On Tuesday, British members of Parliament are set to vote on equal marriage. The [Right-Wing] government has made a bold move recently in publishing a parliamentary Bill to allow same-sex marriages, including by those religious organisations which want to offer it. Moving with the times, Prime Minister David Cameron has been vocal in support of marriage equality, much to the annoyance of some of his fellow party members.
In its Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill the government proposes that religious organisations will be able to “opt in” to holding same sex ceremonies. The exceptions to this, however, being the Church of England and Church in Wales, who would be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages because they have “explicitly stated” strong opposition to doing so. (The hypocrisy of this fathoms me – seeing as the CoE was founded purely because Henry VIII wanted to get a divorce and so created a new Church which would allow this; hardly great morals is it? – but that’s another argument!)
British citizens have a couple days more to help ensure their MP will act on their behalf and vote accordingly, with the help of the Coalition for Equal Marriage (C4EM). Their website hosts a petition, as well as a convenient tool to easily find out who your local MP is and make sure you let them know that they should be voting for equality! I modified one of their sample letters to write to my own MP:
Dear Mr Hughes
I am writing regarding the upcoming vote on equal marriage. Having read the Coalition for Equal Marriage’s website, where they are tracking MPs views, I believe you will be voting in favour of the legislation. If true, then I am very pleased to hear this, and I commend you for your stance on equality.
I strongly believe that the current furore over what is, in essence, a minor evolution of currently existing and accepted civil partnerships is driven by a terrible misunderstanding by certain religious groups. Namely: that they will be forced to conduct same-sex marriages.
It is quite clear from the many assurances given by Maria Miller that this will not be the case. And given the protections of the “quadruple locks”, those who do not wish to perform the ceremonies will be free from the threat of legal challenges.
But worse than this, I believe that we are facing a tyranny of the majority when the heterosexual population is able to deny freedom of love amongst the LGBT community. The potential negative consequences of equal marraige quoted by those opposing the change are simply futile scare-mongering lies. Perhaps, the largest of which is based on the fear that children will be “forced” to learn about homosexuality in school. Suggesting that this is confusing and wrong for children is equal to suggesting they shouldn’t be taught about different religions, other cultures or even about heterosexual marriage – all things that our children WILL face and learn about sooner or later. Denying equal marriage, and refusing proper education in schools is negating the fact that LGBT people live amongst us, in our communities, in our schools, workplaces, and in our own families.
The longer same-sex marriage is denied, the longer the separations within our communities will be perpetuated. Love is a right not a privilege. And as a British man I celebrate the diverse, democratic society that we are ALL a part of.
Please urge your fellow MPs to recognise this, and not deny equality.
I thank you for your time, and look forward to hearing from you.
The good news is that for the first time a majority of MPs have committed to vote for a change in the law to lift the ban on same-sex marriage in England and Wales. You can see the current predictions on the C4EM website: 330 MPs have confirmed they will vote in favour of same-sex marriage legislation when it is introduced at Westminster in the next few months.In contrast, just 126 MPs have publicly stated that they remain opposed to a change in the law, meaning there is now a clear parliamentary majority for equal marriage.
Public opinon is also moving in the right direction, with recent polls estimating figures of 62% of people in favour, with just 31% opposed.
The issue has been particularly prominent today, following a letter from the Conservative party Chairman (and other chairmen) calling on the Prime Minister to delay the vote until after the next election. The letter warns that the vote will cause “significant damage to the Conservative Party in the run-up to the 2015 election” if the plans enter law – a potential double victory then in most left-wing supporters’ eyes!
However, Foreign Secretary William Hague has stated that it’s for each MP to make their own decision, and supports the Bill himself.
On the other hand, Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said; “The Labour Party strongly supports same sex marriage. When couples love each other and want to make a commitment, it should be a cause for celebration, not discrimination. Those couples should be able to marry, regardless of their gender or sexuality. My Shadow Cabinet colleagues and I will continue to be loud and proud supporters of same sex marriage, and I’m pleased there is a clear parliamentary majority in support of the forthcoming legislation. Labour votes will ensure that this measure is passed in the House of Commons and we hope the Government brings forward legislation as soon as possible.”
Similarly, in response to religious concerns of fellow MPs, Stephen Doughty (Labour) made a speech in the House of Commons last week, stating “I for one do not believe that my faith, or any other, has a monopoly on the definition of marriage, and whatever it may have been historically, marriage is an institution that I believe now transcends belief, faith and religious conviction. As such, I hope marriage will be made open to all who wish to enter it, whether in the sight of their God, gods, or simply their closest friends and family.”
While my lack of strong religious convictions means I am actually less concerned about my own potential marriage than my letter above suggests, I recognise that many LGBT people are of faith, do wish to be married, and see this as symbolic in our fight for equality. I strongly echo my friend Stephen’s sentiments and support the right for all people of religion to have their love recognised.
Submitting a letter like this to your MP takes only a minute via the C4EM website, and signing their petition is even quicker.