Equal marriage: 2 Lib Dem MPs against and a further 9 (or 10) Missing In Action

Lynne Featherstone with Same Sex marriage bill - Some rights reserved by Mark PackTomorrow the House of Commons will vote on the Bill to allow equal marriage for same-sex couples which Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone did so much to push forward as Equalities Minister.

Two Lib Dem MPs have so far publicly declared their opposition:

  • John Pugh MP (Southport)
  • “I will vote against the Bill – against Gay Marriage but not necessarily for all the reasons the churches give but because I think there is a good liberal case against the current legislation. … My fundamental objection (see below) against the government’s proposal is that it achieves none of its objectives and weakens the link between marriage and the family. As a result it draws government (the state) into a whole, new series of debatable judgements and rulings on sexual, personal and religious behaviour. Far from being permissive in effect, it could herald the advent of ever more arbitrary prescription as we forget why the state legislates at all in this deeply personal aspect of life.”

    John has published a summary of his argument here.

  • Gordon Birtwhistle (Burnley)
  • “I will vote against gay marriage. Civil partnerships are fine. Gay marriage is just not on.”

    A further nine Lib Dem MPs are listed on the Coalition for Equal Marriage website as having not declared either for or against equal marriage:

      Alan Beith – Berwick-upon-Tweed
      Annette Brooke – Mid Dorset and North Poole
      Duncan Hames – Chippenham
      John Hemming – Birmingham, Yardley
      Charles Kennedy – Ross, Skye and Lochaber
      Greg Mulholland – Leeds North West
      Robert Smith – West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine
      Sarah Teather – Brent Central
      John Thurso – Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross

    In addition, I’ve seen reports on Twitter that party president Tim Farron is ‘still deciding’ how to vote, according to the BBC — though he’s listed in support on the Coalition for Equal Marriage’s website. (UPDATE 5 Feb: Tim Farron has confirmed on Twitter he will be voting for equal marriage.)

    Equal marriage didn’t appear in the party’s 2010 manifesto, although Nick Clegg was a public advocate for it then. It is now party policy, approved by Lib Dem conference, though the parliamentary party voted before Christmas not to whip on the issue. Lib Dem chief whip Alistair Carmichael defended the decision to make it a free vote on LDV here, saying:

    For those who feel that this is an issue of equality and not conscience (a view for which I am personally not without sympathy) I would say this: judge us by the outcome we achieve. I believe that we shall be successful in implementing our equal marriage proposals and that the vast majority of Liberal Democrat MPs and peers will play their part in doing so.

    * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    167 Comments

    • Andrew Martin 4th Feb '13 - 4:02pm

      Note the difference between the responses of John Pugh and Gordon Birtwistle. John Pugh’s response, however dubious, is at least measured and inoffensive in tone.
      Frankly Gordon Birtwistle sounds insulting – ‘fine’ and ‘not on’ represent a dreadful choice of language

    • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 4:05pm

      Good to read John Pugh’s views and that he is voting against- as ever – well-thought through and with a good understanding of the ethical and social implications of the issue :

      Gay Marriage:
      “…it achieves none of its objectives and weakens the link between marriage and the family. As a result it draws government (the state) into a whole, new series of debatable judgements and rulings on sexual, personal and religious behaviour. Far from being permissive in effect, it could herald the advent of ever more arbitrary prescription as we forget why the state legislates at all in this deeply personal aspect of life.”

      John Pugh is one of the best Lib Dem MPs by far.

    • I find it disappointing that the MPs still refer to it as “Gay Marriage”.

    • Richard Marbrow 4th Feb '13 - 4:24pm

      Narrowing down the debate to the issue of children devalues marriage itself as a commitment between two people.

      Leaving aside the problems that separate but equal should cause for all Liberals , everyone saying they are going to vote against equal marriage seems to have decided they were against and only then gone looking for a reason to justify that decision.

      Equal civil rights for all is a core part of Liberalism and the idea that there is a liberal argument against equal marriage is not sustainable.

    • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 4:31pm

      @ Richard Marbrow: ” Equal civil rights for all is a core part of Liberalism and the idea that there is a liberal argument against equal marriage is not sustainable.”

      I beg to differ. It is perfectly possible to fight for equal civil rights and win equal civil rights for gay people – civil partnerships is one case in point, and keep the term marriage to define a particular relationship in society. John Pugh is right.

      John Pugh and others are Liberals with a consistent and cogent Liberal viewpoint. They’re not Libertarians.

    • Liberal Neil 4th Feb '13 - 4:32pm

      “and weakens the link between marriage and the family.”

      In what way?

      In a family with two parents of the same sex it would surely strengthen the link?

