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FFLAG 20th anniversary confernce in Birmingham

April 22, 2013

I’ve just returned from this conference which was brilliant. We had excellent speeches from Michael Cashman, CBE, MEP, and from Peter Tatchell and Professor Ian Rivers.

Michael, one of our patrons, spoke about the ‘amazing journey’ LGBT people have had in this country since the end of the Thatcher years, with the repeal of the iniquitous Section 28 and the first Civil Partnership taking place in 2005, when the sky didn’t fall in. Our country has become a better place for LGBT people and their families. He pointed out that politicians have a duty to lead public opinion. The strength of the argument for gay equality has changed the Conservatives, who are now making themselves a more modern, inclusive party. He cautioned that our opponents have not gone away but are attacking in a more subtle and corrosive way from beneath. He referred to the French current riots by organised religions about legalising gay marriage. He warned that thugs everywhere are empowered by the rhetoric of extremists and said that intolerance is once again growing across Europe. We must all treat the 2014 elections seriously: “Only by connecting with others can we ever advance.”

Peter paid a moving tribute to Rose Robertson the pioneer of FFLAG who died in 2011, before telling us about his recent meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. It was the first time he had been invited to Lambeth Palace by any Archbishop and they had a useful discussion. Peter was left feeling that the Archbishop is deeply confused by the issues, as although he accepts that discrimination is not a Christian value, he opposes Gay marriage. He says that there is an “intrinsic difference in the nature of same-sex relationships,” but although pressed by Peter to say what this intrinsic difference was, he could not.

Professor Ian Rivers, who has researched homophobic bullying, said that there is no organised faith which says that gay children and their families should be abused. It is the bastardisation of faith and belief that has caused ills. In 1986 the then Cardinal Ratzinger said that “No pastor should support or condone any act of violence against a person who is gay.” Ian said that there is a rate of 55% of bullying of LGB&T people. However it is interesting that homophobia does decline with age, but bullying and homophobia are worst in the early years of secondary school where they peak. He said that we are in an interesting state nowadays, with politicians changing their minds on the issues.

Later we broke into workshops, discussing such things as setting up a parents support group; youth and education; and research into parental responses when their child tells them they are gay. Andrew Wilson told us about his setting up a safe website, not focussed on sex, so that young people become aware of who they can talk to. His is in Somerset and called Wanting 2BU.

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