Dear Members of the House of Lords.

I have been watching your debate on the amendment to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill over the last two days and I have to confess that at times I wondered whether I would be better occupied in making a large batch of leek and potato soup with produce from the allotment. However, I stuck with it and have a few observations to make on your performance.

I am not going to refer directly to any contributor as singling individuals out will have the effect of letting the rest of you off the hook. You are supposed to be a revising chamber, a place to tease out and hopefully improve some of the mad, bad and incompetent thinking of the Commons. Your own personal experiences across many disciplines are usually helpful in this process, but not always. During the last two days some of you have seemed reluctant to enter the last century, never mind the 21st.  In my mind’s eye the same words could have been said on the verandah of a cotton plantation in the USA or the drawing room of a stately home. You were talking about the servants in front of the servants. You knew we were watching but nonetheless you opened your collective mouths and said things about us which were demeaning, inaccurate, alarmist and hurtful.

I am an old man. I am a gay old man. I am a gay old man with the same wonderful partner for the last 22 years. I also have two sons, two daughters – in – law and four grandchildren. When I was growing up homosexuality was illegal. People went to prison for consensual activities with another adult of any age. In my lifetime! Did it affect me, this denial of my sexual existence? Of course it did. It was not until I was in my thirties that I was able to really come to terms with who I was. In the meantime I had married a truly great lady and had had the aforementioned children of whom I am justly proud.

I am  now also a proud gay man and have served my time as an advocate of gay equality going on many marches and protests. I particularly remember delaying a summer holiday so I could march through Rugby, where the Mayor had recently espoused the view that gay people should have a bullet in the head, carrying my suitcases! Alas, now time and a dodgy hip preclude further escapades and I have handed the baton on. I am also the co founder of a London wide charity which has provided support to people living with HIV. I have made a contribution to my country. I expect my country to acknowledge me, as I am, not as others would wish me to be.

I will not rehearse  the arguments that were made against the supporters of the amendment, but as someone who is living the gay life and not just talking about it in ignorance from outside, I will say this. Civil partnership was a welcome stepping stone to full recognition. I accept that it was needed as a bridge to acceptance. It provided a limited legal contract and a lunch with family and friends. It was not marriage; it was deliberately not marriage to appease some of you who still voted against it, even though you say it is wonderful today.

If I go out with my family, we may have a pub lunch sitting in the garden. If all my children and grandchildren can sit at one table and my partner and I are required to sit at another which is “equal but different” all of us will object. What some of you seemed to ignore or not know is that LBGT people are in every family and whereas those of my generation were often circumspect, the following generations are not. Just doing an impression of Henny-Penny moaning that the sky’s  a- falling doesn’t cut it.

When you are considering bills which concern particular groups in society you normally give particular weight to the views of that group so that the legislation is effective. Yet in this case you collectively think you know better than we do what is in our best interests and thus deny us respect. Ask yourselves, honestly, why is that? Is it because the case for  equality is overwhelming and you are overwhelmed?

Some of you might have deep genuine religious reasons for not accepting same sex marriage, some of you just don’t like gay people and hide it badly, but all of you have a duty to legislate for the good of all your citizens, not just the ones who you agree with.  You have an opportunity to make my grandchildren happy, take it.

Yours truly

Mike Pennell

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