    • It’s a free vote so let’s allow our MPs to vote according to their conscience. The danger is that keen supporters of gay marriage show the intolerance for their opponents that they claim to be speaking against, and put off potential LD supporters who for whatever reason are not on board on this issue. My local party know that I do not support this and have been veryunderstanding – let’s make this the case nationally. John Pugh’s comments above seem well thought out.

      The latest yougov has LD supporters roughly 5:1 in favour (I think 79:17 with 4 DK), so that would be 9/10 MPs not supporting if weighted against the parliamentary party – pretty much in line with the numbers above.

    • Max Wilkinson 4th Feb '13 - 4:37pm

      So it’s possible that about a fifth of our MPs could vote against equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian people. That is disheartening, to say the least.

    • Richard Marbrow 4th Feb '13 - 4:53pm

      @ Helen Tadcastle You seem to be arguing for a separate but equal status for civil partnerships. that is not an equal civil right.

      Liberalism requires that not be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. Splitting people off to the conformity of one term for same sex marriage and one term for mixed gender marriages is therefore not Liberal. Your comment that supporters of Equal Marriage are Libertarians rather than Liberals is a little bit risible to be honest.

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 4:54pm

      Equal civil rights for all has never been a part of liberalism. Equal civil rights for equals has. It’s plain that partnerships between same-sex couples are different to partnerships between opposite sex couples. Why pretend otherwise?

    • Echoing Richard Marbrow here:

      As the Rosa Parkes story reminds us, “you can go to the same place but you have to ride at the back of the bus” is not a liberal position to take.

    • Kat Dadswell 4th Feb '13 - 4:58pm

      Agree with Fran, it should have been whipped frankly.
      Can selection contests ask that PPCs have attended a Basic “What is Liberalism?” training course?

    • The trouble with John Pugh’s argument, even from a narrow religious point of view, is that it is based entirely on the assertion that marriage has a single objective – “the bearing and rearing of children” and nothing else.

      I’m no expert on Catholic dogma, but what the Catechism says is that marriage is ordered to “the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring”.

      Traditional Anglican teaching spells this out in more detail in the Book of Common Prayer:
      “First, it was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
      Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication, that such persons as not have the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
      Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

      Obviously it’s no accident that Mr Pugh leaves out so much of the traditional account of why marriage was ordained. It’s because the parts he leaves out applies just as much to same-sex couples as to opposite-sex couples. If those parts are restored, then his argument that same-sex marriage “fails to achieve the objective set” collapses.

    • “Equal civil rights for all has never been a part of liberalism.”

      Is it panto season already?

    • “Richard, it’s clear that interracial partnerships have some differences from same-race relationships. Should they be legally and socially segregated as well?”

      Indeed. And there are “differences” between people of different races – skin colour, for example. Would anyone liberal commenting on racial equality say that he/she supported only “equal rights for equals” and that “people of other races are different. Why pretend otherwise?”

    • Julian Critchley 4th Feb '13 - 5:11pm

      Anyone who believes that the law should treat people differently based on their adult sexual preference is not a liberal. Simple as that. If this party stands for anything, it’s equality before the law.

      Really, these two MPs should be stripped of the whip and booted out of the party. If you want homophobia and bigotry, the Tories can cater quite nicely to your needs.

    • Alex Sabine 4th Feb '13 - 5:13pm

      @ Andrew Martin

      I’m not sure I agree about the difference in their responses. Gordon Birtwhistle’s is blunt and at least has the merit of clarity. John Pugh seems to me to be creating a cloud of obfuscation in order to justify his opposition as being consistent with liberalism. Thus, we are to understand that he opposes equal marriage BECAUSE he is a liberal, not in spite of it.

      I find the ‘slippery slope’ logic rather implausible – but, in any case, if he fears this will lead to an inevitable and ineluctable ‘mission creep’ by the state into regulating family life, then logically he should argue to remove the state from the whole business altogether. It cannot be a justification for maintaining a discriminatory law. If the state is to continue to regulate this area at all, it must do so on the basis of equal rights – period.

    • Liberal Neil 4th Feb '13 - 5:13pm

      @Richard “Equal civil rights for all has never been a part of liberalism.”

      Not sure where you’ve been reading up on liberalism but I think you’ll find you’re pretty well off the mark there!

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 5:15pm

      No, Jen. But you do need to read more than one sentence before coming to a conclusion!

    • Alex Sabine 4th Feb '13 - 5:16pm

      Sorry, there is no ‘h’ in Birtwistle is there…

    • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 5:19pm

      @ Richard Marbrow: ” You seem to be arguing for a separate but equal status for civil partnerships. that is not an equal civil right. ”
      Equality is not sameness of identity but equality of rights. In civil partnerships, gay couples are granted equal rights to married couples.

