A few things bubbling to the surface in the fight for marriage equality in the UK, as the House of Commons prepares for the third reading of the bill next week.
First off, Conservative MP David Burrowes has admitted that he’s only pushing for a public vote on marriage equality to derail the bill in Parliament. Pink News reports:
Later in the interview, Mr Parris said to Mr Burrowes: “You don’t want a debate you just want to defeat the measure don’t you?” Mr Burrowes replied: “Well I want both.” Presenter Jo Coburn then said to Mr Burrowes: “Right so it is a vehicle you want to use [in order to] defeat a measure you don’t like?” The MP replied: “Well it would be… it would affect the commencement of this bill, but I am concerned about that as well as trying to ensure we have freedom of speech, properly protected in the bill, surely the government will be able to accept that when it comes to those amendments on Monday.”
Another MP, Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather complained that she didn’t go onto politics for this. Pink News reports:
Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather says voting against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in February was “an extremely difficult choice”. In an interview with the Catholic Herald, the north London Brent MP and former children’s minister said: “In many ways I’d rather not resurrect the whole argument again. It wasn’t one of those issues that I went into politics to tackle, but once a vote became inevitable I spent ten or 11 months weighing up the issues – of equality on the one hand and family life and what it meant for the definition of marriage on the other.” She added: “I did a lot of reading and eventually I came to my conclusion, based not on any effect it would have in the short-term, but on the change it would mean for marriage over a longer period of time.”
Maria Miller, the Minister for Equalities, is also in the news today. First off, Pink News reports that she’s denying claims that the marriage equality bill has been fast tracked:
“One factual error in what you said is that there was a very clear statement by the Conservative Party around looking at same-sex marriage in our Contract for Equalities that was issued at the general election. It was in a very extensive manifesto commitment document around equalities and it highlighted commitment to equality in this area.” She added: “Any claims that this has been fast-tracked is not accurate. The amount of consultation, the largest consultation that Government has ever seen, really took place over a year. Since the consultation, extensive analysis of that, then discussion around the bill.”
Miller also expressed surprise that it’s taken the UK so long to get around to marriage equality:
The minister then told the Joint Committee on Human Rights: “It is surprising that other countries have done this [introduced same-sex marriage] as far back as 2001. Given our extremely strong record on equality and human rights, it is surprising that is for so many years that this hasn’t been considered.” She added: “Civil partnerships was of course a first step but I think that this step is more valuable.”
Gay activist Peter Tatchell criticized Miller for ruling out the possibility that straight couples could enter into civil partnerships once gays and lesbians can marry. Pink News reports:
Yesterday, Mrs Miller told the parliamentary joint committee on human rights: “We don’t feel there is either a necessity or a requirement to open up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples because there is no deficit there – there is no lack of an ability to be able to formalise a relationship in a legal way. “It is already there for heterosexual couples. It’s called marriage.” … Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who has repeatedly called for the coalition’s equal marriage plans to include civil partnerships for heterosexuals told PinkNews.co.uk: “This is a hugely disappointing decision by the government. But I am hopeful that the amendment to open up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples will be carried by MPs next week. While legalising marriage equality is welcome and commendable, the government’s refusal to end discrimination against straight couples in civil partnership law is flawed and wrong.
Gay Star News reports that upstart right-wing party UKIP, which has conservatives worried about challenges in the next election, has made a startling admission:
Despite a quadruple legal lock protecting religious groups from being told to conduct marriages for gay couples, the right-wing political party led by Nigel Farage has said the safeguards are not strong enough. But if Britain was to exist as an independent state and outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, then no gay couple would be able to challenge the marriage bill’s legal locks. Speaking to Gay Star News, a senior UKIP spokesman said: ‘If we find ourselves outside of the legislation of the European Court of Human Rights, we may have a different opinion [on same-sex marriage].
So basically the UKIP would back off their opposition to marriage equality, maybe, if the UK left the European Union.
Finally, in a somewhat amusing development, shopkeepers near Prime Minister David Cameron’s office are complaining that anti-gay marriage protests are driving away customers. Pink News reports:
Retailers close to David Cameron’s constituency office have claimed that their takings are down due to anti-gay marriage protestors. The Coalition for Marriage, a group that opposes equal rights for same-sex couples has regularly staged protests and leaflet distribution drives outside the Witney Office of the Prime Minister in Oxfordshire. Earlier this month, the same-sex marriage opponents have delivered a postcard petition signed by 288 people to David Cameron’s Witney constituency office in Oxfordshire.
We assume the protests would end once the marriage equality bill is passed, and shopping will return to normal in the neighborhood. So see, marriage equality really is good for the economy!
Find more articles and gay wedding resources in the United Kingdom.