstone: Last night we saw the nasty side of Nigel Farage

Lynne featherstone by paul walterLynne Featherstone has written an article for the Liberal Democrats’ website in which she slams Nigel Farage’s comments on same sex marriage  and Crimea in the debate last night.

I agree with Vlad

Nigel Farage loathes the EU so much that he is prepared to side with Vladimir Putin against the people of Ukraine and the democracies of the western world.

His statement, that the EU has “blood on its hands”, was an insult to those pro-democracy demonstrators who bravely took to the streets of Kiev to fight for their

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Opinion: Church of England, call off your modern day inquisition

Archbishop Justin Welby Some rights reserved by Messiah Lutheran (Mechanicsville, VA)For those of you in York, and indeed last September at Glasgow, one of the loudest cheers in the closing day of the Leaders Speech always comes when the pre-film, or Nick as leader mentions the Same Sex Marriage Act.

Indeed Lynne Featherstone will go down in Liberal Democrat history, indeed in wider history, as the MP who made such a massive impact and a positive one upon society.

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Same Sex marriages – March 29th is the day

wedding ringsThe Government have today announced that Same Sex marriages can commence in 2014.

One of the ways of finding out who I was, who I might be and what shaped my thinking and existence was to speak to older relatives about themselves and my forebears.

Their memories are linked either to very small specific instances or to the large set piece occasions. In this cascade of history weddings stand out large and strong.

In photographs it is weddings that are posed and formal and vibrant – and yet – up to now …

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Shirley seeks to amend same-sex marriage bill: “Equality is not the same as sameness”

There’s no doubt Shirley Williams has many admirable qualities. For example, her passionate belief in free-at-the-point-of-use health-care, her passionate defence of excellent education for all, and her quite staggering propensity for appearing on BBC1’s Question Time.

But even the best of us err. First, there was her casual dismissal of sexual harrassment (“we have got somewhat obsessed about getting very exaggerated reactions to what is silly and impolite and discourteous behaviour”). And now there’s her attempt to de-rail same-sex marriage legislation. As PinkNews reports:

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Williams has tabled a new amendment urging for a legal separation

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LibLink | Nick Clegg: Celebrate Pride but don’t forget the countries that discriminate against LGBT people

lds_prideNick Clegg has an article over at PinkNews.co.uk, in which he highlights how the forthcoming same-sex marriage legislation means this weekend’s Pride in London celebrations will be a “landmark” event. However, he contrasts the strides of progress made here with continuing repression against LGBT people around the world. Here’s an excerpt:

Civil partnerships were a huge stride forward, but only the right to marry – if you choose – is real equality. This isn’t just a ‘gay issue’. It’s about the kind of society we want to be.

This year we are flying

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Same sex Marriage: another Liberal Democrat victory

The House of Commons has passed the Marriage (Same sex couples) Bill at Third Reading stage with a whopping majority of 205.

Next stop for this measure is the House of Lords after the recess on 3 June.

There will certainly be challenges to it there but the momentum from the last two days of debate and the fact that it was passed by such a large majority bodes well.

We can be sure that without the Liberal Democrats, the measure would not have made it even on to the Commons agenda, given the opposition from within Conservative ranks.

The co-operation across …

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Liberal Democrat MPs to be given free vote on all aspects of Same Sex Marriage Bill

Rumours reach my ears of a surprise decision at last night’s Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party Meeting. The Same Sex Marriage Bill comes back to the Commons next Monday for two days of debate on a number of amendments.

At Second Reading in February, no votes were whipped. Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael stepped out of the shadows to explain why to Lib Dem Voice readers.

The view of my parliamentary colleagues that came up time and again was that they supported equal marriage and were keen to see it on the statute book. They wanted, in fact, not just to support the

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Greg Mulholland to propose “complete separation of state marriage and religious weddings”

Greg MulhollandLib Dem MP Greg Mulholland was one of seven Lib Dem MPs to abstain from the vote on same-sex marriage in February. He explained his reasons for doing so here:

I do agree unequivocally that all adults must be treated equally in terms of legal recognition of their relationship and the rights that they convey; the question is how best to deliver that at the same time as protecting freedom of conscience. These are two important rights and must both be delivered simultaneously. The problem is that as currently drafted, the Marriage Bill delivers neither of these. It is a confused and flawed piece of legislation that does not actually deliver equality as it proposes different definitions of marriage for heterosexual and same sex couples; nor does it sufficiently protect freedom of conscience for people with religious and other differing views of marriage. This is why I was unable to support the Bill at second reading, however nor did I want to vote against it or what would be misinterpreted as my being anti equal legal rights, which I am very clearly not.

Greg now has a proposal, though it’s far-reaching legislative changes may not be well-received at Westminster:

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Opinion: UK sets the right example on same sex marriage

The Polish parliament - Some rights reserved by Kancelaria PremieraIt’s been a week of ups and downs with regard to marriage equality and I am not just talking about in Britain. This week the Polish parliament voted down a bill that would have introduced civil partnerships. Despite an impassioned plea by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, a significant part of his governing party voted against the bill, teaming up with conservative members to destroy any chance it had of becoming law. Indeed, one member declared that she would be voting against the bill because gay people “are of no use whatsoever to society.” From this position, equal

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Majority back same-sex marriage

Wedding ringsFrom the polling published this weekend:

Would you support or oppose changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?
Support: 55%
Oppose: 36%

Amongst Conservative voters the results are 44% – 49% (which is a statistical dead heat, when you remember to factor in the  margin of error).

Interestingly, the majority support comes despite the lead-up to the question being a tadge inaccurate:

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LibLink: Lynne Featherstone – ‘Church stuck in dark ages’

In an interview in yesterday’s Sunday Times (£), Lynne Featherstone said plans for same-sex marriages are a ‘gentle measure’ but she will not bear intolerance.

Pink News reports the interview under the heading “UK Equality Minister: Church’s opposition to same sex marriage is ‘Dark Age’ homophobia”:

Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat minister for equality has said that the language the Church of England and the Catholic Church has used is homophobic and that the views that the leaders are expressing belong in the Dark Ages.

Mrs Featherstone told the Sunday Times: “This is about love and commitment and things that

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Steve Gilbert MP writes… Church opposition to gay marriage is “intolerant, out of touch, and wrong”

Another Sunday and another set of intolerant and out of touch comments from senior Church leaders who have set their face against the Coalition plans for equal marriage. It’s clear that some parts of the Church are on a collision course with Parliament and the people. But, rather than showing themselves to be modern defenders of values we all share, they are showing how out of touch they are with British society today and the institution they seek to protect. They are also plain wrong: extending marriage to same-sex couples will not undermine the institution; it will renew and reinforce …

Posted in Op-eds | 22 Comments
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