      “Liberalism requires that not be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. Splitting people off to the conformity of one term for same sex marriage and one term for mixed gender marriages is therefore not Liberal. ”

      You are right – not to be enslaved by conformity.

      In other words, diversity is a Liberal principle. Liberalism is about celebrating diversity – equal yet different. In my view civil partnerships and marriage law now gets that balance about right.

    • I do think one part of John Pugh’s “Summary” is quite a disturbing statement for a Lib Dem MP to make.

      Having said that one of the benefits cited for “[establishing] a set of rules for state supported sexual relationships that are blind to sexual orientation” would be “ending discrimination” – obviously discrimination based on sexual orientation, from the context – he goes on to counter that argument by saying “not all discrimination is unfair”.

      Is he really saying that he thinks it can be fair to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation?

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 5:25pm

      “Liberal” Neil. You will likely find that the literature shows that liberals start by identifying what is equal. Only when that has been decided will consideration be made about equal or unequal rights. Put another way, we don’t start by assuming everything is equal and complaining when reality kicks in and we find they’re not!

      In the case of marriage, the consistent approach is to start by deciding whether a same-sex union is equal to an opposite-sex one. Various views are possible. One is that they are different. Probably most people agree. On that view, the idea of equal rights for them both is no longer automatically applicable, in liberal philosophy.

      Of course there remains the possibility, within traditional liberal philosophy, to treat unequal things equally. I’m sure too that there are many precedents. Jon Pugh and others seem to be saying that it would not be appropriate to do so in this case. Let us listen to their arguments.

    • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 5:35pm

      @ Dave Page: ” At the moment it’s just the Government which forbids this from happening.”

      I think John Pugh has it right on that point:
      To quote:”… it is impossible for legislation to prevent distinctions being made between relationships that are actually different.”

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 5:44pm

      For example, Dave Page, we start by realising that different races have characteristics of humanity that are essentially identical. All colours of people and all cultures of people have more or less the same experiences, desires, emotions, intellectual skills, values, and so on. Once having arrived at this decision of equality, the principle of equal rights for equals then applies.

      Why did Martin Luther King succeed? Because he recognized that whites had the power in the US, and would only relinquish it by persuasion. They would certainly not do so through fear – because fear would only make them hold on tighter. The nonviolent approach, which was far more than just the famous marches, demonstrated in clear detail to white America that black americans were essentially the same as them, in all important respects. It was this recognition of equality that was a necessary precursor to allow a majority of white americans to accept equal rights for black americans.

      I suspect something similar happened here in the UK, perhaps through comedy, or through the obvious equality in performance and behaviour at work, or through the experiences of the second World War when many troops of non-white races demonstrated their equality in war contexts.

      So, as liberals, we do not start by assuming A equals B. We start with the question, is A equal to B? Our answer may then inform our approach to questions of rights.

    • Richard Wingfield 4th Feb '13 - 5:46pm

      I strongly hope that those “undecideds” have simply not been asked directly whether or not they support equal marriage and are in fact supporters. As for John Pugh and Gordon Birtwistle, I have to say that I am extremely disappointed and would hope that they abstain tomorrow rather than vote against this very, very liberal piece of legislation (which is also party policy). I am still optimistic that the legislation will see greater support (in percentage terms) from Lib Dem MPs than Labour or the Tories which will be some comfort. Nevertheless, the idea that a Lib Dem MP could vote against the Bill tomorrow is, I think, astonishing.

      Read the first sentence of our Constitution:

      The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

      To impose an arbitrary legal and social distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex couples (since sexual orientation is as arbitrary a distinction as race , religion or hair colour when it comes to the value of a relationship) is inherently unequal and unfair. It denies same-sex couples access to an institution solely on the basis that opposite-sex couples don’t want them to have such access.

      Imagine if someone suggested that because relationships between couples of different races were different to relationships between couples of the same race that that justified giving those relationships different names and statuses. It would be outrageous and slammed as deeply offensive. Those who support the status quo in relation to sexual orientation are making exactly the same argument (occasionally with a dose of “tradition” or religion thrown in) and I find it just as outrageous and offensive. Our party is a broad church, so to speak, but this is one issue where I really cannot understand how anyone could call themselves a liberal and oppose this Bill.

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 5:50pm

      And, Dave Page, liberals should certainly NOT run roughshod over the rights of a large section of the population in the way you suggest.

      The question of whether gays should be married does not concern only gays and clergy, it also concerns man-woman partnerships who are married or intend to be. If this bill is passed, “married” will no longer mean the same thing in societal terms. How do they feel about that?

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 5:52pm

      The first sentence of the constitution does not require us to pretend things are the same when they are not.

    • Richard Wingfield 4th Feb '13 - 6:03pm

      Following your logic, Richard, the test you must ask yourself is “Are gay and lesbian people the same as straight people in all important respects?”.

