To LGBT Tories, with (Religious Same Sex) Love

October 15, 2012

in Activism

The person identified as Salford Conservative in this article would like it to be known that he did not appreciate in the recorded conversation below that I was making a distinction between “gay” and “equal” marriage, as he was using them interchangeably, and that he will avoid this conflation in future. He further states that he does not believe that the Conservative Party is legislating for religious same sex marriage and his comments at no point implied that they were.


So, I got into a rather bizarre dispute over same sex marriage the other day with a Salford Conservative and one of his friends who it turns out is actually the Deputy Chairman of  a Manchester Conservative local party. They were mocking the fact that a local Labour activist had told one of them that the Tories didn’t support equal marriage. I pointed out that this was true, as the Conservative Party policy is to support civil, and not religious, same sex marriage (the Labour Party support both, btw. So do the Lib Dems. Interestingly, the Green Party doesn’t. What an odd pairing).

But they wouldn’t believe me, and said that the Tories would support same sex religious marriage the same they would civil partnerships.

I pointed out, again, that the Tories have proposed same sex civil marriage, which the Church of England claimed would fall over immediately at the European Court. And noted that the Lib Dems are running a campaign to include same sex religious marriage in the upcoming bill. They would hardly be campaigning for something that is already happening.

They wouldn’t believe me. Indeed, Mr Deputy Chairman said “we do not oppose same-sex marriage. Any suggestion to the contrary is utter nonsense.”

So I quoted David Cameron, you know, the Tory Prime Minister, stating his proposals affect “what happens in a register office, not what happens in a church“, and the Conservative Party website, which describes its policy on marriage as “We are allowing those religious premises that wish to do so to register civil partnerships and we will consult next year on how to introduce same-sex civil marriage.” [emphasis mine]

They wouldn’t believe me. I was accused of trying to force churches to perform same sex marriages, and “all we are saying is that we will enable churches to decide for themselves.”

I tried to explain marriage law.  Allowing religious same sex marriage simply means that churches who want to perform same sex marriages will be able to – specifically the Quakers, the Unitarians, and Liberal and Reform Judaism. The situation in 2015, if the proposed legislation becomes law, is that those denominations will not be able to perform same sex religious marriages, even though they want to and are specifically lobbying the government for this. Religious same sex marriage will still be illegal, for everyone, whether they want to perform them or not.

They wouldn’t believe me.

I explained marriage law some more. There’s two types of marriage law. Civil marriage, which is performed by registrars. And religious marriage, which is performed by “authorised celebrants” in venues recognised by the approved denominations, which are Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Free Churches, and the United Synagogue, the Orthodox Jewish organisation (which for the purposes of marriage includes Masorti Judaism, Reform Judaism, and Liberal Judaism). Everyone else, the Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims etc, have to have a registrar present at their wedding ceremonies, or hold a private civil wedding beforehand.

Civil marriage is regulated by the state, and is open to everyone over the age of 18 of sound mind. Religious marriage is open to the rules set by the denomination which performs them. So Catholics can turn down divorcees, and rabbis can refuse to perform interfaith weddings.

What the current Conservative Party proposals regard, is civil marriage. Just civil marriage. So registrars will be able to marry anyone of any gender to anyone else of any gender in 2015. But authorised celebrants will continue to be bound by the current rules, which only recognise opposite sex marriage. So in 2015, I will only be able to marry a Jewish man in my local synagogue. Not a Jewish woman. This will not be legal, even if I want to marry them, they want to marry me, my rabbi wants to perform the ceremony, and my synagogue wants to hold it. This will not be allowed, legal, acceptable, or permissible under the current Conservative proposals.

Now, this is absolutely fine by the Catholic and Anglican Churches, and the United Synagogue, but this isn’t ok with Reform Judaism, Liberal Judaism, and the Quakers. They are actively lobbying Nick Clegg to support same sex religious marriage because the Tory party isn’t legalising same sex religious marriage. Now, religious LGBT people can have religious civil partnerships, that became legal in 2011 (courtesy of the Conservative Party). But it’s not religious same sex marriage. The Tory party does not support religious same sex marriage.

They still wouldn’t believe me. Actually, that’s not true, the Salford Conservative, to his credit, checked out of the conversation and I assume it was him that posted this on the LGBTory Twitter five seconds later:


But the other guy kept going, and said that the Tory party proposals would mean that people would be able to have same sex civil weddings in religious venues as some kind of interim step to total equality. I pointed out that this was insane, because civil weddings in religious venues full stop are not legal.

