I strongly support civil marriage. People who love each other and want to make a long term commitment should be able to get married, irrespective of their gender. As a society we should support and celebrate their love and commitment. There should be no hierarchy when it comes to love. I was proud to be a founding member of the Labour campaign for equal marriage.
It was suggested in the debate yesterday that marriage must be about procreation. I wholly disagree with this view – there are many couples that make the choice to get married that are too old, unable to have children or have chosen not to. It is also clearly nonsense to assume that allowing equal civil marriage would have an adverse effect on heterosexual couples who wish to have children together. It seems obvious to me that allowing two people who love each other to get married does not hinder anyone else’s decisions on how to live their life.
Labour made huge progress on equality over thirteen years in Government. As well as introducing civil partnerships, Labour created an equal age of consent; ended the ban on LGBT people serving in our armed forces; increased sentences for hate crimes; and outlawed discrimination in goods and services.
I believe that religious groups who wish to marry gay people should not be stopped by law, for me this is a question of religious freedom. The bill forces no church to marry same sex couples. It simply allows churches and other religious organisations who wish to, to opt into equal marriage. I hope that in the near future the synod of the Church of England will decide to allow their clergy to marry same sex couples. This will however be a decision for them.
As Shadow Attorney General I have been working hard to ensure that this legislation is pragmatic and workable. I will continue to ensure that any further improvements are added or required.
Public opinion has moved very fast on this issue, the time has come to update the law. This was an important opportunity to demonstrate the value of love and commitment in relationships, whatever someone's sexuality and gender.