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Posts Tagged ‘gay marriage’

Pensions equality: dry but important

May 20th, 2013 by

Political wrangling. That’s what’s going on in Westminster right now. The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill is on its final trip through the House of Commons – and goodness, it’s causing a stir.

It’s all over the media. No.10 is making contradictory statements. MPs are being lobbied and counter-lobbied. And probably for one of the only times in their lives, people across the country are glued to BBC Parliament, waiting to find out if they’ll be granted the right to marry the men and women they love.

Among all the white noise, it’s these ordinary people who matter the most. While the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill is a huge step forward, it’s not perfect. There’s a nasty bit of discrimination left in it – pension companies will still be able treat you differently if your marriage isn’t ‘traditional’.

Imagine this: you pay into your pension your whole life, and you want to know your husband or wife will be provided for when you die. But simply because you’re married to someone of the same sex, employers and pension companies are allowed to pay out a tiny fraction of the amount they’d have to cough up to a mixed-sex couple.

In late 2012, John Walker took his pension provider to court. John is 61. He’s been with his partner for 20 years. If he dissolved his civil partnership and married a woman today, she’d be entitled to £41,000 per year if he died – but his pension scheme was only willing to give £500 per year to his long-term partner.

Today, MPs can stop this happening again. Amendment no. 49 , tabled by Dr Caroline Lucas MP, will be debated in a few hours. If enough MPs vote for it, pension companies will have to start treating every marriage equally. It’s a simple change, but one which would mean everything to the people affected.

Email your MP right now to tell them to vote the right way on the amendment. Ask them to pause for a minute, and to consider a small but important change to the bill which, at its heart, is purely about fairness. As marriage becomes equal, pension policy should too.

Here’s the link to email your MP, and to share via social media:

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/stop-pensions-discrimination

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Gay marriage campaign: Your thoughts and comments

June 14th, 2012 by

38 Degrees is member driven. Members suggest the campaigns, vote on the most popular suggestions, and take all the action which makes the campaigns effective. You can read more about how that works here.

Overall our people powered approach to choosing campaigns together clearly has a lot of strengths. It has helped 38 Degrees grow in just three years to be a 1 million strong, people powered campaigning force. We’ve made some great and important choices together – to protect the NHS, stop the forests being sold off, challenge the power of Rupert Murdoch, speak up for our right to privacy online, and so on.

But the people powered approach to choosing campaigns has its limitations too. At times the office team have to make judgements about how to implement the results of member polls, and we don’t always get it right. A few months ago we had an important and interesting debate about how our member driven campaigns model was felt by some disability rights campaigners to have let them down. It seems like our work this week on the gay marriage consultation has also raised questions for some people. It would be good to discuss these in the comment section below this post.

When 38 Degrees members have voted on campaign options, (e.g. here, and here, and here) most have voted to campaign “a little” in support of marriage equality. Even-ish numbers have voted to campaign for it “a lot” and “not at all”. Slightly over two thirds of 38 Degrees members wanted to do either “a lot” or “a little” – a clear majority, but by no means unanimity. This wasn’t the most straightforward result for the office team to interpret.

The end of the consultation period, at a time when opponents of gay marriage were most vocal, felt like a time where if we were going to do “a little” it was time to do it. But when the office team is not certain whether 38 Degrees members really want to do something, we apply one final test. Before we send out an e-mail to all 38 Degrees members, we send it to a random sample – and monitor the response. If lots of 38 Degrees members get back in touch complaining, and very few take the action, we conclude that people are voting with their feet and stop the campaign.

In the end, the office team did not send the gay marriage campaign to every 38 Degrees member – we sent it to around 20%. That was partly because the results of the final tests weren’t conclusive, but also simply because there were an awful lot of other things going on at the same time, including our campaign to protect the independence of the BBC and our live briefing on internet privacy with David Davis MP.

The response to the campaign was mixed, although probably more positive than negative. Around 10,000 people sent in submissions to the consultation. But around 200 members got in touch to complain, with a further hundred or so unsubscribing. That’s certainly higher than usual – one of the reasons why I’m writing this blog post.

