Dear Mr Cameron,
Throughout my life, I’ve found my very existence being at odds with the society desired by the Conservative Party. I went to school under Section 28, where I was unfortunate enough to be told that being gay was wrong not just by fellow students, but by adults too. I never really understood the pragmatic reasons for your predecessors believing that my “persuasion” was an evil that needed to be stamped out by threatening teachers with the sack if they even discussed it with us, but I know it had a little something to do with the book we all had to read and study at length at my Catholic school.
With that in mind, I have to say I really meant it when I emailed your office and told you (or whichever staff member reads your emails) that you should be proud of your work in helping to bring same-sex marriage onto the statute book. I’m sure it’s not easy feeling the uncomfortable warmth of Peter Bone’s breath crawling down your neck at Prime Minister’s Questions and despite protestations of others, nobody would ever have expected that such a measure would be brought in under a Tory Prime Minister. I didn’t believe Michael Howard when he said sorry for Section 28, because he qualified it by saying it was a different world back then – an insincere comment designed to alleviate responsibility for such an odious piece of legislation without actually expressing any remorse for bringing it in in the first place. With you, the words were matched with actions.
As somebody who believes in the importance of freedom of speech, I remain committed to defending the rights of those who believe that I am dirty, wrong and bound for hell to be able to express such within the bounds of the law. I do not wish to gag them in the same way they wished to prevent me from marrying; but I did wish to ensure that they and their organisations could continue to go about their own internal business in their own way. No religious organisation, in my view, should be forced to marry same-sex couples. Although I am content as a miserable atheist I recognise that even if I consider the beliefs of others to be wholly wrong, that does not change the sincerity with which those beliefs are held and it does not remove their absolute right to believe those things.
Yet, despite your principled words about the importance of marriage and the respect for belief, word has it that you’ve decided to push back on the idea of allowing humanists like myself to have a meaningful and personal ceremony. I listened to your speech at your Downing Street reception where you said you were so proud of the Act receiving royal assent that you wanted to expand the franchise. You wanted to export it to other countries. Your enthusiasm for gay weddings would radiate through every nation, rallying every gay couple to the altar (or civil equivalent, of course!) until not a single unwed homosexual remained. Such was your enthusiasm that when I heard humanist weddings were unlikely to happen under your watch, I wanted to know why. Apparently one quarter of the country are “fringe”. This was not your opinion of course, but that of one Lynton Crosby.
I don’t know much about Lynton Crosby except his slimy we’re-not-racist-but slogans that lost your party the 2005 election. He’s got a sort of Karl Rove-esque reputation of being some sort of dark lord, which I’m sure he enjoys having, which in turn makes him much much worse of a person. His intervention suggests one thing about your enthusiasm for marriage – that it has morphed from its previous “I will not be popular in my party for this but it’s the right thing to do” incarnation to one of “This won’t win us the election, sod it”. But whilst I’m sure you’ve got many other things on your plate at the moment, like personally defending our borders from those dastardly immigrants who want to stimulate our economy, I do wish to remind you of that one thing you can take away from your time in politics where people from every party stopped for a moment and said, “you know what, give him his dues, on this he did good”.
I’m immensely lucky in having found somebody I get along with very well. Last year, after equal marriage received royal assent, I asked him to marry me and much to my delight he said yes. We don’t want to do so with an anonymous registrar, we want to celebrate it with a humanist leading proceedings. As a Christian, you must understand the value fellow members of your faith place in the celebrant of their weddings being a minister of their own religion. You can’t necessarily rationalise as to why that matters, it just does. Similarly, being forced to read from the stock civil script when followers of religions can write their own vows, mould their own ceremony and enjoy it in their own buildings does not make marriage very equal at all. I know and you know that were somebody to refer to the needs of the religious as “fringe”, you’d be utterly outraged.
If it makes you feel any better, I’m really unsure as to whether your grassroots members will give the slightest of damns about extending the franchise to humanists – after allowing those gays to do it, this won’t even register on the radar. But what it will do is provide a much more meaningful ceremony to those of us who, despite not believing in a god or a supernatural being, still have beliefs that are held as sincerely.
We deserve the same as everybody else. Please take the small step to making that happen.