Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Stonewall Vs Pink News: The Divine Feud

Late on Monday evening a story appeared on Pink News; "Ben Summerskill: Stonewall Not Fighting for Gay Marriage Equality Because 'It Could Cost £5 Billion'."
This seemed quite a scoop - all the more impressive as Pink "News" hardly ever breaks a new story.
"The chief executive of LGB lobby group Stonewall, Ben Summerskill, this evening reportedly told a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat party conference that the group is not actively campaigning for marriage equality because it could cost a staggering £5 billion to implement..."
But after Summerskill made a complaint, Pink News have since "updated" it - and pulled the original (It is reprinted in full in the comments section after this) - and they have deleted the comments section "at the request of Stonewall while we continue to clarify other elements of the story."
Which is nice of them.
Stonewall have released an official statement which can be read here.
"Ben did not say for one moment that Stonewall objected to the motion that would be debated on Tuesday because it would cost £5bn.
"Ben pointed out, factually, that there was a cost to including provision of civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples in the motion. He suggested that ministers should publish the Treasury Impact Assessment that will have been carried out...
"We deeply regret that PinkNews chose to publish the story late at night without double-checking a single fact and without having troubled to attend either the meeting itself or a party conference at which such an important issue was being discussed."
Pink News had always said they'd taken their story from a blogger, Complicity, who attended the fringe meeting.
That'll learn 'em to believe anything they read on a gay blog.
During Monday's meeting Summerskill criticised Pink News for running an “unethical campaign” against Stonewall.
Pink News' publisher Ben Cohen - who presumably wrote the original news story - is a prime mover behind the open letter to Stonewall criticising their silence on marriage equality.
Fagburn thinks Stonewall's position - or rather their lack of one - on gay marriage is daft and indefensible.
Purely in PR terms it's turned into a fuck-up to rival the Papal Visit.
Stonewall's statement claims; "Ben made quite clear at the meeting that Stonewall is engaged in a process of listening and consulting with active Stonewall supporters, of whom there are almost 20,000, about the future of civil partnership."
Fair enough, but did Stonewall consult their members on, say, whether they should be lobbying for equalising the age of consent?
"Confrontation" isn't the first word that springs to mind when thinking about Stonewall or Pink News - Fagburn wonders if there is anything else behind this divine feud between Mr Ben Summerskill and Mr Ben Cohen?


  1. Ben Summerskill: Stonewall not fighting for gay marriage equality because ‘it could cost £5 billion’ · September 20, 2010

    The chief executive of LGB lobby group Stonewall, Ben Summerskill, this evening told a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrats party conference that the group is not actively campaigning for marriage equality because it would cost a staggering £5 billion to implement. The charity have been stonewalling questions on its exact position on marriage equality for some time.

    Zoe O’Connell, who writes the Complicity blog, described the meeting: “Of all the bizarre places to come out against marriage equality, an event run in conjunction with DELGA, the Liberal Democrat LGBT organisation, would seem to be the most odd. But that’s just what Ben Summerskill, head of so-called ‘equality’ organisation Stonewall did today.”

    All of the other speakers at the fringe event; Lynne Featherstone, the minister for equality; Evan Harris, president of Lib Dem LGBT group DELGA; and Stephen Gilbert, the Lib Dem MP who will tomorrow propose a motion in favour of marriage equality at conference, all said they support full LGBT marriage equality. Just Mr Summerskill spoke in opposition.

    Last year, Mr Summerskill told “There are lots of lesbians who actually don’t want marriage”. But, last month, a survey for revealed that 98 per cent of the LGBT community favour full marriage equality. readers at the event report that Mr Summerskill claimed that it would be too expensive to introduce marriage equality because of increased pension payments to heterosexual couples who may theoretically wish to take up civil partnerships, if allowed. He claimed this would cost £5 billion.

    After the debate, Mr Summerskill told a contributor who did not want
    to be named that there was also the risk that straight, same sex, platonic friends might seek to have civil partnerships in order to make tax savings. Lib Dem MP Stephen Gilbert argued at the fringe meeting that marriage equality should not be subject to a cost/benefit analysis and claimed that if South Africa had adopted Stonewall’s approach, they would still have apartheid. Mr Summerskill reportedly labelled this view as offensive.

    Mr Summerskill reportedly also offered the argument that there is a feminist view that the institute of marriage is fundamentally wrong. He also argued that for as long as people are being murdered in homophobic attacks, it is not the right time to campaign for marriage equality. Mr Gilbert responded saying that there is a need to send a clear message to those in society “that would try to discriminate that we are equal and we will not settle for any less than equality. As long as LGBT people are ‘othered’ in any way at all, attacks will continue.”

    Mr Summerskill also accused of running an “unethical campaign” against Stonewall after it asked every LGBT rights organisation/ political group to outline their stance on marriage equality. Only Stonewall refused to answer.

    Last Friday, Stonewall received an open letter signed by hundreds of people including two MEPs, two MPs and a number of human rights academics calling on them to clarify their position on marriage equality.

  2. The chief executive of Stonewall has used leading gay news site to slam recent claims that his charity is unsupportive of gay marriage equality.
    London-based says the charity "is not actively campaigning for marriage equality because it could cost a staggering £5 billion to implement."
    But, in an exclusive statement [sic] given to, a spokesman for the national organisation has described the story as inaccurate."

    When start criticising your editorial standards, you know you're in trouble...

  3. Ben Summerskill had a letter in the FT on September 24 - in response to a sketch by Matthew Engel on the Lib Dem conference, the vote in support of gay marriage, and claiming Stonewall opposed this.

    Stonewall opposition to gay weddings untrue
    Published: September 24 2010 03:25 | Last updated: September 24 2010 03:25

    From Mr Ben Summerskill.

    Sir, It is categorically untrue that Stonewall “opposes” gay weddings (Matthew Engel, September 22). We are consulting on the issue with our 20,000 supporters and have declined to comment until that consultation is complete.

    Ben Summerskill,

    Chief Executive, Stonewall,

    London SE1, UK