Wednesday, 28 March 2012


Local Conservative MP Roger Gale has upset the gay and LGBT community by writing a full-page article in Thanet Extra last week in which he disclosed his opposition to equal marriage and had a dig at so-called 'militant homosexuals'. This revelation shouldn't really come as a surprise, given Gale's voting record on the issue of equal rights for gay people, as pointed out by Labour councillor Will Scobie on his blog. 

In Roger Gale's opinion piece, he makes the ludicrous suggestion that Shakespeare may be re-written if the law enables homosexuals to marry and even fell into the trap of peddling the usual Daily Mail-esque paranoia about the words 'husband' and 'wife' being expunged from the British lexicon. Quite predictably, Roger Gale now finds himself subjected to a big splash of negative publicity on gay news website Pink News. In particular, the news item was subsequently picked up by LGBT news website Unicorn Booty; and Craig Ford on Gay Rights Network wrote: "This laughable attempt at demonising equality for the sake of tradition serves to benefit neither camp."

Roger Gale did write that he expected to "be described by some of my own constituents and by the wider gay community as homophobic and prejudiced" and this evening he even appeared on BBC South East and attempted to defend his position. But what on earth possessed him to write such an inflammatory article in the first place, if he knew it was going to cause such a fevered outcry? Did Gale not realise that this could impact negatively on his public profile, something which he should've been mindful of, not just because he's an MP, but also given that he's recently been granted a knighthood

The peculiar thing is Gale appears to justify his position by citing his religious beliefs, even though he himself has been divorced twice. I don't want to disparage anyone of faith, but according to the 'holy law' Gale speaks of, divorcees are looked upon with much the same derision as homosexuals in the Bible. In Matthew (19:19), it states: "I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery." So, according to scripture, getting divorced and re-marrying makes you an adulterer, even if you didn't engage in sexual immorality. I'm no scholar, but I can't really see how that quote can be interpreted any other way. 

Therefore, since 'thou shalt not commit adultery' is one of the Ten Commandments, it does beg the question - what sort of position is Roger Gale in to lecture others on the sanctity of marriage? I'd say none. Besides, nothing the government is proposing says anything about same-sex couples getting married in a church - it's enabling them to engage in civil marriage in registry offices, and I honestly can't see the problem with this. Obviously, as a heterosexual man who supports equal marriage, I'm bound to take this view, a perspective which I happen to share with my girlfriend for that matter. I'm sure many others will agree that Roger Gale has made a gross error in dropping this doodlebug into the gay rights debate, something which I'm sure will only serve to undermine the Conservative position on equal marriage. 

Meanwhile, Cllr Ian Driver is moving a motion in support of equal marriage at a meeting at Thanet Council on 19 April. This will make TDC the first council in the UK to vote on the issue of same-sex couples being able to marry. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, if the motion is broadly supported by local councillors and the vote goes in favour of equal marriage, it could set a good precendent to other local government bodies and will give our council some positive media publicity, perhaps even on a national level. 

However, if the motion at TDC gets rejected or - worse still - the outcome of the voting is one of outright opposition to same-sex marriages, it could backfire and impact negatively upon the council's reputation. So, it could go either way. Obviously, I hope the vote goes in a favourable direction, as the last thing we want is our council being slammed in the national press for being institutionally 'homophobic' and giving TDC the unenviable title of 'the only council in the UK to oppose to equal marriage.' I guess we'll just have to wait and see which way it goes. 

A public meeting in support of equal marriage will be held on 12 April at Margate Media Centre from 7.00-9.00pm and will be chaired by Cllr Ian Driver. The meeting will feature local speakers and representatives from Stonewall have been invited to attend. Find out more info here

Image © Sara Bassett via Flickr and licensed for reuse. The inclusion of the image is not an endorsement of this post.


  1. Surely everyone understands by now that homosexuality is a natural and normal feature of humanity. Once we accept gay people then marriage naturally follows.

    Can't Roger Gale understand how hurtful the current highly publicised comments from church leaders and himself are? How would he feel if his own relationship with his wife were the subject of a public national debate, lead by supposedly caring people, focussing one whether it is abnormal, an abomination, immoral, unnatural. obscene, grotesque and a shame on the UK etc etc? And whether it is a threat to the family, children and the whole of society?