      If your answer is yes, then same-sex relationships should be treated equally to opposite-sex relationships.

      If your answer is no, then what is the important respect in which gay and lesbian people are different from straight people such that their relationships should be treated differently? It can’t be the ability to procreate because marriage isn’t just for couples who have children – the law allows couples who cannot, or choose not, to have children to marry. So what is the important respect that differentiates same-sex couples from opposite-sex couples?

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 6:04pm

      Yes, Dave, and so LibDems should refrain from forcing them into it!

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 6:05pm

      Gay and lesbian relationships are different from heterosexual relationships, aren’t they? Only heterosexual ones have the possibility of creating children.

    • Alex Sabine 4th Feb '13 - 6:27pm

      Richard

      Re your last point, that is literally true in the sense that being married will in future mean belonging to a larger (no longer artificially restricted) group within the population who have decided to ‘tie the knot’.

      But I’m baffled as to why that should be of the remotest practical ‘concern’ to married heterosexual couples; why would it diminish their commitment or even affect them in any practical way at all?

      It seems to me that the only real grounds to oppose this change are either conservative, ie the defence of custom and tradition (the fact that marriage has always been defined as between a man and a woman), or authoritarian, the desire to stop other adults doing what they want because you disapprove of them.

      Liberalism is first and foremost about freedom, and equal freedom for all individuals in society not a subset of them. I would be in favour of this change even if it did not have majority public support, but as the polling seems to indicate that it does, your concerns on that score seem overstated. I don’t believe there is a great mountain to climb to convince public opinion that this legislation is justified; despite the persistence of homophobia, I think British society at large has already realised that gay people have, as you put it in relation to race, ‘characteristics of humanity that are essentially identical’…

      Finally, as I’m so often accused in these parts of being beastly to conservatives (!), I should make clear that I don’t lightly dismiss the importance of custom and tradition, but nor do I believe it trumps equal civil rights. And I also acknowledge the powerful conservative arguments FOR equal marriage. See for example:
      http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2011/10/why-conservatives-should-welcome-gay-marriage/
      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/9732126/Same-sex-marriage-is-a-true-Tory-principle.html
      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/prominent-tory-disowns-religious-right-and-supports-gay-marriage-6579531.html
      http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/all-christians-should-support-gay.html?m=1

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 6:31pm

      Dave, are you being obtuse? Altering the status of same-sex relationships obviously implies alterations to the status of opposite-sex relationships, since the latter will no longer be considered as different to the former! There is a sense, that surely does not need to be explained, in which the term “married” belongs to those who are married. Those people have rights too, including the right to be named differently!

    • Kat Dadswell 4th Feb '13 - 6:35pm

      If you’re really going to start arguing that “the possibility of having children” is the basis of all marriages, then I suggest you really stick to your guns and start to back enforced divorce post-menopause and of course the banning of marriages where one or more partners are unable to have children.

      Also, I’m assuming marriages should be banned for anyone using contraception?

      What’s that you say?! That sounds absolutely abhorrent and ludicrous?!

      How right you are!

    • Simon Bamonte 4th Feb '13 - 6:46pm

      @Richard:

      I have been married to my wife for over 20 years. Sadly, we were never able to conceive. Does this, in your eyes, mean that my wife and I aren’t properly married? Plenty of straight people get married with no intention of ever having children, even if they can. I fail to see how allowing equal marriage diminishes or changes my life-long commitment to my wife. In fact, it does not affect my own marriage one bit! Allowing two men or women to make a life-long commitment to one another and call it “marriage” doesn’t make any difference to me and I fail to see how it makes any difference to other straight people, unless they hold precious notions that marriage is some special club only for procreation (or straight people). As a straight, married man I back equal marriage 100%. It is ENTIRELY consistent with liberal principles to do so.

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 6:50pm

      The Bill itself is available here, and looks like a complete mess: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2012-2013/0126/cbill_2012-20130126_en_2.htm#pt1-pb1-l1g1

      The House of Commons Briefing Paper for the Bill is available here: http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/RP13-8 . It states the following:

      “Civil partners have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples in many areas but some have argued that there are differences in the perception of the two institutions. For some time, arguments have been advanced that, based on perceived rights under human rights legislation, same sex couples should be able to marry. To date, neither the domestic court nor the European Court of Human Rights has upheld these arguments”

      It seems therefore, that the whole point of the Bill is to alter people’s perceptions. John Pugh is therefore clearly right, because a bill does nothing at all to alter people’s perceptions! But if it did, then it would also alter the perceptions we have of opposite-sex marriages – since these will no longer be regarded as different to same-sex ones. If perception is so important to same-sex couples, why do they deny that it can be important to opposite-sex couples?

