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Gay Asian Lord Waheed Alli makes plea for love in marriage debate

Gay Asian Lord Waheed Alli makes plea for love in marriage debate

Openly gay Asian peer, Lord Waheed Alli, has told the House of Lords that ‘different is different and equal is equal’.

He was commenting in the debate on the government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales which has already passed the elected House of Commons but now has to be approved, amended or rejected by the Lords.

Alli was one of the speakers opening the second day of the debate which yesterday saw some speakers claim the bill would lead to polygamy and lesbian queens reigning over Britain and the Commonwealth.

Alli, who made his name in the TV industry was supported soon after by a straight television giant, Lord John Birt, former director general of the BBC.

Alli told the Lords: ‘Gay men and women have waited for far too long to have same rights as straight people.’

He praised former Prime Minister Tony Blair for paving the way for the bill and current PM David Cameron for pushing this bill forward, saying he had shown ‘huge personal courage’ in doing so.

And he added: ‘It is about love, it is about who we love and how we express that love between one another. Marriage does not belong to one group of people or one group of religious organizations.’

He indicated passing gay marriage in the UK would send a message to the rest of the world.

Alli said: ‘Last week in Nigeria a law was passed prohibiting gay marriage with a 14 year prison sentence for anyone taking part in gay marriage. My lords, that means people like me making arguments like these.’

And he challenged the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who says they support civil partnerships to provide a liturgy so those relationships could be celebrated in church.

He said he, and other LGBT people, waited for this with ‘baited breath’.

He then went on to demand full marriage equality, not just the existing civil partnerships, saying: ‘Different in this context is not equal. Different is different and equal is equal.

‘I ask you vote for this bill because everyone deserves the right to have their love recognized equally by the state.’

Alli also criticized some in the debate saying they had resisted all change and claiming the suggestion teachers would be forced to ‘promote’ gay marriage under the bill was a ‘lie’.

Lord John Birt, former BBC chief, spoke about working with the late, great TV comic Kenny Everett at the start of his career.

‘Kenny was only two weeks younger from me, he had lived on Merseyside about a mile away [from me as a child] though I hadn’t known him.

‘In his teens Kenny appreciated he was different. He would tell me he had stirrings in the presence of handsome men. But it was not until later he came finally to understand and slowly to embrace his true nature, the one with which he had been born.’

He then recalled how another ‘close and esteemed colleague’ in the 80s came to tell him, with tears in his eyes, that he was gay and dying of AIDS

Now, he said, things had changed for the better.

Birt told the Lords: ‘Openly gay couples are now commonplace in almost every section of society and walk of life. But this bill goes the whole hog and rightly allows gay couples, if they wish, to make the powerful statements of love and commitment that marriage proclaims.

‘If gay couples want that option, they should have it.’

He then criticized the churches for their treatment of LGBT and female clergy saying some of their attitudes were ‘astonishing and repugnant.’

He said one day, maybe not in his lifetime ‘the day will come when age-old discrimination in the churches against both women and gays will simply wither away’ in favor of Christ’s true teaching of tolerance and respect.

Birt concluded: ‘This brave bill brings us one historic step closer to a better world.’

This is the second day of the debate which is expected to culminate in a vote in the early evening.