Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fisking the Stonewall Response To Ben's 'Comments' #MoreBS #LDConf

Cross posted at Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland

A friend of mine following up on my comments about Ben Summerskill's comments at the Diversity fringe meeting on Monday sent an email to Stonewall. He received a response which linked to this press statement. He forwarded it to me and I think it requires Fisking.

Press Statement from Stonewall Fisking by Stephen Glenn

The story published by PinkNews today is, sadly, a largely dishonest account of what took place at last night's fringe meeting in Liverpool. I took my lead from friends' comments and blogs who were actually there. Multiple sources. Also MPs and a former London mayoral candidate commented on it during the debate yesterday on equal marriage.

We deeply regret that PinkNews chose to publish the story late at night without double-checking a single fact and without having troubled to attend either the meeting itself or a party conference at which such an important issue was being discussed. Zoe O'Connell was at the meeting and blogged not once but twice the second time to pick on some inaccuracies in what others were saying but not in the context or essence of what I posted or what PinkNews said.

Ben made quite clear at the meeting that Stonewall is engaged in a process of listening and consulting with active Stonewall supporters, of whom there are almost 20,000, about the future of civil partnership. This is an issue affecting the broad church of the LGBT community not just the 20,000 members of Stonewall. Are they not also listening to that wider community? Many of that wider community are outraged that Stonewall, a so-called 'leader' on LGBT rights, had so far not said anything on this issue.

UPDATE: There is comment on the updated PinkNews report which says:

Oh and as a Stonewall "supporter" who has contributed financially over the past decade, I have never been consulted about anything from this organisation. The most I have ever received are a) requests for donations b) publicity on events and initiatives c) asked to purchase tickets for gala etc but never once asked for an opinion.

So just has been consulted.

While some lesbian, gay and bisexual people fully support changing civil partnership into marriage Stonewall above commented on PinkNews not checking facts!!! Oops. The motion (now policy) is not a single option for marriage, there is the choice of CPs or Marriage open to ALL., there are others – including particularly some women – who do not want something that is either the same as or synonymous with marriage. Again using a feminist argument to deny others something they want doesn't stand up to scrutiny. It they don't want anything synonymous with marriage they they don't have to same as with anyone else. This is a sensitive area of policy development and not one which is assisted by inflammatory media coverage.

The Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone, with whom we have discussed this issue privately, acknowledged in response to Ben's remarks last night that as Stonewall is a supporter-based organisation it could not be expected to issue a response to such an issue until it had built the sort of consensus Ben had outlined. This issue has been being discussed since the introduction of CPs in 2005. The Equal Marriage Campaign is something I have been a member of for over 2 years. The failure of Stonewall to have come to a consensus in that time scale, not the 4 days that PinkNews asked for a mere 400 words, is scandalous.

Ben did not say for one moment that Stonewall objected to the motion that would be debated today because it would cost £5bn. Ah that's all right then. But see what Zoe said in that second post.

Ben pointed out, factually, that there was a cost to including provision of civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples in the motion. He suggested that ministers should publish the Treasury Impact Assessment that will have been carried out. Well if cost is going to be a hindrance bringing equality, we should not have brought in Civil Partnerships for gays and lesbians. We shouldn't have brought in minimum wage or equal pay. At a time when companies are downsizing we shouldn't have brought in the law to prevent employees being fired because they are gay. We also shouldn't have extended the franchise to women, or Roman Catholics or Jews either. GET REAL!!! When has cost ever, or should it ever be an excuse against equality.

This is a policy on which Stonewall expressed and expresses no view (campaigning to end heterosexual disadvantage is not one of its charitable objectives it may not be one of the objectives per se of Stonewall but why are they seeking just to support gays not achieve equality. If LGBT groups aren't standing up for equality who can?, and Ben said that) however, with an estimated cost of £5bn over 10 years, people have understandably raised the question of whether it is likely in the current economic environment that such a policy would be implemented in the lifetime of this parliament. Hang on above you said this wasn't a reason Ben had for objecting yet you appear to say he was doing so here.

Stonewall is determined, as Ben made crystal clear at the meeting, to build – as it has always strived to do on any issue - a policy and campaigning position on the future of civil partnership that has the support of the widest possible number of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Britain. Yet you seem to be arguing for the small number of women having the right to deter it for others, how bizarre.

For PinkNews to publish and fail to correct a story in this way sadly brings the whole of the pink media, which serves our minority communities uniquely well, into disrepute. I have seen and heard numerous comments from friends who were there, I would have been myself if I'd been able to get to conference. I have read this statement in full I do not think that PinkNews got it wrong. I see no reason for them to correct their story as Stonewall have not denied any of the comments were made and indeed seem to try and defend a number of them here.

Update: The original PinkNews article was update and now contains the following disclaimer:

"Comments made during the 21st September have been suspended at the request of Stonewall. It is possible to post comments though on this amended version of the article. is happy to publish the clarifications above and apologises for any confusion caused by the original report."

So Stonewall are trying to censor freedom of expression.

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