Party machines push Bill through
This week the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passed Report Stage in the House of Lords without including many of the robust protections that we have been supporting. This is very disappointing news.
The leaderships of the three main parties used their political machinery to force the Bill through without properly engaging in the debate. The Bill is now likely to pass its final stage in the Lords, Third Reading, and then clear Parliament after a final vote in the Commons.
The Bill was undemocratic from the start, introduced without a mandate from the voters and after a sham consultation which threw 500,000 legitimate responses in the bin. The Bill has been undemocratic to the very end, with the parties using their power to apply exceptional pressure on MPs and Peers. Whatever the parties may say, we know the votes on civil liberty protections were not truly free.
There is a very good case for reasonable and necessary safeguards to protect the civil liberties of people like you – people that believe in traditional marriage. Several courageous Peers tabled good civil liberty amendments, which we supported. But the Bill’s backers – including the leadership of the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and Labour – saw to it that none of them were voted into the Bill.
We have worked really hard to give our backing to over 25 amendments tabled by Peers including:
Teachers – we wanted to see them protected so that they wouldn’t be disciplined for their beliefs about marriage.
Workers – we argued for a ‘reasonable accommodation’ in the workplace for people who supported traditional marriage.
Chaplains – we backed calls for public sector chaplains to have the freedom to express their beliefs without fear of losing their jobs.
Councils – we wanted to stop local councils punishing people or organisations that disagree with same-sex marriage.
Free speech – we tried to make sure people could express themselves on this issue without being penalised under the civil law.
Siblings – we argued for fairness for family members and long-term carers who live in the same home.
We wanted Clauses on the face of the Bill to protect civil liberties. Instead Government ministers only agreed to a couple of amendments and gave verbal assurances that people should not be victimised, saying that people would be protected by equality laws.
We need to record our special thanks to Lord Dear and his colleagues for a valiant effort in standing up for marriage. Their amendments were all sensible, moderate and reasonable. Yet the Government and the Opposition objected, sometimes hysterically, and made sure none of them were added to the Bill. It’s shameful.
However, while it is right for us to be deeply upset at the way the three main parties have refused to listen, we should remember that over 300 MPs and Peers voted against this Bill. It has not had unanimous support. It has not been plain sailing for the Government. We have been effective at highlighting the many problems with this legislation.
Next year the Government will issue marriage certificates for same-sex couples which are perfectly lawful, but actually fake. Marriage can only be between one man and one woman. We should also remember that the Government said, during debates, that fidelity was not important in marriage and same-sex couples make better parents.
Let us be clear. Our quibble is not with gay people for this state of affairs. Most of them don’t want it. Some of them have backed C4M. Even Stonewall only recently decided to back same-sex marriage.
No. This policy was made in Downing Street as part of a political rebranding exercise which went badly wrong. Polling shows that people have seen through it: a majority of gay people think David Cameron redefined marriage for his own political reasons, rather than the principle.
It is David Cameron who rammed this through Parliament – and he did it only with the support of Labour and the Liberal Democrats. A majority of his own Conservative MPs rejected same-sex marriage.
Where do we go from here? Well, we have no plans to go away. Marriage is far too important for us to keep quiet about. The Coalition for Marriage is supported by two thirds of a million people in the UK. We have an army of 700 grassroots volunteers networked by regional co-ordinators (thank you again to all those who have gone door to door delivering leaflets and collecting petition signatures). We are one of the largest campaign groups in the nation. We have many more active supporters than the two main political parties have members.
- We will work to promote and defend marriage.
- We will hold politicians to account for their actions.
- We will highlight cases of injustice against people who believe in traditional marriage.