MPs have shown contempt for God, the scriptures, our Christian heritage and six thousand years of human understanding by voting for ‘gay marriage’ in England and Wales.
The Commons voted in favour of the The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, by 400 to 175, a majority of 225, at the end of a day’s debate on the bill. More on the Bill here.
About 140 Conservative MPs are thought to have voted against the plans.
Former children’s minister and Conservative MP Tim Loughton told the BBC “Apparently there’s 132 Conservative MPs that voted in favour, so I think what we’re going to see is that more Conservative MPs voted against this legislation than for it.” The Bill will now move to its Committee Stage.
Many MPs made passionate and brilliant speeches against the redefinition of marriage. Here are some from early in the debate (Many more are worth reading in the Hansard account here) :
Sir Tony Baldry (Con): Although the failure to consummate a marriage will still be a ground on which a heterosexual marriage can be voidable, the Bill provides that consummation is not to be a ground on which a marriage of a same-sex couple will be voidable. It also provides that adultery is to have its existing definition—namely, sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex. It therefore follows that divorce law for heterosexual couples will be fundamentally different from divorce law for same-sex couples, because for heterosexual couples the matrimonial offence of adultery will persist while there will be no similar matrimonial offence in relation to same-sex marriage. The fact that officials have been unable to apply these long-standing concepts to same-sex marriage is a further demonstration of just how problematic is the concept of same-sex marriage.
Such a move will alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Moreover, changing the nature of marriage for everyone will deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships.
Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab):
The irony of the Bill is that it takes the current situation of equality of marriage and civil partnership and creates inequality. Under the terms of the Bill, there will be marriage in two forms—traditional marriage and same-sex marriage, which are neither the same nor equal. The Bill creates further inequality, with traditional marriages being allowed within some Churches and same-sex marriages not allowed. Same-sex couples will have the choice of civil partnership or marriage, whereas opposite-sex couples can have only traditional marriages—yet more inequality. The Bill is trying to engineer a cultural equivalence to tackle a perceived lack of equality in wider society. That does not sound to me like the basis of marriage.
The Government say that the Bill protects religious organisations, but there are conflicting legal opinions that robustly challenge that view. Moreover, there is absolutely nothing to stop a future Government legislating to allow, or indeed require, Churches to celebrate same-sex marriages. In fact, some commentators have said that they cannot wait until the Church of England and other faiths have to conduct same-sex marriages. Given that the Bill creates inequality, a legal challenge would surely be successful.
I am amazed that the Government should bring forward this Bill at a time when there are other pressing issues. Despite having gay friends and relatives, the issue of same-sex marriage has never once been brought to my attention; I have never had a constituent write to me asking me to raise it. I recall that many MPs were quick to praise the civil partnerships legislation as being everything that the gay community wanted—that it created the equality for which they had fought for so long. As we have heard, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant)—I hope he is still my hon. Friend—has previously said that in his view the idea that the gay community would want marriage is nonsense.
Marriage is the union of a man and a woman that is open to the creation and care of children—not in all cases, but fundamentally that is its intrinsic value. This Bill will fundamentally change that. Despite all the issues that have been raised and the insults hurled by those on both sides of the argument, I will oppose the Bill. I believe that it creates inequality and that it does not tackle an existing inequality on the basis that the current legislation has been tested in the European Court and it has been shown that there is no inequality. I will oppose the Bill, and I urge any right hon. and hon. Members who are thinking of abstaining to vote against it.
Nadine Dorries (Mid Bedfordshire) (Con):
It is a pleasure to follow such a wise speech by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello), and I will follow on from his main point.
This Bill does not create equality. It highlights the inequalities that will always exist, because the definition of marriage is based on the definition of sex. It is absolutely impossible to shoehorn same-sex marriage into the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 to provide equality. The gay lobby have said themselves in their campaigning that they have been looking for a Bill that will give them the same rights as heterosexual couples and enable them to enjoy faithful and committed relationships. This Bill in no way makes a requirement of faithfulness from same-sex couples; in fact, it does the opposite. In a heterosexual marriage, a couple can divorce on the grounds of adultery, and the legal requirement for adultery to have taken place is that someone has had sex with a member of the opposite sex.