At which point, this guy said we would have to agree to disagree. Which might well suit him given his evident lack of knowledge of his own party’s policies, but this is an important point that has repercussions on thousands of devout gay couples who may or may not be getting misled by LGBT members of the nation’s governing party. You can’t subjectively have your own opinions about the contents of government legislation when said government has made it very clear, in all the examples I’ve just recounted, that they are not, in fact, supporting religious same sex marriage.

So, as I was starting to doubt myself in the face of such implacable ignorance, I wrote to my local Conservative MP, Simon Burns, who also happened to be Minister of State for Transport. I figured that even if minor party officials didn’t know the score, a minister would. Mr Burns’ assistant wrote back to tell me that he was absolutely in support of the government’s proposals for civil same sex marriage:


“proposals being published to abolish the bad on same-sex couples entering into a civil marriage”


Now, being as apparently several members of the Conservative Party can’t comprehend the idea that their party isn’t actually in favour of full marriage equality, I thought that the slight ambiguity over “religious organisations will have the freedom to decide whether or not they would want to marry same sex couples” warranted full clarification. So I wrote back to Mr Burns asking specifically if religious marriage was on the cards. However, the resulting letter, presumably written by a different assistant, ignored the question completely and stated that Simon Burns, from religious conviction, would vote against same sex marriage full stop:


“I am afraid that at this stage the concept of gay marriage is too much in advance of public opinion and I am afraid I would not support it in a vote in the House of Commons.”

(I should point out that if Simon Burns genuinely believed that he couldn’t support religious same sex marriage on religious grounds, I wouldn’t be upset about that. But that’s not the point.)

So it seemed that it’s not just northern Conservatives who aren’t sure. Fortunately,  after calling the Home Office, I found absolute clarification on page 4 of their report summarising its consultation on same sex marriage:



So, that’s that. I hope that the LGBT Tories who have ended up reading this are now clear on their own party policy. Equal marriage isn’t hard, the SNP have already started the ball rolling in Scotland (and the leader of the Scottish Conservatives has said she will vote for it). I do hope the Conservative Party moves to include religious same sex marriage in the upcoming bill, but I think they’ve probably had enough of their own backbenchers moaning about same sex civil marriage to go that step further.  I’d love it if they did though. That would be awesome.  Perhaps LGBTory could take the lead on making  equal marriage a reality?

Finally, here is the Equalities Minister affirming her support for same sex civil marriage.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Salford Conservative October 15, 2012 at 11:09 am

My goodness – this is distinctly at odds with my recollection of events – but then again, the way this is represented one would think that you and I had a reasoned debate on the subject, rather than you hijacking a facebook post where I criticised LGBT Labour for saying that the Conservatives actively oppose any form of same-sex marriage (along with a list of other untruths).

In point of fact, I haven’t actually had a conversation with you in well over three years, but why let facts get in the way of a good rant?

Neither Oliver nor I said the statue included religious marriage, only that it wouldn’t act as a bar to religious institutions from performing ceremonies if they wished – of course these would have to be backed by a civil ceremony – but why split hairs?

As per usual, you gloss over the parts of our ‘discussion’ which don’t fit with your personal world-view or your preferred view of Conservatives.

I have a sneaking respect for contrarians normally, but to me this simply seems to be a case of you having a chip on your shoulder for the sake of having one.

In future, I would appreciate a right of reply if you are going to ‘represent’ my views in your blog.


sarah October 15, 2012 at 11:12 am

Well, I could post the records I made of the entire conversation that we had on the 26th August, but I thought that would be an unwarranted breach of your Facebook privacy.


Salford Conservative October 15, 2012 at 11:49 am

It would be, Sarah – but the fact you make ‘records’ of a facebook conversation speaks volumes. A tad paranoid, one might say.

However, I shall quote:
“[identifying information]:
Your assertion is that we, as a party oppose gay marriage. You’re attempting to prove this by saying that our not including religious marriage is evidence of our opposition.
You’re working from a logical fallacy, an omission does not constitute an act and it most certainly doesn’t constitute an act against a thing.
I think you’re being deliberately contrary”

This is me apparently saying that we’re legislating for gay marriage, despite tacitly acknowledging the contrary above – in fact, it’s my last comment (of three addressed directly to you) on the subject the subject. You managed to start an argument and kept it going all by yourself.
In a chain of 28 responses, you comfortably managed a plurality.

In your blog you’re attributing a view to me which I have at no point expressed.

Ironically, my initial statement on my (private) facebook which you have made the subject of your (public) blog was that the tone of discussion from the left was dishonest. Rather ironic, since you’re asserting that I have taken a position which I did not.


sarah October 15, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I’ve had plenty of dealings with people who’ve deleted Facebook conversations and denied that they ever said anything of the sort. As I said to you at the time that I would find out from my MP and write a blogpost about it – of course I took records.

