Gay marriage bill passed in LGBT history month

Image credit: torbakhopper

Last Friday, Cambridge City Council marked the start of a national LGBT History Month with the raising of the rainbow flag over the Guildhall, for the fourth consecutive year. The event was accompanied by live samba music, and mirrored by an additional flag raised over the Cambourne offices of South Cambs District Council.

This year, for the first time, Wisbech fire station will also be flying the rainbow flag. In a press release, Station Commander Geoff Quince said: “Because of past homophobia and discrimination, many LGBT people have not wanted to draw attention to themselves – let alone their talents, gifts and achievements.

“Many older people have faced discrimination from public services - particularly health and social care – and may be disinclined to accept services like a Home Fire Safety Check or smoke alarm fitting in their own homes.

“So doing something simple but significant – like displaying a rainbow banner, stickers or pennants on appliances or at workplaces during February – hopefully goes some way to tell the community that Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service support LGBT History Month and provides a professional service that meets the needs of everyone in the community.”

February will see a wide range of events, in partnership with CUSU LGBT and many other organisations and co-ordinated by Encompass Network, celebrating LGBT history. These include film screenings, sports competitions, an exhibition of works from LGBT artists, and several ‘socials’, in addition to the usual weekly club and pub nights.

There will also be several more formal talks this month. Professor Stephen Whittle will give a talk on gender reassignment surgery on 7 February. An event will also take place on 24 February with multiple speakers, which will recognise the contributions of Cambridge alumnus Alan Turing, whose centenary was marked by several events last year.

Fletcher Williams, LGBT Rep for King’s College, told The Cambridge Student that he is “glad that LGBT history is now being brought to the forefront of people’s minds. Many don’t realize the contributions made and trials endured by the LGBT community.”

Cambridge University was recently named Stonewall’s most gay-friendly university employer; these events, organised by groups both within and without the university, show that this is one area where the town/gown divide is easily bridged.

This year’s LGBT History Month is particularly important as it has coincided with the vote on gay marriage. The bill, which was passed by 400 votes to 175, is now going through to a second reading. Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge, told the BBC’s Daily Politics before the vote that he was in favour of the “fairer society” which Equal Marriage would help to create, adding: “I’m so proud we were able to do this. I hope it will get through the Commons and the Lords.”

Soon after the vote, Huppert tabled an amendment to open up civil partnerships to straight couples. This is certainly opposed to the stance taken by David Cameron, who announced in PMQs, “I am a marriage man... I think we should be promoting marriage rather than looking at any other way of weakening it.” Although Cameron voted in favour of the bill, fewer than half of his MPs followed suit, in an issue which has split the Conservative Party.

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