Monthly Archives: July 2012

Same-sex Marriage: The Last Taboo?

“We are committed to a Scotland that is fair and equal and that is why we intend to proceed with plans to allow same-sex marriage and religious ceremonies for civil partnerships. We believe that this is the right thing to do.”

Nicola Sturgeon

Four days ago the SNP announced plans to allow same-sex marriage in Scotland following a consultation which garnered a record 77,508 responses.  Unsurprisingly the proposal is being staunchly opposed by the Catholic Church and Church of Scotland, who seem to believe the fabric of society will unravel if the bill goes forward; however the majority of the Scottish people seem to be in favour as long as the government allows religious institutions to opt out of performing ceremonies if they feel it is contradictory to their beliefs.  With British society becoming increasingly secular and same-sex civil partnerships already permitted throughout the UK, is the decision to allow marriages in addition to what is already available not simply removing the specifying of gender from the legislative vernacular?

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, recently referred to same-sex marriage as a ‘grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right’.  This kind of inflammatory language, coupled with bizarre comments from Archbishop-elect Philip Tartaglia insinuating that the tragic death of MP David Cairns was somehow as a result of his sexuality or lifestyle (rather than complications of acute pancreatitis as cited by medical professionals), has certainly lent credence to gay rights campaigners assertion that this is just another attempt at ostracise and vilify LGBT people rather than a genuine debate about the proposed bill.  Cairns’ partner, Dermot Kehoe, called the Archbishop of Glasgow homophobic and prejudiced after the comments, which Tartaglia is yet to show contrition for.

“It is not homophobic to say you don’t agree with gay marriage. It isn’t homophobic to think it is unchristian.  But what is homophobic is to make generalised views based on their sexuality…  It’s generalising on the basis of ignorance. It’s taking something you know nothing about and saying it’s because he’s gay, that’s the definition of prejudice.”

Dermot Kehoe

The concept of marriage predates reliable records, however it has always been based on the contractual rather than the religious.  In Jewish custom, the Ketubah (a contract akin to a prenuptial agreement) is signed at the time of the marriage and is essentially a written agreement setting out the terms for the relationship. The marriage ceremony, therefore, is meant to be a public demonstration of a couple’s commitment to this agreement, and it is this legal document rather than the ceremony that constitutes the marriage.  The same type of contact also exists in Islam and is known as Katb el-Kitab or Nikah-Nama. The blend of the secular and religious is purely a choice: twice as many heterosexual couples opt for a non-religious registry office wedding or humanist ceremony as are married in a church, therefore it seems the question of same sex marriage should not be debated primarily by religious institutions.

“It seems like it is the last vestige of an older morality.”

John Haldane

The fact is that civil partnerships have gone along way towards allowing LGBT people to have their relationships legally recognised and to affording them most of the same rights as heterosexual couples.  Many of the critics in the marriage debate are simply asking, isn’t that enough?  For many it is, and understandably given most religious institutions’ views on gay lifestyles a church wedding is not high on everyone’s agenda.  That said, it should surely be a choice left down to the individual couple, and one that should be theirs to make.  With gay ministers now being ‘accepted’ in the church (provided they declared their sexuality and were ordained before 2009) it does not seem too great a leap to assume that there will also be parishioners who are gay and would like to be able to be married in their church.

The SNP have made clear their intentions stating that “no religious body will be compelled to conduct same-sex marriages”, also adding that although protection for religious bodies not choosing to conduct such ceremonies already exists under the UK Equality Act they will also amend the law to give further protection.  With this in place and no one being forced to participate in ceremonies they cannot reconcile with their religion, the refusal to allow two people (who love each other but happen to be the same gender) to have the same rights as a straight couple smacks of nothing more than bigotry cloaked in faith.  If the church survived the coming-out of the clergy it is unlikely that this latest step towards genuine equality will cause it to crumble, but if it does then surely it is not truly an institution built on love as it professes to be.

“I believe that love shared and celebrated in society between two people of the same sex should make no-one afraid and can only enrich communities.”

Rev. Scott Rennie



A great deal of discussion on Twitter this evening during Channel 4’s launch of the ‘4GoesMad’ season, starting with Ruby Wax’s ‘Mad Confessions’.