I never said to you that the Tories opposed gay marriage, and I specifically posted after that comment you just quoted that I did not say that. I said the Conservative Party opposed equal marriage, which is true, and that is also what you reported the Labour activist that you were laughing at said to you. I said that in one comment that I wrote while scanning my Facebook feed. I was not expecting to be basically told that I had no idea what I was talking about, by both yourself for a few comments and by Oliver for considerably more. I continued to explain why that was the case in the face of Oliver repeatedly claiming that the Conservative Party is legislating for religious same sex marriage. They are not.

It’s a very important point to me, not because of anything to do with my political views, but because of my religious ones. I want a religious same sex marriage available to me. I don’t intend to have a civil wedding and it is very frustrating to me to know that the gender of my partner will determine, for some time, whether I will have to have one or not. This is why I was very surprised when the responses you and Oliver gave were that this was in fact happening, I thought you had simply gotten mixed up somewhere. That Oliver continued to come up with different reasons for how he thought religious same sex marriage was coming, apparently because he didn’t want to believe that Labour has a more progressive marriage stance that his own party, was therefore, I hope you can see, very irritating – LGBT Tories should be pressing for full equality from their party, in my eyes, not telling me that it’s already happening when it’s been categorically ruled out.

I actually had respect for you for realising you had been mistaken and posting that tweet, even if you weren’t prepared to come back and say so. Now you’ve come here and attacked me for allegedly misreporting a conversation that I had open in front of me while writing the post. Your explanation reconciling what I’ve reported you said and what I subsequently demonstrated was actually Conservative Policy doesn’t even make sense:

“Neither Oliver nor I said the statue included religious marriage, only that it wouldn’t act as a bar to religious institutions from performing ceremonies if they wished – of course these would have to be backed by a civil ceremony ”

So, the government isn’t bringing in religious same sex marriage then? You’re saying that the law will allow, as it already does, religious gay people can have some kind of blessing ceremony? Well, straight people get to get married. So how is this equal marriage?

If you’d just said, “ah, didn’t know that. I’m sure the government will get round to it eventually, the modern Conservative Party is inclusive but we also have to bear in mind that people have strong religious objections, so it will take time to ensure we have the country behind us”, that would make total sense (and is what Simon Burns basically sent me). But that’s not what Oliver or yourself wrote at the time, and as you are quite heavily involved in LGBTory, it seemed reasonable to make sure I wasn’t mistaken and report back. Your comments have been condensed in the blogpost because I was only reporting arguments and not, for example, Oliver’s dismissive attitude towards the SNP, because I was trying to be relevant to my point, which is that the Conservative Party, to my regret, is not bringing in religious same sex marriage, and party members should know that.


Salford Conservative October 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I haven’t deleted anything from my facebook – the conversation is still there for anyone with appropriate access to view. I have restricted your access to my profile because you’re clearly not respecting the privacy settings I have applied and have transferred a private conversation to the public forum.
It sounds to me like you have a problem with what Oliver said and you’re conflating that with what I said – I don’t appreciate this and would appreciate a retraction – your blog is misleading. I did not take the position you allege.
Once again – I at NO POINT say that religious same-sex marriage is coming – I do not appreciate you suggesting otherwise. Further I did not suggest that you don’t know what you’re talking about – I disagreed with your position that not legislating for religious marriage constitutes an opposition to equal marriage. I have a right to disagree with you.
I take your point about using the terms gay marriage and equal marriage inter-changeably and shall be more careful to take them in the context of the conversation which is being had – you were making a distinction and my responses clearly don’t reflect that.
I can appreciate that you would like a religious ceremony and you are by no means alone in this. I did not; however suggest that this was being provided for. If that’s not suitable for you, then I respect your right to keep campaigning for something which you feel would better reflect the importance of your relationship and wish you well in doing so.
Quite how and why I should be apologising for someone else’s views is beyond me – I’m also not sure why I should be trying to justify my party’s views on a subject which I had not entertained a discussion on.
You sought out my post and changed the dynamic from a discussion over dishonest statements by a Labour activist (who said that the Conservatives oppose ANY form of marriage between same sex partners – which I would call equal marriage, but appreciate that you do not) to your personal dissatisfaction with the proposed changes to the law.
By way of clarification I fell I should point out the following:
I am not ‘heavily involved’ in LGBTory and have no involvement beyond helping at their stand once a year. I am not a member of LGBTory.
My personal posts on my private Facebook page are my views and mine alone – had I made my comments in a public forum, acting on behalf of my party or LGBTory, then they would be fair game.
What has actually happened is that you have taken something from a private forum and misrepresented the content (or ‘condensed’ as you put it) in order to make a point on a subject where we are not in much disagreement.
I feel I have a right to be aggrieved here – you have done me an injustice by misrepresenting my views which were expressed in private and only attributable to myself as those of an official representative of an organisation for which I have a great degree of respect but with which I have no official link.


sarah October 15, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I didn’t say that *you* had deleted the conversation, only that it happens, so if I need to recall something, I copy/paste/screenshot whatever.