      Essentially the domestic court and the European Court seem to have decided that the subject of this bill is not something that involves the rights of same-sex couples – they already have equal rights. As John Pugh argues, making a law doesn’t change people’s perceptions.

    • Liberal Neil 4th Feb '13 - 7:36pm

      Richard: “Gay and lesbian relationships are different from heterosexual relationships, aren’t they? ”

      Some probably are, but many homosexual relationships are different from each other, many share characteristics with heterosexual relationships and many heterosexual relationships are different from each other. I’ve had several heterosexual relationships and they were all very different from each other.

      “Only heterosexual ones have the possibility of creating children.”

      There are many gays and lesbians that have children. There are many heterosexuals that don’t.

    • Liberal Neil 4th Feb '13 - 7:38pm

      Richard: “Altering the status of same-sex relationships obviously implies alterations to the status of opposite-sex relationships”

      Not at all. Same-sex couples getting married will make no difference to the status of my marriage. I will still have the same legal rights and responsibilities and the same relationship with my wife and children. Someone else gaining a right does nothing to diminish my rights.

    • Liberal Neil 4th Feb '13 - 7:41pm

      @Richard: “For example, Dave Page, we start by realising that different races have characteristics of humanity that are essentially identical. All colours of people and all cultures of people have more or less the same experiences, desires, emotions, intellectual skills, values, and so on. Once having arrived at this decision of equality, the principle of equal rights for equals then applies.”

      On this logic you’d support equal marriage too, as human beings of different sexual orientations clearly also have more or less ‘the same experiences, desires, emotions, intellectual skills, values, and so on.’

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 7:43pm

      Why not read the bill and the briefing, Liberal Neil? They illuminate!

    • If this has been agreed and voted on by Conference and is official Lib Dem policy , why are these MPs allowed to vote against? Don’t the Lib Dem MPs believe in their own internal democracy?

    • Julian Critchley “Anyone who believes that the law should treat people differently based on their adult sexual preference is not a liberal. Simple as that. If this party stands for anything, it’s equality before the law.

      Really, these two MPs should be stripped of the whip and booted out of the party. If you want homophobia and bigotry, the Tories can cater quite nicely to your needs.”

      Well said! Luckily the majority of the population supports equal marriage.

    • Adrian Sanders

      Thank you for that welcome injection of rationality and common sense into this debate, and for de-bunking some of the myths, many of which have been repeated here ad nauseam over the last couple of days. .

    • @Adrian Sanders
      Well put Adrian. I would take issue with the statement that “a majority of Christians are opposed”. I find the opposite to be true or at least a fairly even split. But perhaps that is simply the complexity of the Church which is just not a single entity. As an Anglican I was disappointed with the CofE response to the consultation, which incidentally involved no wide consultation amongst its members.

    • This is pitiful – and at the end of an already dreadful day for the UK’s main party in the liberal tradition … please, can we put liberals into parliament in future?

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 8:41pm

      Why do we need a bill if “Gay couples already have Civil Partnerships that are legally the same.”? Will a bill affect “perception”? Does anyone at all alter their perception as a result of an act of parliament?

      There is no “clear majority”. The recent poll quoted elsewhere on LDV suggests that the population is split more or less evenly on the issue, and only 7% think of it as important.

    • Peter Hayes 4th Feb '13 - 8:46pm

      Is it not time we adopted the French model, a civil relationship (partnership) in front of a mayor or similar person. Followed by a religious blessing if your chosen religion accepts you and your partner.

    • @Helen Tadcastle:
      “In other words, diversity is a Liberal principle. Liberalism is about celebrating diversity – equal yet different. In my view civil partnerships and marriage law now gets that balance about right.”

      Your weakness her is to assume that the diversity we encourage should be legally constricted. Diversity should flow naturally, from the people’s free choices. Why would such diversity require legal restrictions?

    • @Peter Haynes:
      I agree actually. We should all have civil partnerships with marriage being a non-state activity. But I am presuming that many anti-same -sex marriage types would be against that as it would relegate the status of hetero-marriage. The recurring idea seems to be that the antis want to maintain the protected legal status of hetero-marriage at the expense of all else.

    • “[Myth that] The European Court of Human Rights will force religious organisations to conduct same-sex marriages.”

      There was an interesting discussion of the legal aspects by Adam Wagner last year:
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/jun/12/gay-marriage-church-england-argument

      At that time the government’s proposals would have prevented religious organisations from conducting a same-sex marriage, even if they wished to do so. Wagner expressed some support for the argument then made by the Church of England that the European Court might rule that if civil same-sex marriage was legalised, then churches should also be given the opportunity of conducting same-sex marriages if they wished. But he noted that the church was not arguing that a legal challenge would force churches to conduct same-sex marriages against their will, and commented “That really would be fanciful”.