In a heterosexual marriage, a couple vow to forsake all others. They are basically saying, in accordance with liturgy and the 1973 Act, “I will forsake all others because to you I will be faithful in honour of our vows and my faithfulness to us and our marriage.” A gay couple have no obligation to make that vow. They do not have to forsake all others because they cannot divorce on the grounds of adultery; there is no requirement of faithfulness. If there is no requirement of faithfulness, what is a marriage?
The Minister says that there is no requirement for consummation in a marriage. No, there is not, but a marriage is voidable without consummation. There is no requirement for consummation in the Bill because the definition of marriage and the definition of sex is for ordinary and complete sex to have taken place. Same-sex couples cannot meet this requirement.
Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab/Co-op):
I will give my personal view, which I know differs from the views of the vast majority of members of my party. I respect that difference.
For the first time in history, a Government have proposed a Bill that will change the very nature of marriage in law. Until now, society and the Church have had a shared view of the essential purpose of marriage. It is primarily an institution that supports the bearing and raising of children in a committed and constant relationship. The traditional understanding of marriage has three basic elements: it is between a man and a woman, it is for life, and it is to the exclusion of all others.
Article 16 of the universal declaration of human rights describes the family as
“the natural and fundamental group unit of society”
and defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. It states that the family is
“entitled to protection by society and the State.”
Those elements are designed not to exclude people or create inequality, but to promote the unique benefit of marriage in our society: it secures family environments and provides the essential qualities of safety and reliability for children.
Worryingly, the Bill rarely mentions children or parenthood. It emphasises the decision to take part in a ceremony more than the commitment to a lifelong relationship or having children. It is as if those elements are of no consequence.
Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con):
I had the privilege of chairing Committee proceedings on the Civil Partnership Bill. As has been said, very clear undertakings were given by the then Government and Opposition that that Bill was not the thin end of the wedge nor a paving Bill for same-sex marriage, but an end in itself to right considerable wrongs in the law. That it did, as the European Court of Human Rights has determined. In those respects, civil partnerships are indistinguishable from what we know as marriage.
When I put that point to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities, she said that no Government could bind another. Of course, she is correct. That kicks the bottom out of every undertaking that she has given. It is abundantly plain to most Conservative Members that the product of this Bill will end up before the courts and before the European Court of Human Rights, and that people of faith will find that faith trampled upon. That, to us, is intolerable.
I understand—I will give way to my right hon. Friend if she wishes to correct me—that the Cabinet paper on this matter was entitled “Redefining Marriage”. It is not possible to redefine marriage. Marriage is the union between a man and a woman. It has been that historically and it remains so. It is Alice in Wonderland territory—Orwellian almost—for any Government of any political persuasion to try to rewrite the lexicon. It will not do.
John Glen (Salisbury) (Con):
I am very disappointed to have to rise to oppose the Bill. I never imagined that I would be put in a position where I have, by virtue of standing up for marriage, been characterised variously as a “homophobic bigot”, a “religious nutter”, a product of the dark ages, or, as I see in this weekend’s press, on the brink of making “a tragic mistake” that I will have many years to regret. This was not in our main manifesto. To cite that it was on page 14 of the equalities contract, a sub-manifesto that had little or no public scrutiny, is disingenuous at best.
The assumption of the Bill is that marriage is just about love and commitment. Of course marriage is about love and commitment, but it is also about the complementarity, both biologically and as a mother and father, of a man and a woman who have an inherent probability of procreation and of raising children within that institution.
Dr William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP):
Most people, even to this day, regard the United Kingdom as a Christian country. To some that is an embarrassment, while others thank God that our nation still has some gospel light and enjoys freedom of thought and speech. Each day, hon. Members gather in this Chamber to hear the Scriptures read and prayer offered to God, humbly asking for God’s blessing upon our Queen, her Government and our deliberations. We as leaders among our people still acknowledge God’s sovereign throne, the authority of His revered word and our need for wisdom far greater than our own. Sadly, after doing so today, we are turning from the teachings of that same book, and placing our wisdom and knowledge above divine wisdom.
Please sign our Christ-centred petition:
We the undersigned believe that marriage was ordained by God to be the union of one man and one woman and that marriage between two persons of the same sex can not and should not be legalised by any earthly government.
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