You published a post regarding criticising a comment that a Labour party activist had made to you as dishonest, and I noted that the comment was accurate (if we assume, as I think is reasonable to do so given that Labour is making hay out of it, that that person was also referring to religious same sex marriage). You responded, I responded to that, Oliver commented, and so on. That’s not “hijacking” a thread, it’s being directly relevant to the point that you were originally making.

Now, if you’re saying that you feel that this situation has arisen, for your part, because of a lack of distinction that you have made between “equal” and “gay” marriage and that unclarity has resulted in the attribution to you of opinions you don’t hold but inadvertently implied, then I am happy to make a note in italics at the top of the post to that effect, where everyone can see it. I didn’t mention your name specifically in the post and used a identifying characteristic shared by several other people, because again, this post was not meant to be an attack on you personally and I didn’t want to be making a big deal about the fact that this happened on your private Facebook (I didn’t even mention it had happened on Facebook for that reason) but rather that I was quite annoyed that fellow LGBT people were failing, wilfully in my understanding, to appreciate the point I was making, but I can name you so now, if you would like. Alternatively, I can remove your name from these comments. What would you like?


Salford Conservative October 15, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Please remove all mention of me as the comments in your blog are highly unrepresentative of what was actually said – I can still be identified from the description quite easily so please can you take steps to ensure I am not identified.

If you wish to make some generalised argument against Conservatives, that is your right, but I would rather not be the target of your ire.

The comment made by the Labour activist was dishonest and in context followed several other false statements made by said activist – he advised that the Conservatives opposed same-sex marriage – he did not make a technical argument or specify religion, he simply lied.

I don’t think the situation has arisen from a misunderstanding over terminology, per se – but I feel this has contributed to it.

It might be good form to change the title, too as you are singling out LGBTory when they have at no point been involved in this discussion.


C October 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Thank you.


C October 15, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Hi Sarah – I’d appreciate it if you remove the references to [identifying information]. I hope you’ll respect my privacy at least that far.


Robert October 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I’m surprised to hear that a politician would not expect their opinions, however expressed, to be public as we are expected to support you as a person not just a public profile.

Personally I think it’s good that the English Gov. has taken such steps to ensure that Gretna Green will finally be given a new lease of life by all the money from English couples who wish to be married in a country that understands religious freedom.


Salford Conservative October 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Robert – my Facebook profile is by invite-only and not viewable to the public at-large – I deliberately keep it hidden as it is my personal, rather than political profile.
Politicians have a right to privacy as much as anyone else.
My profile is not used to campaign or solicit votes, but rather to socialise with friends.


Robert October 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm

[identifying information]: As I and many other regular company employee’s are aware, anything put on Facebook even if private correspondence can, and is regularly, used for disciplinary purposes in an employment context.

Just setting things to friends only is far from adequate protection.

We have no laws preventing publication of private correspondence in this country as far as I’m aware; So perhaps this is a conversation for you to have with Sarah in private rather than on a public forum.

My issue is with the policy as stated by yourself – I couldn’t care less what you said in private but you should understand banning religious institutions from performing marriages is religious oppression. You are imposing C.O.E./Roman Catholic/Islamic rules on every other faith and is simply wrong and long term will backfire on you.

So long as you understand this.


C October 15, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Robert – I am imposing nothing personally and responded to the Government consulation saying that I believed there should be a freedom of choice for religious institutions. As will all things, it’s baby steps.

Of course, I can’t blame you for getting the wrong end of the stick as the above blog is quite unrepresentative of what was actually said.


sarah October 15, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I do not accept that my post is unrepresentative of what was said. If you’re saying that the meaning that I drew from what was said was inaccurate on your side, then ok, I can see that, and have duly written a correction. But you didn’t go out of your way to clear that up when *I* was being quite clear about what I meant.

I have removed your name and identifying information from your comments, and I’m not entirely convinced that you have nothing to do with LGBTory (you have the password to their Twitter account, after all), but I accept your point that the organisation itself is not formally represented by you and have duly edited the title.


Salford Conservative October 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I do not have access to the LGBTory twitter account – do not tweet on their behalf and am not, not have I ever been a member.

Please correct this, too.


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