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 9:22pm

      The bill is a waste of time, isn’t it? Something the LibDems once thought was useful and are now realising isn’t. The only good thing I can see is that the nonsense of it seems to have cured my insomnia! It seems that only Peter Hayes has made any kind of sensible remark – well, that’s progress!

      If all us man-woman married couples decided tomorrow that henceforth we would be called “oiks”, would same-sex couples complain on Wednesday that it was unfair that they could not call themselves oiks as well, and a breach of the principle of equal rights for all? Would LibDems then meekly follow their line on Thursday?

      Good night all :-)

    • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 9:31pm

      @ Adrian Sanders

      One thing which is quite significant in your otherwise very clear post, is the lack of due weight given to the views of the mainstream Churches – Cof E, RC, and the Orthodox Jewish and Islamic communities in your deliberations.

      These denominations represent the vast majority of members of faith groups in this country. The Quakers, Liberal Jews and Unitarians are regarded as unusual, heterodox and in the case of Liberal Jews, the United Synagogue doesn’t recognise them!

      It is baffling to me that the sincere, majority view of faith communities is sidelined in order to please these minority denominations.

      Considering people in favour of gay marriage are quick to jump on transient opinion polls to boost their position, it is all the most extraordinary the long-held, well understood views of the main religious organisations are dismissed.

      The safeguards for religious organisations aren’t worth the candle and will not be enough to protect Christians, orthodox Jews and others from intolerance – so much for liberalism celebrating diversity – it’s sameness and the basic family will just be a variation amongst many – which will give rise to the question of why can’t we have polygamy – after all ‘it’s my choice’ and has nothing to do with children or society?

    • Richard Snowdon 4th Feb '13 - 9:33pm

      @Adrian Sanders

      Wonderful post. Thank you for taking the time to post it and for your support of the bill tomorrow.

      @Richard Dean

      You’re taking one sentence out of context in the same thread where you ask someone else to “read more than one sentence before coming to a conclusion”. Read the entire post. It should be clear that “Gay couples already have Civil Partnerships that are legally the same” is the myth that Adrian is dispelling in that particular paragraph.

      @Peter Hayes
      That route makes the most sense to me. Have the state recognise relationships and confer whichever legal rights in such a way as to be blind to sexuality, let the various religions bless or not as they wish. Not sure why religion needs to play any greater role than that.

    • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 9:42pm

      @mpg: “Your weakness her is to assume that the diversity we encourage should be legally constricted. Diversity should flow naturally, from the people’s free choices. Why would such diversity require legal restrictions?”

      This is what I would describe as libertarian not Liberal – unconstrained choices, not matter what the wider consequences for society, the family, the effect on the status of heterosexual marriage – no longer regarded by law as the foundation of family life but a lifestyle choice between two people – with or without children.

      I’m not afraid of diversity as I’m a Liberal.

    • Richard Snowdon 4th Feb '13 - 9:46pm

      @Helen Tedcastle

      Imposing the views and beliefs of a mainstream onto an apparent minority doesn’t seem to be a liberal approach. The bill presented allows those faith organisations who wish to conduct same-sex marriages to do so, while allowing those that do not to opt out of recognising such unions religiously. That doesn’t look like sidelining to me.

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb ’13 – 8:41pm
      “Why do we need a bill if “Gay couples already have Civil Partnerships that are legally the same.”? Will a bill affect “perception”? Does anyone at all alter their perception as a result of an act of parliament?

      There is no “clear majority”. The recent poll quoted elsewhere on LDV suggests that the population is split more or less evenly on the issue, and only 7% think of it as important.”

      You must be tired as you have completely mis-read what has been written. For one thing it is the Tory party which split (near enough) on the issue – go back and re-read!! . The population polls show a clear majority and among Lib Dem supporters there is pretty well 80% in support and 20% against.

      And if only 7% think it is important, that rather shoots down the notion that there s strng opposition to Equal Marriage.

    • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 9:54pm

      @ Adrian Sanders: Gay couples already have Civil Partnerships that are legally the same. There are actually some small legal differences between civil partnerships and marriage. But for many people it is the differences in the perception of and responsibilities associated with these separate institutions. ”

      Exactly – this gives the lie to those on this thread and elsewhere on this forum who casually accuse those who don’t agree with them of ‘discrimination.’ Thank you for exploding that myth.

      Yes, status and perception is one the main reasons why some people want change but John Pugh MP is right – even if the law is changed there is no guarantee that it will succeed in changing perceptions and it’s arguable if it ever will.

      What it will do is lessen the status of heterosexual marriage (one variation amongst others) as there are bound to be new lobbies springing up for polygamy and other ‘non-standard’ relationships.

