Saturday, 24 August 2013

Cornwall Pride

I went into Truro today because it is the day of Cornwall Pride, and there is traditionally a parade through Truro followed by a party in the park. The event brought home to me how much in the world has changed since I walked with the first Truro Pride, at the invitation of friends, in 2008. Those friends were able subsequently to get married in Holland, where same-sex marriages were allowed from 2001, and now live on the other side of the world. But now, each time I check on the internet, the number of countries allowing such unions has increased. Scotland is likely to be the next. At that first Pride event in Truro, there were protests from members of the religious right, who tried unsuccessfully to disrupt the parade; although it should be said that there was very visible support from Christians who do not share that antipathy. Today, I saw no sign of any hostility – absolutely the reverse.
During those five years, so much has changed around the world: one of my favourite moments was that great speech in support of same sex marriage in the New Zealand Parliament. However the plight of LGBT people in some other countries is a good deal less comfortable. In Uganda, there is still a proposal on the table to pass a bill making homosexual acts punishable by prison, and even the death penalty. The situation there has been publicised by a prize-winning documentary, ‘Call Me Kuchu’, which relates the story of David Kato who was an outspoken campaigner in Uganda for LGBT rights, and was murdered for his trouble. Now there has been plenty of media coverage and discussions around the new laws in Russia. There are however up to 80 countries where laws on homosexuality are at least as intolerant as those in Russia, and in many others LGBT people are victimised, and such crimes as ‘corrective rape’ are condoned by the authorities.

But events like Cornwall Pride, along with the publicity they are given, must, in the end, have an effect. Throw a pebble in a pond and watch the ripples! By world standards our Pride parade is small, but it would be wrong to suggest that the global effect is too small to matter.

Until 1967, homosexual acts between men were illegal. When the bill was passed, homosexuals were invited to ‘show their thanks’ by ‘ comporting themselves quietly and with dignity… any form of ostentatious behaviour now or in the future or any form of public flaunting would be utterly distasteful… [And] make the sponsors of this bill regret that they had done what they had done’.
I don’t know what the sponsors of that 1967 bill would have thought in Truro today, but I hope they would have been proud!

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