A 72-year-old peer in the UK’s House of Lords has given one of the best speeches heard so far in the fight for equal marriage in England and Wales.
Josephine Farrington, the Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton, urged lawmakers to remember teachers are in the job of teaching facts to children, not hiding them from the world.
When right-wing peer Lord Dear warned teachers will be forced to ‘promote’ gay marriage if it becomes legal, the Labour politician said teachers should embrace diversity.
She spoke at the House of Lords debate yesterday (19 June) as the peers discussed each individual clause and amendment during the committee stage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
Below is Farrington’s speech:
‘Nobody wishes to see the promotion of a particular lifestyle, moral view, political view or religious view. Teachers have to teach children who are growing up in a very diverse culture. It is totally different from my childhood, when there was not a diverse culture in most communities. Most diversity was hidden.
‘I would like to relate the story of a superb head teacher in a Lancashire church school, who came to me at the time of the introduction of Section 28. This head teacher was a devout, practising Anglican. By chance, she was actually a very devout Conservative Party member, if one can be such a thing.
‘She asked to see me about Section 28. I thought she would come in and say, “You’ve got to support this, this is important.” What she told me was a story. It took place in that small church school in a village in Lancashire, where she was head teacher. She asked the children to draw a picture of their Christmas Day morning. She said to me, “Josie, one little girl drew a picture of herself in bed with two women”. She said to the little girl, “Who are they?”, and the little girl said, “My two mummies. I don’t have a daddy, I have two mummies.”
‘The head teacher said to me that her professional job, given all her views and her devout Christian belief, was to support the family in which this child lived and ensure the child was never in any way victimised for the circumstances of her family life. So she had to explain to other children, “Some people live like this”.
‘I explained that story to Lord Joseph. He understood it because he knew that children grow up in families with very different views and very different circumstances.
‘To the noble Lord, Lord Dear, I say that it is not a question of endorsing but of recognising. Children are growing up in a diversity of families. They may grow up with a mother and a father who are married within a religious faith. Their uncles and aunts and other people they know, other people in the community such as family friends, will have different patterns of life, different beliefs and different relationships. We have to make sure that teachers are given the freedom and responsibility to respond to the young people in their care.
‘A long way back I was accused by a then Member of Parliament in Lancashire of presiding over a situation in which teachers were indoctrinating children into supporting a particular view. I refer back to the CND. I never actually got proof of the indoctrination, but I had wholehearted support across the political groups on Lancashire Country Council for ensuring that teachers were able to teach children to grow up in the real world that they lived in.
‘I may not like particular aspects of life. I am not awfully fond of rap, but that it is an age thing, not an artistic judgment.
‘We have to stop preventing teachers teaching children about the world in which they are growing up. Teachers should not endorse views or indoctrinate children but recognise that the world is real and it is out there.
‘That is why I give the Government my wholehearted support.’