Rolling back the enlightenment

Posted by Piers Cawley on Oct 10, 2006

Whatever your opinion the the Iraq war, whatever you think of Our Glorious Grinning Leader, it is still possible to point to at least one unqualified Good Law brought in by our current government.

In July this year, my uncles, after being together for 36 years, got married. The law calls it a civil partnership, but it’s marriage in all but (official) name.

Yay! One Good Thing. Better than many governments manage I think.

In the light of that, Yesterday’s Observer carried a story that leaves me furious with my government and it’s pusillanimous approach to matters of religion.

The proposed measures would ban discrimination over the provision of goods and services, meaning, for example, that hotels which banned gay couples from sharing a room could be prosecuted. In turn, gay bars would also have to be open to straight clients. More broadly, the rules potentially affect everything from fertility clinics’ right to refuse lesbian couples IVF treatment to whether the tourism industry can promote heterosexuals-only honeymoon resorts, drawing several Whitehall departments into the row.

Faith schools have, however, led the protest, arguing that the rules could affect teaching about sex or require them to let gay groups hold meetings on their premises after hours. Catholic adoption agencies fear being forced to allow gay couples to adopt children. The Catholic church, which regards homosexuality as a sin, has suggested adoption agencies would close down rather than obey.

It appears that the cabinet is blocked on bringing these regulations forward unchanged or watering them down to allow for a religious opt out. Apparently the stumbling blocks are Tony Blair and Ruth Kelly (who is a devout Catholic). Well at least Blair will be out of the picture soon, but Ruth Kelly is the Communities Secretary. Frankly, it worries me that the Communities Secretary could be labeled a devout anything (well, maybe a devout liberal, but that’s a pair of words that don’t sit that well together).

Refusing someone equal rights simply on the basis of their sexuality is no better than refusing those same rights on the basis of their skin colour, sex or the colour of their hair

Admittedly, the UK is an awful long way from being Gilead just yet, but I had thought that our leaders were a bit better than this. It seems I was wrong. Again.