Editorial: Religion Taken Kicking, Screaming Down the Aisle [TDC]


For the first time in Britain’s history same-sex marriages were legally performed when the clock struck midnight on the 28th March 2014. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, described it as a “powerful message” and in a statement for Pink News praised the fact “we will at last have equal marriage in this country”.

As the tide of history moves dramatically toward them, advocates around the world for the rights of non-heterosexuals should now reflect. Reflect on whom their allies, and enemies, have been since the modern movement began over 30 years ago in San Francisco. Devastating results from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) have shown that arguably those most vocally opposed to the LGBT movement – religious hardliners – must expect a serious hit to their already shrinking congregations.

The PRRI proves millennials are being and already have been alienated by religious conservatives’ vicious opposition to LGBT rights. 6 in 10 Americans believe religions are pushing away young people, while 7 in 10 millennials themselves have said religions are “too judgemental on gay and lesbian issues”.

Only a majority of the Silent Generation believed being judgemental on LGBT issues had played no part in declining religious attendance in Christianity’s western stronghold. A majority of Americans overall believed 3 religious groups have specifically targeted the LGBT community: Catholics, Mormons, and evangelicals.

Perhaps then it should come as no surprise that the oldest media operation in the world, the French Press Agency (AFP), reported today that an ever-rising number of UK churches are being converted in to pubs, flats, and supermarkets. YouGov last summer revealed that just 12% of British youth, in comparison to 38% of politicians for example, claimed religious leaders influenced them.

The religious lobby against non-heterosexual equality won’t suffer alone, any who’ve affiliated themselves with it will too. The PRRI showed the GOP was seen as being friendly towards their community by only 28% of LGBT Americans, while 70% of LGBT Americans on the other hand held a favourable view of Democrats.

Within the Democratic Party every age demographic has a supportive view of gay marriage according to the Pew Research Centre, but they’ve pointed out even 61% of Republicans aged 18-29 are now in favour.

Cameron’s Conservative Party commonly pushes right of centre social policies, so they deserve credit for their forward-thinking approach on this issue, but UK Independence Party challengers from the right may yet punish them in the 2015 general election.

UKIP’s nascent ascendancy however can’t undermine the numbers. The British public are even more strongly in favour of equal rights, irrespective of sexual orientation, than Americans (a “new high” of 59% said in a March 2014 Washington Post-ABC News poll they supported legalising gay marriage). Polling by BBC Radio in March this year put the backing for same-sex marriage at over two-thirds with 68%. The BBC’s survey also noted resounding support from British people between the ages of 18 and 34 after as many as 4 in 5 stated gay marriage should be permitted.

The Church of England’s archbishop, Justin Welby, has used the advance embodied by gay marriage as a moment to reaffirm his positive view of both women’s ordination and non-heterosexual rights. Known for its vociferous opposition to both, Justin said the Anglican Church could no longer afford “the rejection of LGBT people, to irrelevance in a changing society, to behaviour that many see akin to racism”.

Peter McGraith and David Cabreza, one of the first couples to take advantage of the new UK law, got married in Islington, London. Peter said “it is a mark of significant social progress in the UK that the legal distinction between gay and straight relationships has been removed. Very few countries afford their gay and lesbian citizens equal marriage rights and we believe that this change in law will bring hope and strength to gay men and lesbians in Nigeria, Uganda, Russia, India and elsewhere, who lack basic equality and are being criminalised”.

Peter and David are members of the British Humanist Association (BHA), who’ve campaigned on issues of equality and sexual orientation since far before it was so popular. When asked for a statement by TDC, president Rory Fenton of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist, and Secular Student Societies (AHS), often seen as the BHA’s de facto youth wing, said: “I was proud to be present at a historic moment for human rights.” On a personal note, reminding us that the struggle continues, Rory added: “My own country, Northern Ireland, has refused to allow marriage for same-sex couples. I look forward to a time when couples on both sides of the Irish Sea can celebrate their love openly, proudly and equally.”

Saying that the struggle continues is the gravest of understatements. After they came to terms with their inevitable defeat in the domestic culture war, very well funded American Christian fundamentalists started exporting their hate abroad.

Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill was inspired by a belief in a sinister ‘gay agenda’, spread to the country by people like the US anti-gay activist and Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively. Evangelist Rick Warren went as far as using his personal relationship with the Ugandan MP and first lady, Janet Kataha Museveni. As this report by the Political Research Associates, Globalizing the Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches, & Homophobia, says, American human rights activists have to come to terms with this new international reality. And they, or anyone who identifies with the LGBT liberation movement, have to act on this advice as soon as possible.


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