The story published by PinkNews is, sadly, a largely dishonest account of what took place at Monday evening's fringe meeting in Liverpool.
We deeply regret that PinkNews chose to publish the story late at night without double-checking a single fact and without having troubled to attend either the meeting itself or a party conference at which such an important issue was being discussed.
Ben made quite clear at the meeting that Stonewall is engaged in a process of listening and consulting with active Stonewall supporters, of whom there are almost 20,000, about the future of civil partnership.
While some lesbian, gay and bisexual people fully support changing civil partnership into marriage, there are others – including particularly some women – who do not want something that is either the same as or synonymous with marriage. This is a sensitive area of policy development and not one which is assisted by inflammatory media coverage.
The Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone, with whom we have discussed this issue privately, acknowledged in response to Ben’s remarks last night that as Stonewall is a supporter-based organisation it could not be expected to issue a response to such an issue until it had built the sort of consensus Ben had outlined.
Ben did not say for one moment that Stonewall objected to the motion that would be debated on Tuesday because it would cost £5bn.
Ben pointed out, factually, that there was a cost to including provision of civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples in the motion. He suggested that ministers should publish the Treasury Impact Assessment that will have been carried out.
This is a policy on which Stonewall expressed and expresses no view (campaigning to end heterosexual disadvantage is not one of its charitable objectives, and Ben said that) however, with an estimated cost of £5bn over 10 years, people have understandably raised the question of whether it is likely in the current economic environment that such a policy would be implemented in the lifetime of this parliament.
Stonewall is determined, as Ben made crystal clear at the meeting, to build – as it has always strived to do on any issue - a policy and campaigning position on the future of civil partnership that has the support of the widest possible number of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Britain.
For PinkNews to publish and fail to correct a story in this way sadly brings the whole of the pink media, which serves our minority communities uniquely well, into disrepute.
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