|Why I voted in favour of same-sex marriage|
|Friday, 08 February 2013 13:55|
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was passed at its Second Reading stage in the House of Commons by 400 votes to 175 votes - a majority of 225.
As the Member of Parliament for Tooting, a diverse community of 100,000 people of all various backgrounds, experiences and the world's major religions and beliefs (including those who aren't followers of any religion) I appreciate that this Bill has provoked strong opinions on all sides.
I voted in favour of the legislation because I believe that this is fundamentally an issue of equality. The last Labour Government made a number of important changes to improve equalities legislation, including the introduction of Civil Partnerships in 2004 in face of considerable opposition. Civil partnerships now have widespread support and I believe it is the right time to take the next step.
I firmly believe in marriage. Marriage is an important statement of love and long term commitment, and has long been the main way that the state recognises and shows support for loving relationships. I believe that couples who love each other and want to make that long-term commitment to each other should be able to have a civil marriage regardless of their gender or their sexuality. Same sex couples should have the same recognition from the state as everyone else.
I appreciate that some people and religious groups take a different view and I agree that no Church, Mosque or other religious organisation should be required to hold same-sex marriages if they do not wish to do so. Freedom of religion is extremely important and it is important that faith groups should be protected. Freedom of religion is therefore rightly written onto the face of the legislation, meaning that no Church, Mosque or other faith group will be obliged to hold same sex marriage ceremonies if they do not wish to.
Decisions on whether to celebrate religious same sex marriage should be a matter for faith groups, and the Bill explicitly rules out any Church or individual Minister being required to perform same sex marriages. The protection of religious freedom is rightly set out on the face of the Bill, which includes a ‘quadruple-lock' for faith groups who do not wish to celebrate same sex marriage.
The Quadruple Lock in Detail:
First lock: This makes it clear that a religious marriage ceremony of a same-sex couple will only be possible if:
Second lock: The Bill provides an opt-in system for religious organisations who wish to conduct marriages for same-sex couples. This provision explicitly states that no religious organisation will be compelled to opt-in to marry same sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises; and that no religious organisation or minister can be compelled to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Third lock: The Bill provides for an amendment to the Equality Act 2010, which makes clear that the refusal to marry same sex couples does not equate to a contravention of Section 29 of the Equality Act on the provision of services on the grounds of sexual orientation. This makes it clear that it is not unlawful discrimination for a religious organisation or individual minister to refuse to marry a same-sex couple.
Fourth lock: The Bill ensures that the common law legal duty on the clergy of the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry parishioners will not extend to same-sex couples. It also protects the Church of England's Canon law definition of marriage, which has a unique relationship with parliamentary statute, because of the Church's established status.
Religious marriage will continue to be a matter for religious organisations, and not for the state, to define.
I voted in favour of this legislation because it supports equality and upholds freedom of religion.
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