    • Helen Tadcastle

      “I’m not afraid of diversity as I’m a Liberal”

      Just what IS it that you are afraid of, Helen? You seem to have cited different reasons at different times – from wanting to keep the term ‘marriage’ for what you call the ‘original family unit’ to, now, polygamy. You say you are not perturbed by the fact that mum, dad and kids has now evolved in veryy large numbers to mum, dad, stepdad, step mum, kids, step kids, bald-siblings etc. so what is it about gay people that makes you think that society is particularly threatened by loving same-sex couples marrying each other and creating a stable family unit, more so than divorce and second families .

    • I continue to be puzzled by those Christians who refuse to allow equal marriage for others. Jesus, who they follow, lived in a time of many religious rules, but where they were at odds with a tolerant, loving approach he ignored them. Be it healing on the Sabbath, challenging those who wished to put a women to death, or breaking bread with those considered the lowest of the low, he did not allow rules to dilute his message of love and acceptance. He also never compelled anyone to follow his teaching who did not wish to.

      Therefore, whilst I believe that equal marriage is not at odds with the teachings of Jesus, even if it were He would not expect any to follow his teachings other than those who choose to. Either way don’t use personal faith to decide how anyone else should live. It’s this type of attempt to control where the church has let itself down over many centuries.

    • “the effect on the status of heterosexual marriage – no longer regarded by law as the foundation of family life but a lifestyle choice between two people – with or without children.”

      You have mentioned this point about children literally dozens of times now.

      So please let’s be clear about this. You do not regard a marriage between a man and a woman who are unable to have children as a real marriage. Right?

    • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 10:03pm

      @ Richard Snowdon: ” Imposing the views and beliefs of a mainstream onto an apparent minority doesn’t seem to be a liberal approach. ”

      This Bill is not imposing anything on minorities – it is the minorities wagging the mainstream majority dog! It don’t recall J.S Mill defining minority hegemony as a Liberal principle.

      “The bill presented allows those faith organisations who wish to conduct same-sex marriages to do so, while allowing those that do not to opt out of recognising such unions religiously. That doesn’t look like sidelining to me.”

      It’s strange then that if there are these ‘safeguards’ that religious organisations have absolutely no faith in the Government’s reassurances – Christians being forced out of registrar positions or teaching positions by politically zealous jobsworths?

      We know it will happen because it has happened already – a new subtle form of oppression will gather more strength from this, though I’m sure that was unforeseen by the proposers of the Bill.

    • ‘Bald-siblings’ should read ‘half-siblings’ . Blooming ipad autocorrect. No nreference to the follicularly challenged was intended ;)

    • Steve Way “Either way don’t use personal faith to decide how anyone else should live”

      Absolutely ! Thank you for that voice of reason!!

    • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 10:20pm

      @ Steve Way:”Either way don’t use personal faith to decide how anyone else should live. It’s this type of attempt to control where the church has let itself down over many centuries.”

      Who is using personal faith? Who is attempting to control? As far as I can see the Church is defending itself from intolerance and from being controlled!

      Jesus was tolerant and loving – of Christians and non-Christians, straight and gay. I can’t really see what point you are trying to make except that for you , Jesus’ teachings means unfettered freedom of choice no matter what the implications are for other people. I don’t think it’s oppressive of me to say I disagree with this interpretation.

    • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 10:31pm

      @ Chris:” So please let’s be clear about this. You do not regard a marriage between a man and a woman who are unable to have children as a real marriage. Right?”

      If I have gone on about this point dozens of times, I cannot see why you keep asking me about it, except that you think you have a point to make. I’ll say it for the last time – the union between a man and a woman is the foundation of family life – despite variations – the model remains for reasons I have pointed out – it’s the best place for biological children to be brought up and that unit deserves the support of society and deserves special status.

      When a man and woman get married, there is a greater likelihood of procreation than if a homosexual couple get married – that is a fact.
      It is accorded status because of this and this is the main difference. If the law is changed, the message will go out – lifestyle choices are more important than the foundation of the family.

      That is my view and whether you like it or not, many others hold it, including members of this Party. It’s not a question of discrimination but recognition that relationships are different but worthy of legal rights in their partnerships.

    • Alex Sabine 4th Feb '13 - 10:36pm

      Helen Tedcastle

      You keep asserting that this bill would diminish the ‘status’ of traditional heterosexual marriage. That is only true in the sense that it would widen the definition to include homosexuals declaring the same love and commitment.

      I am still at a loss to understand why this diminishes anybody else, or indeed dilutes (rather than strengthens) the institution of marriage. This reasoning only makes any sense if you see marriage as being like membership of an exclusive club whose very appeal rests on its exclusivity – I don’t know, like belonging to Mensa and finding that the IQ threshold is lowered or something… Yet surely the appeal of marriage rests on its very universality, not its exclusivity?

