Notes From Another Life

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn't won a scholarship to Harvard and left my native country to make a new start in America. Maybe I would have become a Tory journalist or politician as I kind of expected to. You know: like a Tory blogger/parliamentary candidate like Iain Dale, fresh from his own civil partnership, and accepted on the right as a gay married man. And maybe I'd ask a question like this from the Conservative Party leader and get this kind of answer in reply:

Iain Dale: Last year I had a civil partnership. I have little doubt that a previous Tory government would not have passed the legislation enabling me to do that. How can you assure the gay voters that a Cameron government won't just not discriminate against them, but will deal with whatever policy concerns they have?

David Cameron: I stood up in front of a Conservative conference, my first one as leader, and said that marriage was important, and as far as I was concerned it didn't matter whether it was between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman. No other Conservative leader has ever done that. I don't think any Labour leader has done that. Even since then. The good thing was that they applauded.

On civil partnerships, Oliver and I talked about it a lot ... not that we were going to have a civil partnership, I hasten to add [roars with laughter]...

Dale: There, I've got my headline from this interview! ...

We talked a lot about it because there was a real problem which needed to be overcome. There was a series of ways in which gay people were being discriminated against because they couldn't get married, so there was a strong, logical argument for civil partnerships. I think most Conservatives voted for it. The argument was getting stronger and stronger because the only other alternative was to try to deal with all these instances of discrimination - inheriting property, visiting rights etc - individually, and I think civil partnerships were the right way through it. If you believe in commitment, as I do, then the argument is even stronger. I totally agree that on some of these issues the Conservative Party had some work to do. Individually, some of us had some work to do and we needed to do it. I am not saying it is done but big progress has been made.

When I first came to America, freedom for gays here was far ahead of that in most other countries. In terms of civil society, of the maturity and power of gay communities, in places like Massachusetts and California and New York, that's still true. But in terms of political, civil and legal equality, the US is now far behind Europe and even parts of the developing world, like South Africa.

No regrets. Just sadness that America has slipped so far behind. And that dogma and fear have trumped inclusion and adjustment on the right.