Aimed at raising awareness in order to end mental health stigma, it can only be a positive thing that 4 are running this series of programmes about this topic – although the choice of title does little to achieve their aims.  Although humanising sufferers will go a long way towards demystifying a very complex area – mental health sufferers and their respective needs are incredibly diverse – there needs to be some focus on where the services are coming from and how they are funded.  The current spate of old-school Tory cuts have decimated many parts of the NHS, and mental health services have been hit hard.  Demanding that trusts save hundreds of thousands of pounds in a sector that spends 75% of its budget on staffing is the main problem here, not identifying need which sadly is all too apparent.  Providing therapies that are desperately needed, particularly in secure services where staffing levels are always going to have to be higher, is becoming more and more difficult as staff struggle to cover patients’ basic needs let alone providing staff to escort inpatients to therapy groups and activities/appointments outside of the units which are vital to allow reintegration into the outside world.

As usual arts therapies have gone first (in a pinch anything arts-based is first against the wall) and various consultations are underway in Trusts across the country, desperately looking for things to cut (Psychology and Occupational Therapy posts are currently in jeopardy).  When the primary focus is financial by necessity, as the alternative is having Trusts broken up and patients sent further afield to have treatment, it is no great surprise that many of those Tweeting about the subject of mental health this evening were complaining about lack of access to outpatient services and treatments like CBT and Talking Therapies which have exponentially increasing waiting lists.  Fantastic charities such as Mind are having their funding slashed, alongside Rape Crisis and various shelters who often provide pathways to services.  By their own admission many GPs are ill-equipped to deal with mental health problems, and as a result are very likely to oversubscribe anti-depressants and anxiety pills rather than referring sufferers to counselling and therapies that might be able to help get to the root cause of the illness and offer treatment rather than the sticking plaster of medication.

During a recession, with many people joining the long-term unemployed and suffering from stress and depression due to financial worries, the numbers of people needing access to services will only increase.  Now is the time for an investment in mental health services so that people can gain treatment and find coping strategies quicker.  If one in four people suffer from mental ill health in their life, that will include many MPs or members of their family so it is incredibly short-sighted of them to ignore the huge chasm in services that it opening up ready to swallow a large number of people whose lives and that of their families, friends and co-workers could be improved dramatically if only the services were available and accessible.  Mental illness should not be a life sentence.

Regardless of its shortcomings, tonight’s programme has certainly provoked debate about the subject, which can only be a positive outcome.  Literally hundreds of Tweets have already been posted and as the season lasts all week hopefully that discussion will continue and encourage those who know little about the subject to ask questions and educate themselves.  It may also empower those who are scared to disclose their mental health challenges to others to do so or find those they can talk about it with and therefore gain more support.  The stigma surrounding mental health sadly continues, but it is only by talking about the realities of the illness that attitude can be changed and tonight’s foray was definitely a step in the right direction.


A fantastic day of filming

I spent most of yesterday with my hair greased up and a make-up black eye in order to film “The Box” with Director Rakesh Mohun, Camera Operator Simon Turner and fellow actor Gareth Radcliffe in sunny Shepherd’s Bush.  Emotionally draining but hugely rewarding, working with these gentlemen is always a delight and I can’t wait to see the result!

Daniel Tosh and the “rape gag”

A lot of tweeting and general discussion about Daniel Tosh’s “rape gag” has gone on after a female audience member was offended by his questionable material about rape “always being funny”.  I’m generally for comedians being able to mine whatever subject they choose in order to not only elicit laughs from their audience but challenge taboo subjects and potentially make their audience look at their views and attitudes, but fundamentally this is not a subject many would, or perhaps should, find amusing.  That said, Frankie Boyle notoriously talks about child abuse (a lot) and Joan Rivers has material about the Holocaust that many would say is a innately unfunny area – however i don’t think either has ever suggested such topics are “always funny”.

The fact that the woman in question was offended enough to be moved to heckle says something in itself, and I am personally surprised that Tosh was unprepared for resistance to this type of material, and that his response to her obvious distaste was to joke about how hilarious it would be if the female heckler was gang raped, which as a put down seems a step and a half too far.  Ultimately his routine sounded decidedly unfunny and appeared to offer no justification for choosing the subject, other than for shock value.  I haven’t seen his set, so perhaps I shouldn’t comment, but with approx. 230 rapes a day in the UK (and fewer than 1 in 100 victims successfully convicting their attacker) it seems to me that it is a subject you shouldn’t touch without seriously considering what you are talking about.

My shiny new blog…

Having thought for a long time about starting a blog, this evening I kind of stumbled into having one… 

I’m currently working on a number of writing projects, and it seemed to make sense to have a place where all of these partially realised ideas and thoughts could be brought together in one place.  Whilst researching one of these projects I began reading a friend’s guest post on one page and, in order to follow and like her work found myself half-way through creating a blog of my own.  Perhaps I should say I was inspired to follow suit and throw my hat into the blogosphere, regardless, here I am and I look forward to putting pen to paper (or fingertip to keypad) a little more often because of it.


Debs 🙂