Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will be debated in the House of Lords on Monday and Tuesday this week.

Given the amount of time BBC children's department boss, Joe Godwin, spends visiting North American media conferences every year, it's quite annoying that not one single LGBT equality landmark in either Canada or the United States has been reported by Newsround.

Marriage equality happened in Canada a few years ago, but things are a bit different in the US where, until quite recently, most Americans were opposed. However early in May 2012 President Obama was interviewed on TV and he said that his two daughters couldn't understand reasons for the discrimination against gay couples. He said: "Malia and Sasha - it wouldn't dawn on them that, somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them. And frankly that's the kind of thing that prompts a change of perspective - you know not wanting to somehow explain to your child why somebody should be treated differently ..."

President Obama, of course, went on to win a second term in office. And Newsround's Ricky Boleto was there to report on Obama's victory. But, typically for Newsround, Ricky avoided any mention of gay rights issues, including the four ballots about marriage equality which coincided with the Presidential election. All four ballots resulted in victories for equality. Previous similar public votes in the US had always gone against equal rights.

Three of those ballots asked voters whether they wanted equal marriage, but one of the ballots - the one in Minnesota - was intended by its proponents to ban "gay marriage" altogether by adding a clause to the State Constitution: "Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota." Things in Minnesota didn't go as anticipated by the homophobes and, within months of the constitutional ban having been rejected by the electorate, same-sex marriage was debated in the newly Democrat-controlled Minnesota legislature.

Rather than accept defeat graciously, opponents of equality still wanted the State to continue its discriminatory policies. Minority Leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Kurt Daudt, pleaded for discrimination in marriage to remain in place. Here are some quotes from his speech last month :-

"A couple of words come to mind during this particular debate. And one of those, in particular, I think has improved all of us - and that's our ability to disagree. But one of the words that sounds pretty similar, that I absolutely can't tolerate, is disrespect."

"Disagreeing with each other, in a civil way, does make us better people. But we need to do it without any sort of disrespect. "

"If I made a mistake, two years ago, in the approach that I took, it was that I didn't consider both sides of an issue. I thought about what one side wanted, but I didn't fully consider and take into account, in the solution I put forward, what the other side wanted."

Now, of course, had the vote gone the other way, Minnesota's constitution would have been amended and, in effect, an entire group would have been marked out as second-class citizens. Kurt Daudt and his ilk wouldn't have thought twice about the disrespect involved in the wording of the amendment they'd sought.

Finally one more quote from Kurt Daudt's speech - and this time, it's a classic :-

"Some of my best friends are gay."

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