Jamie Wake 2014 Independent Candidate for Whitley ward in the Reading Local Elections
  • Reponse from Reading MP Alok Sharma about Equal Marriage

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    January 5th, 2013jamiewakerdgdiscrimination, equal marriage, gay, homophobia

    As many people know, I’ve been pestering our local MP’s here in Reading about their stance on Equal Marriage for LGBT people and whether they would be supporting equality for their LGBT constituents.  For a year I’ve been tweeting Rob Wilson without response which I’m assured is nothing unusual and even through the Reading Pride twitter account we only received a letter TO Rob Wilson from Prime minister David Cameron confirming his commitment but still failed to give an indication as to how Rob would vote when he does with his conscience as all Torys will be doing when the time comes – dangerous considering how many people within the Tory’s hold what I would consider bigoted views.

    None of the other political parties are any better mind you.  Both Labour and the Lib Dems are no longer whipping their MP’s.  Labour’s shadow cabinet did a U-turn on 10th December on this matter allowing Labour MP’s to also vote with their conscience and according to Owen Jones in the Independent this U-turn was not proposed on a matter of principle but largely because 3 shadow ministers (including Stephen Timms and Gavin Shuker) had threatened to resign.  According to Owen, 3 Shadow Cabinet ministers – Angela Eagle, Stephen Twigg (both gay) and deputy leader Harriet Harman had argued passionately in favour of maintaining the line.  Suprising since Labour’s vote on the repeal of section 28 was a whipped vote.  The Lib Dems also followed suit offering their MP’s a free vote.  Nick Clegg criticised David Cameron for allowing a free vote but then announced that a whipped vote would not be very liberal.  I won’t waste my time even mentioning UKIP.  In my opinion, this decision by all party leaders was the wrong one.

    rob-wilson-response-equal-marriageBack in Reading, Rob Wilson finally responded – not to me – but to another tweeter.  I love the fact that he said everyone is getting the same response – sorry, Rob but you had failed to respond to me and Reading Pride.  As you can see from the short exchange to the left, Rob Wilson wants to hold local meetings about it!  Why Rob?  You either agree with Equality or you don’t.  It’s that simple!  Replace the word gay with words such as disabled or Asian and we would not behaving this conversation.  Then again, if we look at the public whip website, they record Rob Wilson as voting very strongly against equal gay rights.  Tim Harris once told me that this record is wrong or misunderstood and I have waited for an explanation.  Perhaps, Rob may change these statistics if he votes in support of equal marriage for LGBT people?  Then again….

    I also wrote a letter to MP for Reading West, Alok Sharma following comments he made in an interview to the Reading Chronicle.  I wanted clarity on how he intended to vote as his comments seemed to suggest that he places religion over equality.  I wrote the following on 17th December 2012:

    “…Dear Alok Sharma,

    I am writing to you following your recent quotes in the Reading Chronicle about Equal Marriage for people who identify themselves as LGBT.  For your reference, you are quoted as saying:

    “In many respects civil partnerships are recognised by the legal system in the same manner as civil marriage and the introduction of same-sex marriage would therefore not, in my view, amount to a revolution in the law.

    “However, I will never vote for legislation which forces religious organisations to conduct same-sex marriages and I will seek guarantees on this point from the Government.”

    I was wondering if you can help clarify what you are saying? As you will recall, I have written to you twice with regards to equality for LGBT people with my last letter asking if you will be supporting the thousands of people in West Reading who are LGBT to obtain same-sex marriage and therefore equality – your previous letter did not confirm how you will be voting when you vote with your ‘conscience’ of offer any reassurances to I or other LGBT people  in West reading of your commitment to equality for all of our many diverse communities.  Please can you confirm that you are not going to ignore a number of constituents?

    Please note that Civil Partnerships are not recognised as civil marriage otherwise they would be called marriage, would they not? Could you also explain how you priorities equalities – ie Religious freedom over marriage equality?

    As you can appreciate, I can choose to follow a faith but I do not have a choice over my sexuality and I have found your quotes in the paper to be insensitive to people, like myself, who have persecuted by society.

    Imagine changing the word gay and replacing it with the word disabled or the colour of an individuals skin? Whilst this sort of discrimination was widespread many years ago, I am pleased to see it is no longer acceptable and I hope the discrimination that LGBT people continue to receive becomes no longer acceptable either.

    I will be watching this debate very closely and see how elected representatives such as yourself and Rob Wilson represent your LGBT constituents.

    Yours sincerely,

    Jamie Wake…”

    response-from-alok-sharma-equal-marriageUnlike Rob Wilson, Alok Sharma responds very quickly (I had to wait a number of months before Rob replied to my email about the OK2BGAY campaign – mind you, neither MP’s pledged their support for it) and I received a letter on 20th December.  You can read it in its entirety to the left.

    Sadly, Alok didn’t confirm his support for his LGBT constituents in the same way that he confirmed his support faith-based organisations in Reading but says he is minded to support marriage equality if he receives a cast-iron guarantee that religious organisations aren’t discriminated against.    He won’t be making a final judgement until he has seen the detail of the legislation.  I wait patiently to see how he votes.

    Before any of my Tory friends jump on me, this blog piece is not about reinforcing the view that the Tory’s remain the nasty party – that’s a stigma you have to remove yourselves.  It’s also not an attack on any other party as I also don’t believe any political party has come out looking well in this whole debate.  My right to marriage should not be up for debate.  I beleive the church has come off even worse so – especially after the announcement of permitting Gay Bishops and not Female Bishops.  Many faith-based organsations do want to perform marriage for same-sex couples.

    Like anyone that campaigns for LGBT equality, I will be watching this debate very closely and am in the process of launching the We Vote Too Campaign which will monitor and challenge those elected MP’s that fail to represent their LGBT constituents.  With some elections being won on such small margins, wouldn’t it be funny if the LGBT community was mobilised in such a way to vote to prevent the homophobe winning an election?  “…Vote for anyone but xxxxx…”

    Well there you are, my first blog post of 2013 and yes I know, I haven’t blogged for a while!  I’ll try to rectify that this year!

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