Onto the Last Battle
The last battle between the forces of modernity, morality and mutual respect against the dark forces of superstition, hate and bigotry.
It is up to the UK Government to decide and a decision will have to come soon. It is in respect of the Equality Bill which is due to pass into law for England and Scotland in April. The Bill quite simply makes it illegal to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services. I wrote about this in the blog of 10th January.
The point is that public morality has moved on and just as it used to support slavery or race discrimination or sex and changed its mind, the same is happening with sexual orientation, whereby the majority of people do not think it is right to discriminate on the basis of whether or not they may be gay, straight or lesbian.
The problem we are facing now is that the Catholic Church, now vociferously supported by the Anglican Church in the UK, are claiming the right to continue to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and are presuring the Government to be exempted from the new law. Basing their morality on the discredited readings and interpretations of their sacred books, written for the best part over 2,00 years ago, they have been unable to keep up with the general development of morality within society. It is the same with rights for women, where especially the Catholic Church continues to discriminate shamelessly, mainly only within their internal organisation.
What they seem to be wanting to do here is not just discriminate internally, but also discriminate within the public domain, a public domain guided by democratic values, where questions of morality are viewed very differently. The Government wants to outlaw discrimination within the public domain
So we have a clash of values and it is going to be very interesting to see how it goes this time.
Lined up with the Catholics, we have the minister in charge of the Bill, Ruth Kelly who is a hard-line Catholic herself, allied with the Catholic-sympathiser Tony Blair (his wife is Catholic and his children went to a catholic school). Against, I think we have the rest of the Cabinet, a Labour cabinet, which if it stands for anything should stand for equality.
The Catholics had their way last year when they managed to stop new legislation which would affect the way they run their schools. I don't think the Governement will want to be seen to be changing their mind again. We will be back to the 1970's when the question was often asked 'Who Runs Britain?' - the Government or the unions - to be replaced by The Government or the Catholic Church.
I am confident that the Government will win this one and that Britain will take a major step along the road towards modernity. It will be hard for the Catholic Church to win many more battles after this.