Comment: Discrimination against gay clergy must end

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The Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats, Ed Fordham, calls for an end to discrimination against LGBT clergy.

Whilst party activists gathered in Glasgow and quite literally were debating policy F33 Age Ready Britain there was another gathering taking place of a quieter, but perhaps more significant nature.

In the Admiral Rodney Pub, in Southwell, Nottinghamshire a small group of LGBT activists and supporters prepared to demonstrate for equality. Archbishop John Sentamu was in Southwell for the opening of the refurbished Bishop’s Palace and he was accompanied by acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Richard Inwood.

Normally simply an occasion of celebration, instead Bishop Inwood and Archbishop Sentamu were met at the doors of Southwell Minster by LGBT activists and supporters calling for the end to persecution of LGBT clergy. Acting Bishop Inwood has refused to license one of his clergy for an NHS role as a hospital chaplain because he has exercised his legal right to marry his male partner.

For many, they can’t quite believe that this sort of thing is happening in this day and age, that the Church of England is so out of step that they have refused a Chaplains license and that they are frankly getting away with it.

The demonstrators, small, select and dignified were led by Peter Tatchell (and included my mother-in-law and father-in-law) and had a conversation with Archbishop Sentamu. This specific case will probably go to court, but liberals everywhere should be alert to what is going on and prepare to fight for equality from the Church of England. Our instinctive response might be to disestablish it, but for starters, and regardless of that, we must stand up for all, for equality and against persecution.

The Bishops of the Church of England are seeking to prevent their clergy from marrying, to create a ‘blacklist’ of those that do, and are actively refusing progression and employment against gay clergy. This article is to raise awareness of the disgrace that is taking place in the name of the Church of England.

Tuesday’s protest was small, dignified and entirely appropriate. But the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and all of the bishops of the Church of England are now faced with a prospect of LGBT activists and all those who care about equality performing protests outside any location they are present – anywhere in the UK.

This is an issue that can easily go away – Archbishop of Canterbury – stop persecuting your clergy, allow them to marry as per the law of the land and embrace all of your flock. There is no other way forwards unless you wish to be dogged by protest and the shameful record of truth. Acting Bishop Richard Inwood has, through his cowardice, consigned his own reputation into the dustbin of history. Archbishop Welby, I pray that do not require your other Bishops to do the same.

Ed Fordham has recently married his life partner, is Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats and is the former parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn.

This piece originally appeared on LibDem Voices.