Equal Marriage, Simon Burns and Chelmsford.
I’m a sceptic by nature. A private sceptic, that is. One who secretly yearns to know everything, but with a memory that barely allows me to remember the day of the week, much less anything interesting.
Were I ever to appear in an episode of QI, the majority of my vocal commitment to the show would be a few seconds after each answer is revealed as I declare “Oh yes! I remember now, I have heard of that before…”, no doubt my voice petering out as I realise the futility of such a boast.
For these reasons, I tend to write things down. Email, in particular, is a blessing. A written record of a conversation? Excellent, thank you very much!
This blog post is about equality, but before I begin rambling here is some background about me personally, for I fear that this entry may bring first-time readers to the blog. I’m Danny. I live in Chelmsford, in Essex. I’m in my mid-thirties. I think that’s as much as you need to know, everything else is superfluous.
It was recently revealed that a large number of MPs had voted against equal marriage. The Bill, referred to as “Marriage (same sex couples) Bill”, but also commonly referred to as “Gay Marriage” Bill, passed a third reading in the House of Commons by a majority of 366 to 161.
Excellent news for the UK, right? I believe so. I was brought up to believe in equality, and still struggle to understand those who are against it. Shortly after the result was revealed, a list was published showing the MPs that voted against the proposition. A quick scan revealed that Simon Burns, MP of Chelmsford, was on the list.
A quick Twitter scan shows that there was some opposition to his vote, and as far as I could see, no tweets backing his decision.
Disappointed that a man who represents me had voted against the Bill, I decided to email Mr Burns and ask for some feedback as to why he had done so. To his credit, he replied fairly quickly, and a brief email exchange took place. I’ve copied the emails below, though have taken out my own personal details.
His response surprised me. Immediately I was intrigued as to what extra work the Bill needed, and that his wording about it being “premature” coupled with the fact that he felt “not enough work had been done to inform and educate people on why the law should be changed” indicated that he felt the Bill needed backing (or else he should write “should or shouldn’t be changed”?).
I was also shocked that he was influenced by the views of his church. Mr Burns confirms that he is Christian (in a similarly themed blog post by Simon McMahon here), which means that his views stem from practices 2,000 years ago.
However, it’s dangerous ground to start questioning someone’s religious beliefs, or challenge their wording in an email, so I decided that the most important thing to me, and the very thing that I had been most disappointed about, was that Mr Burns was reflecting the views of his constituents.
A final email response came, and I haven’t (yet) replied to it.
Simon McMahon makes a good point in the blog linked above. “…a number of people have written to you opposing gay marriage. You are aware, I’m sure, that numerous church groups ran campaigns to persuade attendees to write to their MPs opposing the legislation?”
If this is true, then it is no wonder that he had 450 responses against the Bill. It’s also worth noting that there seemed to be no congratulatory posts on Twitter saying that they too had been against the Bill (and you’d think that Twitter would offer at least some reflection of the 450 to 17 ratio Mr Burns mentions).
Chelmsford doesn’t strike me as a homophobic city. It doesn’t seem to err on the side of being unfair, nor purposely denying equal rights to anyone. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Chelmsford really is anti-gay. Perhaps the gay bar in Moulsham Street is often empty? I wonder if the sold-out gay nights at Chicago’s nightclub are full of people who simply like multicoloured flags?
Or perhaps it’s just because the free-thinking, liberal and pro-equality based people of Chelmsford didn’t let their MP know how they felt. I didn’t, I’ll admit.
So if you do have an opinion, let your MP know.
If you’re based in Chelmsford, you can let Simon Burns know your feelings about anything by emailing him at email@example.com
In fact, I would urge anyone based locally (in particular those who disagree with how Mr Burns voted on this Bill) to email him and tell him.