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Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK

2013-MAY: Excerpts from the House
of Lords' debates. The bill's schedule.
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This is a continuation from an earlier essay.

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In this web site, the term "SSM" means "same-sex marriage."

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2013-JUN-03/04: Points raised during the debate:

Conflicting opinions about the bill were expressed by many of the peers in the House of Lords. We describe them here in some depth because they are universal in content and thus contain meaning for all countries and states considering marriage equality:

  • Baroness Jill Knight, 85 believes that the bill is "built on lies." She said:

    "This bill ignores a fact well understood for centuries. Marriage is not just about love. Of course homosexuals are delightful people, very artistic, and they are very loving people too. No one doubts that for one single moment, but marriage is not about just love. It is about a man and a woman, themselves created to produce children, producing children.

    A man can no more bear a child, than a woman can produce sperm, and no law on earth can change that. This is not a homophobic view. It may be sad, it may be unequal, but it’s true.

    This bill is either trying to pretend I can change men into women, or vice versa, or it’s telling us that children don’t need a father and a mother, or thirdly it is saying that a secure framework for children to be brought up in is not important any more.

    She was concerned that religiously conservative school teachers would be required to teach about homosexuality, and that registrars would be forced to issue marriage licenses and to marry same-sex couples in a way that violated their religious beliefs. 1

  • Baroness Anee Jenkin said that she might not have voted for the bill in the past, but times and attitudes are changing. She said:

    "I strongly believe in marriage as a force for good and I lament its decline in our society. We know that married couples are twice as likely to stay together as those who cohabit. Now we have people who want to get married, to make a lifetime commitment, yet some of us are not sure whether we should allow that to happen. Let us be clear: marriage and the lifelong commitment it involves are far from easy, and a successful marriage takes work. We do not do enough to help floundering marriages and struggling relationships, such as strengthening them and rewarding people for doing the right thing. We should. But stopping gay people marrying is not part of that.

    At the heart of this Bill is a straightforward proposition. If a couple love each other, why should the state stop them getting married unless there is a good reason? In this day and age, being gay is not a good reason—if indeed it ever was. Of course, for some religions and faiths, this goes beyond their beliefs. As a result, the Bill specifically protects the rights of those who do not agree and does not compel anyone to do anything. All religious organizations are free to choose whether to opt in or out. The Bill simply allows people to get married—a clear and simple objective, delivered in a way that promotes and protects religious freedom. ..."

    "I have not heard a convincing explanation of how it would undermine marriage. Yes, it is controversial, but decriminalizing homosexuality was controversial, as was equalizing the age of consent. It was also controversial when the Labour Government rightly legislated for civil partnerships [for same-sex couples]. Once those things were done and the world did not end, public opinion changed, and that is what will happen when this legislation is passed. 2

  • Lord Patrick Jenkin referred to his grandfather who was a professor at an Edinburgh medical school. He said that his grandfather explained:

    " 'My dear boy, it is as foolish to condemn those who have homosexual proclivities as it is to condemn them for having red hair.' I have lived with that all my life and I have always opposed discrimination against homosexuals.

    He noted that there have been three main arguments against SSM among the emails he has received:

    1. Arguments based on homophobia which he regards as" "deeply shaming, and I am very sorry that they still exist."

    2. Concern that the bill would redefine marriage of 24 million people in England and Wales without their consent. On the basis of his own marriage which has lasted for over 60 years, and counting, he said:

      "... nothing in this Bill will redefine our marriage or indeed those of the other 24 million married people in this country. One has to regard that argument as really quite misconceived. As others have said, it is not irrelevant that there is a great deal more support for the Bill among young people who are facing marriage, are about to get married or hope to get married than there is among the population generally. They do not see it like that. One has only to think of the possibility of the following happening. A young man poses the question to his intended, 'Will you marry me?' and she replies, 'Oh no. This Bill has made it all totally different. It’s for gays and lesbians—I can’t possibly marry you.' That is pure fantasy and I do not think we should pay too much attention to it.

    3. Some registrars and others in the public service will face difficulty implementing same-sex marriage because it will violate their religious beliefs. Lord Jenkin believes that it is important to address this problem and is encouraged that this is being considered by the government.

    He concluded:

    "I have come to the firm conclusion that there is nothing to fear in gay marriage and that, indeed, it will be a positive good not just for same-gender unions but for the institution of marriage generally. The effect will be to put right at the center of marriage the concept of a stable, loving relationship. As a practicing Christian, perhaps I may make the point to the Bishops’ Benches, including to the most reverend Primate, that there is every reason why, in time, the Anglican Church should come to accept that, although I recognize that it may take some time. The character of love which marriage reflects — that it is faithful, stable, tough, unselfish and unconditional — is the same character that most Christians see in the love of God. Marriage is therefore holy, not because it is ordained by God, but because it reflects that most important central truth of our religion: the love of God for all of us." 3

  • Baroness Liz Barker, a Liberal Democrat peer, began her speech in the House of Lords by declaring "an interest." She revealed for the first time publicly that she is in a same-sex relationship:

    "Many years ago, I had the great good fortune to meet someone. She and I have loved each other ever since — that is, apart from the occasional spectacular argument, usually about driving or DIY. As the slogans on the T-shirts used to say, it happens in the best of families. It was therefore with great relief that I read the letter from the Bishop of Salisbury to the noble Lord, Lord Alli, in which he said:

    'Whilst marriage is robust and enduring, what is meant by marriage has developed and changed significantly.'

    There have been many changes to what constitutes marriage over the years. In 1836, there was the change that allowed civil marriage. In 1949, there was the change that made 16 the minimum age for marriage. Those changes came about because of campaigns that were run by minorities and resisted by majorities for a very long time, but they are not changes that would now be overturned.

    What we are doing today does not undermine any existing or future marriage. It extends the status of marriage to gay men and lesbians who want to make a public commitment in the presence of their families and friends, and sometimes their co-religionists. It reflects the wishes of those people who today do not want just to tolerate lesbians and gay men; they want to celebrate and support them as people in their own right. ..."

    "This is a Bill about religious freedom. As somebody who was raised a Methodist, that is something that has been important to me all my life. No religion will be compelled to offer a same-sex marriage. On the same basis, it would be wrong to deny the rights of those religious organizations that wish to extend their fellowship to gay people and their families. ..." 4

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The bill's schedule through the House of Lords:

  • 2013-JUN-17: The bill is studied in committee.
  • JUL-08: Report stage.
  • JUN-15: Third reading in the House of Lords.
  • Unknown: Royal Assent
  • JUN-31: Summer recess

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Joseph Patrick McCormick, "Baroness Knight: Parliament can’t help blind people see, so can’t help ‘artistic’ gays get married," Pink News, 2013-JUN-03, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  2. Joseph Patrick McCormick, "Baroness Jenkin: ‘Times have changed and my family would have been ashamed if I opposed equal marriage'," Pink News, 2013-JUN-05, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk
  3. "Lord Jenkin: I was taught that condemning a homosexual is the same as condemning someone with red hair," Pink News, 2013-JUN-04, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  4. Corinne Pinfold, "Lib Dem peer Baroness Barker comes out during equal marriage debate," Pink News, 2013-JUN-04, at:http://www.pinknews.co.uk/

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 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM > UK > here

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-JUL-05
Latest update: 2013-JUN-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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