    And where in the Bible does it sayd that it is the role of Christians to judge other people and exclude them from "normal" society?

    The fact that it has been traditional to persecute gay and lesbian people is not a valid reason for continung it, anymore than racsim etc. And the fact that some people don't feel quite ready to refrain from doing so is not a goor reason for continuing to demean, decry and abuse a minority of people who do no harm to anyone.

    A successful marriage between two people of the opposite sex can be a wonderful thing. If it is made in a Christian context that is great. Likewise a marriage of two people of the same sex can be a wonderful thing.

    It is nonsense to suggest, as is being done, that same sex marriage can in any way threaten or damage opposite sex marriages.

    The Church and Roger Gales should be welcoming everybody and not perpetuating poison and hatred. These ideas are wicked and unchristian.

  2. Luke, don't quite follow your assumption that a vote against same sex marriage would impact negatively on TDC. There are actually many people opposed to this proposal and the on-line government petition on the issue has been one of the fastest growing in numbers in the history of such tests of public opinion.

    Legal experts are not totally united on this issue but most, including the Strassbourg Court, reckon that if same sex marriage is legalised it would be a breach of human rights to deny any couple so choosing the right to marry in a place of worship. What is absolutely certain, the activists within the group will try it on.

    Perhaps the most important issue here though, is about whether TDC should be debating this at all. They are not a marriage authority, registrars coming under KCC, and it falls well outside their duties to the public who elect them. One could also argue against the wisdom of giving Driver yet another high profile platform on which to pursue his own agenda.

    I do agree with you though about the wisdom or otherwise of Sir Roger Gale's article, although it will endear him to many around the parishes.

  3. GALE admits that his former marriages failed yet he wants to deny the right of loving couples who have been together longer than his first marriages lasted the right to Marry because of their sexuality. We are talking about civil marriage not church marriage. Equality means the same words for the same things. I am sure that some people think that mixed race partnerships should not be called marriage. Homophobes and Bigots are hidding behind the Church!

  4. Anon, let's get one thing straight here and now, because one is opposed to gay marriage it does not follow that you are homophobic. It is this constant branding from the equality lobby that really turns otherwise reasonable people off them.

    If your case is truly strong you will win the debate, but the tendency to call those that oppose it names suggests in, in fact, that it is not.

  5. Homophobes and Bigots are also "hidding" (sic) behind anonymity.

  6. Tom, TDC is debating this important subject because David Cameron's government has included local authorities in the list of groups that may take part in the consultation. You, Tom have no right to judge other people, its none of your business if two adults of either mixed race or of the same sex wish to get married. You want to deny other peoples equality in order to make yourself feel superior . Equality means equality not different names for different groups. You are on the wrong side of history. People will look back at what you are saying, in the same way that they look back at old TV footage of people saying that they would not let their daughter marry a non-white person. Get on with your own life, and leave others alone!

  7. I think you have produced an excellent post, here, Luke.

    Gale's opposition to same-sex marriage does not make him homophobic. Those who share his view, equally, are not homophobic for doing so. But I suspect many of those who are going further and making hostile, suggestive or insulting comments on local blogs, or those who are allowing such comments, are hostile to the very existence of LGBT individuals, and , therefore, homophobic.

    As for Gale, he has either opposed, or, by abstaining, has not supported every measure providing equality and equal rights for LGBT individuals. He was a firm supporter of Section 28. One has to ask what lies behind all of this. He proclaims his christianity so it is not unreasonable to conclude that he is against homosexuality in (religious) principle. He has taken that "principle" into action as an MP, through his voting. He has repeatedly refused to condemn homophobia-driven violence. He has failed to offer the community lead so many others have offered to change social attitudes for the better. He refers to Gay Pride events as unwarranted "parading of sexuality".

    There is a serious question around just where his religion-fuelled opposition to the LGBT community takes him.

    In his rant in the press he refers to "militant homosexuals", his suggestion being that anyone pursuing equality is a "militant". That is a curious assertion for someone who calls himself a democrat. His use of the term is calculated to inflame those in his constituency who would see militancy as a threat. In short he is deliberately trying to whip up sentiment and emotion. He clearly subscribes to the view that the best way of making people opposed to something is to make them scared of it.

