Baroness Cumberlege ‘listened’ to ‘LGBT communities’ in 2013. Then she told them they were ‘different’, and predicted that they ‘will regret attaching their unions to heterosexual marriage’.
In 2009, Baroness Julia Cumberlege opposed the strengthening of LGBT employment rights.
Speaking against the Equality Act, she declared her financial interest in maintaining discrimination, during the House of Lords’ debate: ‘I have carried out some training for members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales through my company, Cumberlege Connections, and I am aware of its concerns about the Bill.’
‘I start by stating where the Catholic Church stands on human rights. All forms of unjust discrimination are wrong…’
Cumberlege, like most successful politicians, is good at making a mere tautology (‘unjust discrimination is wrong’) sound meaningful. She went on:
‘…However, the church, like the drafters of the Bill, recognises that we can and should take account of differences between people where these distinctions are properly based and not simply a matter of prejudice.’
Then, rather than putting forward the claimed ‘properly based’ facts and reasoning as to why LGBT people should continue to be discriminated against, the Noble Lady rapidly switched to painting a picture of her clients, the Catholic Bishops, as a ‘minority’ threatened by this ‘oppressive’ legislation:
‘There are well established matters of clear belief and doctrine which religious bodies have held, in some cases for millennia, and which they are fully entitled to hold under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.’
But, alas for Cumberlege and her clients, there is no such thing as ‘full entitlement’ under Article 9, and the Human Rights Act applies to individual persons, not ‘bodies’ of them.
Cumberlege’s further argument revealed her (and/or her clients’) beliefs about LGBT identity as a legitimate basis for shame and ‘scandal’ (my emphasis):
‘Any post where liturgy and doctrinal explanation were not the whole or main tasks would have to be open to a person of any sex, marital status, transsexual history or sexuality, whatever the beliefs of the religion. It would be unlawful to reject an applicant or take action against a person in post, however grave the scandal caused.
To re-state that, Cumberlege (and presumably the Catholic Bishops) asserted it was fine for a ‘religious’ organisation to turn down any LGBT person for any job, and merely cite concerns about the ‘scandal’ that might be caused. In 2013.
She continued, with a rather desperate attempt to appeal to the (likely) heterosexual majority in the House of Lords: ‘What would this mean in practice? If a man employed as a Catholic diocesan marriage care co-ordinator abandoned his family and his wife in a well publicised and scandalous divorce case to remarry in a civil ceremony a woman with a similar history, he could not possibly have any credibility in the function in which he was employed. Yet any action the diocese took against him as a result would be unlawful.’
I believe Cumberlege’s prejudiced rhetoric failed completely, and the Equality Act became law in 2010.
In 2013, Cumberlege was again very active in opposing Equal Marriage. As a psychiatrist, I try to avoid terms such as ‘weird’, but I struggle to find anything better to describe her reasoning in one particular speech. The use of ‘communities’ implies segregation, and to talk of a deficit or ‘lack’, given the history of (real) LGBT oppression, seems a very bad idea:
‘…“Marriage” is the word that means a union of a man and a woman. Same-sex couples have a yearning for equality…Marriage between a man and a woman is different from a union between two women or two men. I believe that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities should have the confidence to establish their own institution. What they lack is the lexicology to establish and name their own institution…’
I used to subscribe to psychiatry’s professional claim to ‘delusion’, but in fact it is a very old English word, so now I am quite relaxed about
describing Cumberlege’s ‘soon they will say’ prediction as self-deluded:
‘I believe that, in time, LGBT people will regret attaching their unions to heterosexual marriage. Soon they will say, “No, we are different. We want be different and we need to create our own institution”. Like a flag, a motto or a name, they need to find their own terminology, their own symbols…’
‘Flag’ and ‘motto’ trivialise the issue. Cumberlege’s claim to be a ‘good listener’ is, in my view, bogus.