Graded Objectives in Modern Equality

Back in the early 1990s, I was studying for my GCSEs. The year before I sat my GCSE French exams, I sat another set of exams in French: a NISEAC Graded Objective in Modern Languages. The Graded Objective in French was essentially a GCSE-lite qualification. It was a subset of what GCSE French covered. After completing my GCSE in French, I never again used my Graded Objective qualification. It had been superseded.

In 2011, I formed a civil partnership with my now-husband. In 2016, I married him. Although the differences between a civil partnership and a marriage are much smaller than the differences between a Graded Objective and a GCSE, the situation is similar. The marriage supersedes the civil partnership.

Has my relationship with my husband changed? No, but the legal recognition of that relationship has changed. The differences between marriage and civil partnership depend on which jurisdiction you are talking about (here are some examples for Ireland, and here are some for England and Wales). For us, the key issue is that we are no longer “separate but equal”; we are now equal. In the eyes of the law, our relationship has exactly the same standing as the relationship between my best friend, Rob, and his wife, Emma. That equality in the eyes of the law is both driven by and a driving force for being seen as equal in the eyes of society.

Marriage and religion


John and Andrew McFarland Campbell. Photo: Rob Moir

In 2011, we formed our civil partnership. The next day, we married in church. We are both Christian, and as such we wanted to get married in church. That ceremony had no legal standing, but it is the one that we regard as being the official start of our married relationship. In Northern Ireland, same-sex marriage is not currently legal, and there is a campaign to make same-sex civil marriage legal. That doesn’t go far enough, as the campaign apparently ignores people in same-sex relationships who want same-sex religious marriage. As well as being an issue of civil rights, marriage equality is an issue of religious freedom. In a country where an opposite-sex couple can choose to get married in a church or other religious venue (if the church or venue wants to marry them) but a same-sex couple can only be married in a civil, secular ceremony, there is still discrimination against same-sex couples, albeit significantly attenuated discrimination.

I believe that one day this discrimination will end completely, but until then we should all be aware that not everyone is allowed to progress beyond a Graded Objective in Modern Language.


Christians and the Conscience Clause

Faith and Pride

Christian consciences have been a concern since the days of the New Testament. A long time ago, a wise man called Paul the Apostle gave advice to the Christians in Corinth about how to handle their consciences.

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral … But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral… Do not even eat with such people.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-11).

In Paul’s view, your conscience regarding ‘sexually immoral’ people did not stop you interacting with them as normal. It was only when a fellow Christian was sexually immoral that you were supposed to invoke Paul’s conscience clause: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you…

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The Sun Passes It’s D’oh! Levels!

Miley Cyrus’ performance at the recent MTV awards has been criticised because of its suggestive nature.  The Sun, a major British newspaper had this to say:

Miley’s Performance may well go down in history as the moment pop became too porn.

Put your clothes back on ladies, and learn to sing.

The Sun, 27 August 2013, page 7, Northern Irish Edition

The Sun helpfully illustrated their article with a picture of Miley during her act.

However, The Sun is still The Sun, and today’s paper had a photo of topless woman on page three. This photo wasn’t connected with any news story, and just had a small amount of accompanying text, advertising their website and iPad app where additional, similar, images were available.

Surely if Miley Cirus’ performance was ’too porn’ then The Sun’s Page 3 is also ’too porn’? The Sun can’t have it both ways. It should either condemn Miley Cirus and stop its Page Three photographs, or it should support Miley Cirus for expressing herself in the same way as its models do. Personally I think The Sun should lead the way by moving into the 21st Century and leaving Page 3 in history. Until then, The Sun can proudly report that it has a D’oh! Level in hypocrisy to go with the one it has in sexism.

Thanks to @SerotoninJunkie, who first spotted this on Twitter, and to No More Page 3, a campaign to end Page Three.

Support for Equal Marriage in Northern Ireland

Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey recently asked

Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognised by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?

57% of people surveyed agreed they should be valid, with only 32% saying that they should not be. That means that in Northern Ireland, nearly twice as many people support equal marriage as oppose it.

As a Liberal Democrat, I support equal marriage, and it is encouraging to see that there is such broad support for it even in Northern Ireland, which is traditionally a socially conservative part of the United Kingdom. It is common for Northern Irish politicians to oppose marriage equality on grounds such as “the people of Northern Ireland don’t want it”. Thanks to this survey, we know that this is not the case.

See also

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Why We Need a Fully-Elected Second Chamber

Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland

I am not a fan of the House of Lords in its current form. My main objection is because it is an unelected body that has real power.

Up until fairly recently, I didn’t pay much attention to it, but over the past few months I have been doing so. This was started when I had a conversation with a member of the House of Lords, and I was appalled at his level of ignorance. As the House of Lords has debated equal marriage my opposition to the House has grown, entirely due to the nastiness of some of its members.

I’m sure that the House of Commons has just as many unpleasant members, but there is a fundamental difference between the two houses: if I really don’t like someone in the Commons, I can work against him or her getting re-elected. In extreme circumstances I could even stand against them…

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Conflicting Freedoms

I’d forgotten I wrote this.

Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland

It is a truism, but in a free society, like the one we aim for, the freedoms of one group of people may sometimes infringe on the freedoms of another group. Balancing these conflicting freedoms is a complex task. For example, I believe the following things.

  • People should be allowed to express their religion
  • People should be allowed to be open about their sexuality

To me, these freedoms are equal: expressing your love for your god is of the same importance as expressing your love for your partner.

Here in Belfast there is an interesting example of a clash between those two freedoms. In 2008, the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church published an advert with the headline


Following complaints, the ASA found that the advert did cause serious offence to some readers. The church is now appealing against that ruling.

It is clear that the…

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