    His placing of the word gay in quotation marks signals that he can't bring himself to recognise the LGBT community as an entity. Again telling. And then the further scare story - calculated to inflame - about changes to literature. His arguments must be very weak if he has to stoop to such low tactics.

    And then we have his proclaimed faith. Firstly, isn't his he doing with his faith what he castigates the LGBT community for doing with Gay Pride events - parading his belief in god? Faith is, of course, a matter of pure choice; being gay is not.

    He uses his faith and his bible as the main argument against same-sex marriage. You have said a good deal about this, and his personal, apparent contradictions. I don't care about his personal life, but he clearly made vows within his faith which he then broke on divorcing. What value do his arguments have, therefore.

    Small wonder he has entrenched his position as a hate figure for the LGBT community. Sadly, he seems to revel in that distinction.

  8. Roger Gale is a bitter old man. He has achieved very little during his role as an MP and is unknown outside Thanet. He wants to be silenced by taking the title Lord Gale of Preston, he is neither homophobic or smart. HIS opinion is irrelevant, he represents
    US, though he has clearly forgotten this. Time for the old man to step down and let someone younger, healthier and more liberal take a dip in the trough.

  9. At the end of the day anyone that tells people they can't get married because they are gay is homophobic... end of.. leave people alone and sort your own life and let others live theirs

  10. 10:04 The government invited local authorities with responsibility for performing civil marriages to consult and comment. KCC are responsible for registrars in this area, not TDC, so I maintain this is not within their remit. It thus becomes a waste of time and public money as well as providing a bandwagon for Ian Driver.

    Since my wife is an african, I find your comment about mixed marriages offensive. I think what the issue is centres around marriage being between a man an a woman whilst the rights of same sex couples are protected within civil partnerships.

    We really do not have to go to war over this unless you really want to take on the vast majority.

  11. Tom Clark has it wrong. if you check the consutlation documentation the government has invited all local authroities (not just those with marriage responsbilites) to repsond to the consultation. Ian Driver

  12. going to war - taking on the majority - is this some kind some kind of threat tom

    1. Interested to see Ian Driver asks Tom Clarke if his comment is some kind of threat. Surely he would know all about threats having invited one of his councillor colleagues outside during a Labour group meeting. Or maybe it is OK when he does it.

  13. most gay couple's have long partnerships, I've been with mine 40 years, which is more that Roger Gail Can say he is a homophobic bigot, also the Conservative party has more closet queens than any other party, Also everbody seems to think all gay want gay marriage, we had a civil partnership and are happy with that, I am no loger a christian because of the attitude of the church and people like Roger gale,

    1. What ever the attitude of human beings within the church, surely you do not suddenly stop believing in God as a result. Or maybe your faith was not strong in the first place?

  14. Tom, don't insult peoples intelligence, anyone can read for themselves that it says "Local Authorites" it says nothing about authorities having ressponsiblty for performing marriages.

    You just Worry about your own life pal, and stop trying to deny others equal rights! .. and the fake name does not fool anyone councillor!

  15. I haven't logged in for a while so I'm surprised to see this many comments. Sorry it took me a while to publish them everyone. I can see a lot of you are getting quite impassioned about this so I thought I'd approve all comments because I think this is unfolding into a very interesting debate so it would be unfair to exclude some at the behest of others.

    I must say, I do think Roger Gale's views are completely the opposite of mine on the issue of equal marraige. I think it's unfair to restrict same-sex couples from having the rights that straight couples all too often take for granted.

    However, I don't think you should jump to to slamming people as homophobes for simply taking the opposite view - clearly, Gale's religious views have led him to believe that marriage vows are 'between a man and a woman', but I'd guess that's because laws of Catholic matrimony leave no other room for intrepretation ('do you take this man, this woman, etc'.). Gale's article could lead us to discuss whether you think religious reform is needed so that the covenant by which a man and a woman enter into is extended to same-sex couples. I think it should. You may not.

    But you shouldn't assume that opposing changes to religious laws of matrimony implies homphobia. Clearly, there is a core of traditionalist and conservative believers in most faiths, so adherence to strict dogma always tends to win out in the face of demands for reform. But my point is, religious opposition to equal marriage only implies rigidity, bigotry and short-sightedness with respect to the rights that religion should guarantee its followers, not necessarily outright homophobia, so please don't generalise.

