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Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, has come under fire for a press release issued by his office in which opponents of gay marriage were labelled bigots. The press release was hastily withdrawn and it was stated that it was not Clegg’s choice of wording and that there was a more recent draft in which the partidular phrase was withdrawn. The original wording was:

Continued trouble in the economy gives the bigots a stick to beat us with, as they demand we ‘postpone’ the equalities agenda in order to deal with ‘the things people really care about’. As if pursuing greater equality and fixing the economy simply cannot happen at once.

Words I wholeheartedly agree with. The replacement phraseology was:

Continued trouble in the economy leads some people to demand we ‘postpone’ the equalities agenda in order to deal with ‘the things people really care about’. As if pursuing greater equality and fixing the economy simply cannot happen at once.

There’s not a huge difference there, certainly the essence is the same – why should we stop driving forward equality just because the economy is tanking? If modern politicians can’t manage even the slightest bit of multi-tasking, the country really is screwed (though looking around, maybe that’s the real issue).

What’s more interesting is the response from members of his coalition Government. Below is an extract from the Guardian article on the subject:

Peter Bone, the Tory backbencher, accused Clegg of having insulted millions of people “with deep convictions of religion and conscience”. Bone said: “I don’t see how that could have got published without it being the view of the deputy prime minister. He has got to rapidly get out there on the airwaves apologising. It is clear what he thinks. There is no way that the deputy prime minister of our country can be associated with that language.”

I’m sorry, but believing that 2-10% of the nation (I have seen estimates at either end of that spectrum) are not entitled to the same set of rights as the rest of the population just because of the sex of the person they fell in love with is bigotry, pure and simple.

Bigotry: Stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.
Now, Mr Bone is entitled to his opinion, but we should be living in a country where the rights available to one person are the rights available to all, and gender, race or sexuality should not determine which rights you are or are not entitled to.
Rather impusively, I decided to send Mr Clegg (or rather, his office) an email on the subject, supporting the use of the word ‘bigot’, and I am publishing it at the foot of this post. I did realise halfway through that there may be reason behind retracting the word ‘bigot’ from the initial communication. Essentially, the reasoning can be boiled down to “It can be easier to get someone to agree to something they don’t like if you don’t insult them and call them names while you do it.” It’s a fair point, and I totally understand why Mr Clegg’s office might want to distance themselves from the initial phraseology, but it’s important to point out and drive home the fact that people who do object to gay marriage are bigots and we shouldn’t afraid to call them that or to point it out.
There’s one simple thing to remember: You can support gay marriage and still be a bad person. You can’t oppose gay marriage and be a good person.
Dear Mr Clegg,While you may never have intended to use the word “bigots” in your email or speech, I fully believe that you should not be afraid to label these people for what they are. If they opposed inter-racial marriage you would not be afraid to call these people “racists”, and likewise those opposed to giving full rights to homosexuals should be labelled and highlighted as bigots.In 30 years time, the idea that LGBT people could have not been allowed to be married will appear ridiculous – something I am sure you agree with. But the longer we allow people with these opposing views to share them as though they are acceptable in a modem society, the longer a full acceptance will take.There will always be opponents to this kind of legislation and LGBT lifestyles on general – just as there are racists around us now – but that doesn’t make their views on homosexuality or attempted restrictions on the rights of those people acceptable, and nor does the fact that some of your coalition colleagues share those views.

Using Christianity (or any religion) as a reason for these oppositions is fine – they can attempt to defend their indefensible position however they like – but we live in a free country – a country where more people are likely to give their religion as Jedi than anything else – and people should have the same rights regardless of their religious beliefs. Marriage isn’t solely a Christian institution – it is, or should be, for everyone. If a church doesn’t want to carry out a gay wedding, that would be fine in my book, as long as those gay and lesbian couples do have somewhere to marry.

We are a multi-cultural and multi-religious (or non-religious) country and we shouldn’t have legislation shaped purely on the basis of the faith of an ever-decreasing minority. While I have had my issues with many aspects of this governments work in office, I wholeheartedly welcome Mr Cameron’s pledge to pass gay marriage laws by 2015 – it stands to be the government’s greatest legacy if it is achieved. I also understand that, in order to pass this legislation, tempering language in order not I rile opponents too greatly is probably necessary.

However, I would echo Peter Tatchell’s comment: “It is pretty clear that some people oppose marriage rights for gay people because of deep-seated homophobic bigotry. Nick Clegg should not be afraid to say so.”

Kind regards,

Benjamin Hendy

NB – a copy of this email may be posted on my blog at www.benjaminhendy.com – don’t worry – no one reads it. If you (or your office) reply, I may also post your response on there.