Obviously, as with all 38 Degrees campaigns it was up to each individual 38 Degrees member to opt in. Many who didn’t agree with the campaign simply chose not to take part. Indeed a few members have been in touch to say that they used the 38 Degrees website to send in a consultation response opposing gay marriage.

Of the negative feedback, some people are clearly just strongly against gay marriage and believe that being gay is wrong. As a now ex-38 Degrees member put it: “You can unsubscribe me from your red-fascist, heterosexual hate group forthwith. SCUM!”. Another explained their view that “being gay is against my belief as a Christian. It is one of the signs of downfall of great civilizations in the past”.

Others objected to what they saw in the e-mail as a suggestion that all those who oppose gay marriage are “religious hardliners”. For example one member said “’I am not a ‘religious hardliner’ and I am not ‘anti-gay’ but I do not support this proposal. I do not think that this kind of personal legislation is what 38 Degrees should be concentrating on.”

I’m sorry the way this e-mail was written offended some people, I think we could have written this e-mail a little bit differently and we will learn the lessons from that. We could for example have acknowledged the different perspectives more thoroughly, and maybe included some links to different perspectives from within the church.

38 Degrees is still quite a new organisation, and we’re still learning how to work most effectively. I’d be really interested to hear views on how we approached this campaign. How could we make our polling more effective? Could we have done more to reflect different views within the 38 Degrees membership? Or did we get it broadly right? Please share your thoughts below.

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Government consultation on gay marriage

June 12th, 2012 by

Picture by Ara Lucia Ashburne (Flickr)

In two days the government’s consultation about gay marriage ends. It’s a huge chance to make sure that gay and lesbian people are allowed to marry the person they love.

But religious hardliners and anti-gay groups are desperate to stop that. They’re trying to flood the government with messages against equal marriage. There’s a big danger the government could decide to bin the idea if they think there’s too much opposition.

That’s why it’s important that we speak up in support of gay marriage. Together, thousands of us can send a quick message saying why we think all people should be given equal rights to marry. We can boost the numbers on the consultation and convince the government to stand strong.

It only takes two minutes and the consultation ends on Thursday, so please message them now.

If the anti-gay campaigners are allowed to overwhelm the consultation, it will make it easier for them to say the public don’t support the plans. The government might decide it’s not worth the hassle. We can show them that huge numbers of us do support gay marriage.

History tells us that when it comes to ending discrimination, people power has an important role to play. Slavery would never have been abolished, and women would never have got the vote, if thousands of people hadn’t spoken up for what was right.

Ending the ban on gay people getting married would be a step towards a fairer society. So let’s boost the numbers for marriage equality before Thursday.

Imagine the effect on the government of newspaper articles saying “90% against gay marriage”. Together we can stop that happening – get your friends, family and colleagues involved too.

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Getting together in Scotland

February 6th, 2012 by

38 Degrees members get together in Glasgow

At the start of last year, 38 Degrees members helped make sure some people in Aberdeenshire weren’t evicted from their homes to make way for Donald Trump’s giant golf course.

Since then, a few of 38 Degrees biggest campaigns have been about issues that directly affect only England, like the Save the NHS campaign, and the successful campaign to stop England’s woodlands from being sold off.

With this in mind, David and Marie from the office team decided to head north to meet up with 38 Degrees members in Scotland, as well as some people from Scottish charities like Poverty Alliance and Friends of the Earth Scotland, and Members of the Scottish Parliament.

The idea was to get an idea of the kind of things that are happening in Scotland that 38 Degrees members might want to take action on in 2012.

Quite a few 38 Degrees members from Glasgow agreed to come along for a curry and to chat about what matters to them and what kind of change they want to see.

Re-nationalising the railways, saving Glasgow’s Accord Centre for people with learning disabilities, making sure there’s a second question about giving more powers to the Scottish Parliament in the independence referendum, the Scottish Government’s plans for gay marriage, and a possible new coal power plant at Hunterston – it was great to chew over some ideas.

This conversation’s only just getting started.  What do you think? Should 38 Degrees do more campaigning in Scotland?  If so what do you think we should work on together?

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