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Lammy makes powerful speech linking race to gay rights

MESSAGE: Lammy backs same-sex marriage

IN A speech delivered in parliament, Labour MP David Lammy told the speaker why he is supporting reforms to allow homosexual couples to lawfully wed.

The MP for Tottenham said "today should be one of atonement for the House", reeling off historical examples of when parliament backed homophobic legislation, such as when the Earl of Harlsbury labelled gay people as a “reservoir for venereal diseases”.

However, Lammy reserved his most powerful rhetoric for employing the parallel of the race and gay rights struggle. He took particular issue with the phrase, “Separate but equal”, which has been used by those arguing no reform is needed because gay people can already have civil partnerships – something anti-reformists say is equal to the institution of marriage.

“‘Separate but equal’ is a fraud,” Lammy said.

“[It] is the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus.

“[It] is the motif that determined that black and white could not possibly drink from the same water fountain, eat at the same table or use the same toilets.

“'Separate but equal' are the words that justified sending black children to different schools from their white peers – schools that would fail them and condemn them to a life of poverty.

“It is an excerpt from the phrasebook of the segregationists and the racists,” he added.

The Labour politician also invoked women’s rights into his speech, comparing the anti-gay marriage proponents of “the same delusion that we borrowed in this country to say that women could vote – but not until they were 30.”

Lammy also drew upon personal family experience: “It is the same naivety that gave made my dad a citizen in 1956 but refused to condemn the landlords that proclaimed ‘no blacks, no Irish, no dogs’.

“It entrenched who we were, who our friends could be and what our lives could become.

“This was not ‘Separate but equal’ but ‘Separate and discriminated’”, he added.

Nonetheless, Lammy was willing to soften his stance against those opposed to the reform, and openly decided not to label them bigoted, homophobic or racist.

“There are those that say this is all happening too quickly,” he told the speaker. “That the speed of change for LGBT rights is happening too abruptly for them to comprehend.

“That the country they live, the traditions they live by and the people they live next to are transforming in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, upset and undermined.

“They are not homophobic, they are not racist, but they say ‘not now, later’”, Lammy added.

The MP’s speech is likely to upset those in the black community who consider themselves of traditional Christian faith – especially since black church leaders came out to urge politicians to refrain from voting yes to the reforms. Some religious leaders, part of the National Churches Leaders Forum, said redefining marriage could cause “dangers and unintended consequences”.

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