DEMOCRACY is a great thing and there has been no shortage of it this week. Whatever your view on whether same sex couples should legally be allowed to get married in England and Wales, there’s no avoiding the subject.
On Tuesday, history was made as MPs approved the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill with Prime Minister David Cameron describing the move as ‘an important step foward’ and one which will ‘strenghten society’.
And, despite our three Bedfordshire MPs being Conservative, they all voted differently.
MP Alistair Burt, who represents the North East of the county, responded to constituents’ queries about his vote in favour of the bill. He said: “I supported the bill because I believe fundamentally in the equality of all UK citizens before the civil law.
“My view remains that the State and the Church have different responsibilities and I believe that churches and those of all faiths should be able to make their own decisions over who is blessed by marriage as a religious rite.
“I do not believe the Bill interferes with that rite, and indeed every effort is being made to ensure that it is protected.
“As a Christian, I believe that God created us all equal, and while I fully understand the issues of interpretation in the Bible, this is not a matter which should require Parliament and Civil Law to comply with.
“This is even more the case when issues of interpretation are challenged and where there are many other Biblical instructions which are not part of the law of the land.
“I welcome Parliament’s decision and believe in time it will be recognised as a much more straightforward step for society than some may fear.”
Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire, voted against her party as many expected she might.
She told the House: “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. 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?
Richard Fuller, MP for Bedford and Kempston, opted to abstain from the vote to ‘ensure that concerns expressed with anomalies in, and potential consequences of, the bill would be taken seriously as the Bill progresses.”
He spoke in the House: “One need only look at the number of European countries adopting same-sex marriage and President Obama’s statement in the United States to understand that this issue had to be addressed, and not judged.
“The Bill contains a noble ambition. It is one that I share, but I shall not be joining my colleagues in the Aye Lobby this evening.
“As many speakers have said, the issue for gay people in this country has changed dramatically over many years. In my lifetime it has gone from a situation where homosexuality was not recognised in the public square, through a childhood where the absence of understanding of that issue was loud as any absence can be, through a recognition that when one came of age the very act of having sex could lead to the catching of a contagious illness, and through a period when there was a recognition that that illness could lead to loved ones and friends dying.
“It has also led in the political sphere to political opponents using one’s sexual orientation as a weapon to seek to achieve the accumulation of votes, notwithstanding what their party might say is its abiding principle. Out of that period—significantly, perhaps, from the period of the reaction to HIV and AIDS—came the power for the recognition of same-sex couples having unions.
“This country, the previous Government and my right hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr Duncan) should be enormously proud of their role in bringing civil partnerships into legislation.”
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