    Roger Gale did admit in his article that he expected his constituents to describe him as homophobic due to his article, so the fact that some of you feel this way doesn't surprise me. But do try to keep it civil please. Hurling insults doesn't vindicate your cause. It reflects worse on you than it does on Gale.

  16. Well that is all pretty interesting. To respond to several of you.

    To the person who told me to get on with my own life, isn't that what we are all trying to do. I assume you are the same one who thought I was opposed to mixed race marriages simply because I have reservations about same sex marriage.

    To the one who referred to me as councillor. Thanks for the elevation to the peerage, but which one did you have in mind. Since you profess to know, you have my full permission to tell the rest of the world, or was it just an assumption?

    To Ian Driver. No it is not a threat, more a statement of fact. I feel that in this day and age the vast majority of people have come to terms with life style choices on sexuality. For that reason I really do not understand why a few would want to rock that boat and risk upsetting all the religious groups who oppose same sex marriage.

    On the equality query. Same sex couples already have equality in law through civil partnerships. All we are talking about here is the name of a union.

    Finally, Luke, I think you give a very fair and balanced summary. It is the attitude of some and the name calling I find sad. How can you preach tolerance and then stick labels on anyone with a different opinion.

  17. Having now has the opportunity to study the government consultation document again, I confirm it clearly states "Authorities and Registrars with responsibilty for performing civil marriages."

    Can we at least be truthful in this debate.

  18. Anon 6:31, I am still waiting for you to name and shame me. You say I am a councillor and no one is fooled so, come on, tell us which one I am. Oh, and while you are at it, how about telling us who you are.

  19. Anon 6:31, I am still waiting with eager anticipation to find out which councillor I am. Oh, and when you tell us, how about also telling us who you are.

  20. Tom Clarke, you are mistaken. The consultation document defines the exercise's intended audience as:

    "members of the public - particularly those currently in a marriage or civil partnership or those wishing to legally register their relationship in future
    lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organisations
    religious organisations
    local authorities, including registrars who are responsible for conducting civil marriage ceremonies
    organisations with an interest in families and relationships
    comments from all other interested parties are also welcome".

    It clearly invites ALL local authorities to comment and does not restrict the invitation to those with registration responsibilities.

    I have read it (too).

    Whether or not TDC should be pursuing the debate so vigorously is another matter, but let's not spread ill-informed and inaccurate comment, eh?

  21. I am with Tom on this and would certainly read it to mean authorities and registrars with responsibility for performing civil marriages. Mind you, the government could have made it clearer. See since, JW even thinks UKIP should have a view on the issue. Who else will he target for opinion, HM herself I wonder.

  22. TDC should not take part in the consultation because there are no LGBT people living in Thanet and even if there were they would not be taxpayers. Thanet is a wealthy area and we don't need the pink pound anyway.Lets ignore the govenment, after all this is the deep south, and minorites should be ignored because people like Tom Clarke speak for everyone?

    1. Anon, not saying minorities should be ignored, but the majority should also be listened to, not drowned out by all the shouting.

  23. No, Ren Wood, it invites all local authorities and then it invites registrars who have marriage ceremony responsibilities. Perhaps someone who opposes TDC's actions should ask the Home Office what they intend. A job for Mr Gale, perhaps?

  24. Perhaps, Anon, TDC should check before they waste time and money on such a debate. Also, even if the term authority means all, rather than just those with responsibility for civil ceremonies, it invites consultation and opinion, not debate.

  25. Luke I am growing increasingly concerned about the tone and content of some comments about equal marriage and john worrow and myself. These comments are published here, BigNews Margate and Thanet Life. Could your contributers please be more considerate when posting and could they please bear in mind the advice publcihed by Peter Tatchell/ Stonewall on this subject

  26. Ian - may I ask you which comments you have taken particular issue with on this blog and whether you are requesting that they be removed?

  27. A late entry to this discussion. The consultation is actually canvassing the views of interested parties as to how same-sex marriage should be introduced. The rights and wrongs of it are not part of the consultation; they are a fait accompli. Therefore all that should be relevant is TDCs views on how this is to be put in place. As a body with no direct influence I would suggest that they either state that they have no remit or each Councillor fills in the consulation document as an individual.
    The debate should be merely about implementation. It will be interesting to see who tries to turn it into a row about the rights and wrongs of same-sex unions.
    I notice Ian never answered your question.