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Tuesday, 24 November 2009

On the edge

A “unique coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered groups, political social justice activists, people of all faiths and none, trades unions and professional associations”, will be launched at the House of Commons in London today.

The organisation’s called Cutting Edge, and it will be “inviting all Parliamentarians to be briefed on why it believes faith opt-outs from the Equality Bill must be rejected, as the Bill makes its way to the House of Lords”.

A news release from the group says:

The Cutting Edge Consortium, building on ground-breaking 2007 & 2009 Conferences on Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia & Human Rights, will hold an open meeting, EQUALITY BILL: OPT IN vs OPT OUT, to discuss religious exemptions to legislation on sexuality and gender identity in the Equality Bill. Creating a cutting edge by opening up new possibilities of dialogue between a huge diversity of interests and activist position, CEC has carved out a challenging space to voice support for the Equality Bill.

Hosted by Clare Short MP, speakers will include Sarah Bourke (Tooks Chambers), Andrew Copson (British Humanist Association) Maleiha Malik (Muslim Women’s Network), and Michael Rubenstein (Equal Opportunities Review). The event takes place 19.00–21.00, Tuesday, 24 November, in Committee Room 5, House of Commons.

Founder-member Maria Exall said: “It is vital that progressive faith and secular voices are heard loud and clear supporting the Equality Bill and equal rights for LGBT people.”

CEC continues the debates from its 2009 conference, grounded in its 2007 Conference Statement: “The Faith, Homophobia, & Human Rights Conference, gathered in London on 17th February 2007, calls on all people of goodwill, of whatever faith or none, to affirm and celebrate human equality in all its dimensions and particularly to work for the elimination of any faith-based homophobia and institutionalised prejudice towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.

“We reject the activities of certain religious leaders, seeking exemptions from equality legislation, and attempts to base this on the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, such a right being for all, not just for some. We deplore the internalised homophobia within religious institutions that fails to confront prejudice and hate. We encourage and support those faith organisations, which express their commitment to diversity and equality in practice and policy. We believe that full civil rights for LGBT individuals are not only consistent with the right to religious freedom, but are rooted in the best and fundamental teachings of all major faiths; love, justice, compassion, and mercy, such values being shared by all who seek the common good.

“We call for further progressive public policy that will deliver comprehensive and effective anti-discrimination legislation, including positive duties, on the basis of race, gender, disability, age, sexual orientation, and belief. We call on the newly formed Commission for Equality and Human Rights to listen to the experience of LGBT faith networks and those who have suffered homophobia from and within religious organisations.

“Today, the alliance of over fifty faith and secular organisations supporting this conference affirms and celebrates the values of human equality and social justice, rooted in the best of faith traditions, and shared by all who are committed to a fully human vision of a transformed society.”

The Cutting Edge Consortium includes the Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement, Interfaith Alliance UK, British Humanist Association, Muslim Education Centre Oxford, Liberal Judaism, Trades Union Congress, and A:Gender, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality, Progressive British Muslims, Ekklesia, Inclusive Church, LGBT Consortium of Voluntary & Community Organisations.

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