Press Release: Anti-Homophobia Day celebrated in Croydon
18 May 2012
On Thursday 17th May, Croydon Area Gay Society held two very different events for IDAHO (the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia).
In the morning, CAGS members and supporters, with members of Croydon Community Choir, held an open-air event near Queen Victoria's statue in Katharine Street. CAGS member Ray Harvey-Amer congratulated Her Majesty the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee, and looked back to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. Queen Victoria's reign saw the vast expansion of the British Empire, and Queen Elizabeth's reign has seen it transformed into a Commonwealth of independent nations. But many Commonwealth states still retain anti-gay laws dating from the colonial era. Ray Harvey-Amer said "LGBT people in these countries are crying out for equality, justice and human rights. Their voices continue to go unheard in 40 countries who are members of the Commonwealth. We hope and trust that during your Diamond Jubilee all member states of the Commonwealth will hear their cries." A letter to Her Majesty, summarising these points, was read out and then posted.
In the evening, CAGS organised a panel debate on gay marriage at Croydon Unitarian Church, chaired by Rev Art Lester. The debate covered several of the questions in the current Home Office consultation about same-sex marriage.
Panel member and Cambridge councillor Sarah Brown described how, as a married man undergoing gender reassignment, she and her wife had to have their marriage dissolved and then form a civil partnership: "We came out of the divorce court holding hands and crying." The proposed change in the law will mean couples in this situation will no longer be forced to split up.
Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell, in the audience, said he had
received a large postbag on gay marriage. Many of his
consituents are worried about changing the long
established meaning of the word marriage. However panel member Martin
Pendergast, Roman Catholic gay activist, commented that there have been
much more significant changes to the Church's understanding of marriage.
Anglican panel member Chris Eldridge reported the Bishop of
Salisbury's comment that by
opposing equal marriage the church had prompted the Government to
“very disturbing” distinction between “religious” and “civil” marriage.
Panel member Alan Wakeman said that "a universal change of consciousness is under way", which will lead to all citizens, whether gay or straight, having equal rights in marriage as in other areas.
The panel were agreed that the right to marry should be extended to everyone regardless of gender. Civil partnerships are not an adequate substitute: "separate but equal" is not the same as "equal".
Rev Art Lester, speaking on behalf of Croydon Unitarians, said that if it became possible to conduct same-sex marriages on church premises he would be delighted to do so. A Unitarian chapel in Manchester had been the first church in the country to register to conduct civil partnerships.
For more about Sarah Brown, see http://lgbthistoryuk.org/wiki/index.php?title=Sarah_Brown.
For a relevant article by Martin Pendergast, see www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2009/apr/28/gay-marriage-catholic
For more about Alan Wakeman, see www.awakeman.co.uk/Exit/biography.htm.
For more about Croydon Community Choir, see http://voicesnow.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/choir-a-day-day-7-croydon-community-choir/
For more about IDAHO in the UK, see www.idahouk.org/ or www.dayagainsthomophobia.org/spip.php?page=fiche&id_mot=57&lang=en.
For the programme for the morning's event, see http://www.cags.org.uk/pdfs/idahoprogramme.pdf and for the letter to the Queen see http://www.cags.org.uk/pdfs/letter-to-the-queen.pdf.
This press release is also available at www.cags.org.uk/pressrel-2012-05.htm.