Accepting a challenge from an openly gay peer in the House of Lords, the Rt. Rev. Martin Wharton of the Church of England spoke forcefully this month against anti-gay laws in 78-plus countries, especially those in former British colonies.
Bishop Wharton’s comments reiterated the position articulated in October by the Rt. Rev. Timothy Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, also in the House of Lords, that “under international law, popular dislike or moral disapproval of homosexuality can never be a sufficient justification for setting aside human rights.”
Bishop Stevens asked what action the British government is taking “to help rid the world of laws which have sustained inhumanity and injustice for far too long.”
Bishop Wharton’s remarks came during a March 13 debate in the House of Lords. As reported by the Changing Attitude website, he said that, although the Anglican Communion is “deeply divided” about homosexuality, there could not be “any grounds for denying the equality before the law of every single human being, whether they are homosexual or heterosexual.”
Challenged by Lord Black of Brentwood to condemn the criminalization of homosexuality, Bishop Wharton said, as reported by Changing Attitude:
“I will say as clearly as I can that criminalisation is wrong.”
“I know when I say that that I speak not just for myself but for other members of this Bench, and I want to say it as clearly as the Bishop of Leicester did in a previous debate a few months ago.
“If criminalisation leads, as it evidently does, to gay people concealing their identity, that is wrong.
“If criminalisation leads to many living in fear, that is wrong.
“If criminalisation leads to the prospect of persecution, arrest, detention and death, that is wrong.
“If criminalisation means that LGBT people dare not turn to the state when facing violence and hate crimes, that is wrong.
“If criminalisation hinders the treatment of people with HIV/AIDS, that is wrong.”
In October, Bishop Stevens quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who said in 2010, who said in 2010, “All over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are persecuted. They face violence, torture and criminal sanctions because of how they live and who they love. We make them doubt that they too are children of God-and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy.”
- Bishop of Newcastle condemns African criminalization of homosexuality (Changing Attitude)
- Full text of Bishop Stevens’ remarked here: The Bishop of Leicester speaks passionately in a Lords’ debate about the “Treatment of Homosexual Men and Women in the Developing World” (Changing Attitude)
- British Lords seek repeal of 41 countries’ anti-gay law (76crimes.com)
- Will Episcopalians let anti-gay Anglicans block LGBT aid? (76crimes.com)
- House of Lords calls for decriminalization of homosexuality in Commonwealth because of higher HIV rates (oblogdeeoblogda.me)
- Archbishop Justin Welby’s olive branch to gay rights groups (telegraph.co.uk)
- Queen silent on gay rights, but provides an opening (76crimes.com)
- New book shows human face of gay rights, anti-gay laws (76crimes.com)