      At the same time you claim this bill is unnecessary because it changes nothing substantive, and is instead trying to change perceptions or attitudes, which you see as futile.

      Leaving aside the (relatively minor) legal differences from civil partnerships, if you feel this bill is futile then why is it so dangerous? How can you be so sure it won’t change perceptions in the sense of people coming to see same-sex marriages as being equally valid as heterosexual ones, yet be equally convinced that it will undermine the ‘status’ (which presumably implies the esteem/perception/standing etc) of traditional marriage?

      Either I am very tired or none of this makes any sense…

    • @Helen
      Nobody is making any Religous group conform, the legislation is specific. It is not the same thing as a civil registrar, they perform a civil function and can be compelled to do so irrespective of their views. Seeking to stop equal marriage on the grounds of religion is seeking to stop those who differ in viewpoint from equality under the law. It would be illiberal and intolerant if Churches were forced to marry same sex couples but this is not the case. It is a straw man.

    • Alex Sabine “Either I am very tired or none of this makes any sense”

      Ditto! I have been trying to make sense of it since yesterday morning and whilst I understand what objectors are saying, their arguments just don’t make sense. It’s just hugely perplexing.

    • I have married friends with no children and same-sex friends who have been together since they were both 16 (now we are all in our 40s) and together raising a very happy son now aged 14. I honestly cannot see why one couple can be ‘married’ and the other not, even though the same-sex couple is raising a young man who will go on to make a contribution to society and the economy.

    • Mark Inskip 4th Feb '13 - 10:51pm

      @ Alex Sabine “Either I am very tired or none of this makes any sense”
      Same here

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 10:53pm

      The problem for LibDems is in seeing that this whole affair has been a temptation that the Tory devils offered in exchange for the LibDem soul. With only 7% of the electorate thinking it’s important, it’s difficult to admit to having been fooled so completely.

      The problem for the Tories is that some of them didn’t realise it was all part of the coalition game, and may actually vote in favour. Well, sharpest pencils and all. DC will vote in favour, of course, since to do otherwise would give the game away.

      The problem for Labour is to contain the hysterical laughter. The coalition will be weakened whichever way the vote goes tomorrow.

    • Helen Tedcastle. “Who is using personal faith? Who is attempting to control”

      The Registrar who would’nt conduct civil relationships for same–sex couples, for one. That’s discrimination, pure as simple and was recognised as such.

    • “If I have gone on about this point dozens of times, I cannot see why you keep asking me about it, except that you think you have a point to make.”

      The reason I ask is that you keep raising the point over and over again, and when you are asked about heterosexual couples who cannot have children (nothing about being “unlikely” to have children – couples who simply cannot have children, for whatever reason), you refuse to give a straight answer, as you just have yet again.

      And yes, I am making a point. It’s that your argument about children – which you never state clearly, apart from making vague allusions to marriage being the “foundation of family life” – is completely bogus.

      If you were arguing that a marriage can only be a marriage if it involves children, then that would rule out heterosexual couples who cannot have children. Instead, you are quite happy for them to be married, but you want to exclude homosexual and lesbian couples who do have children. Clearly, your objection has nothing to do with the presence or absence of children – it’s purely based on the sexual orientation of the parties involved.

    • Richard Dean “With only 7% of the electorate thinking it’s important”

      It’s keeping you awake though ;)

    • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 11:00pm

      @ Alex Sabine:Leaving aside the (relatively minor) legal differences from civil partnerships, if you feel this bill is futile then why is it so dangerous ”

      ‘Dangerous’ is not a word I would choose to describe this Bill – religiously and ethically illiterate – is a better description from my point of view.

      I don’t think the Bill is futile. I think the legal rights situations was sorted out with civil partnerships and that is right. However, the Bill assumes that marriage is a lifestyle choice – I don’t I see it plays a crucial modelling role in society as I have explained in previous posts. The Bill redefines the term marriage – that is my objection.

      Adrian Sanders pointed out that status and perception is really at the heart of this debate. I agree with this to a large extent. The status of man/woman marriage is conferred because it is more likely that they will found their own family as well as unite the generations and they bequeath a future for society. The state has a stake in the success of this relationship because its success provides a sound basis for society. Just because this status is given to this union does not mean other relationships can’t enjoy legal rights or unions . Marriage is not just a lifestyle choice, in my view.

    • Helen Tedcastle 4th Feb '13 - 11:07pm

      @ Richard Dean: ” The problem for LibDems is in seeing that this whole affair has been a temptation that the Tory devils offered in exchange for the LibDem soul. With only 7% of the electorate thinking it’s important, it’s difficult to admit to having been fooled so completely.”

      You’re right. I wonder what we’ve had to sacrifice to the Tories to get this Bill through? It beggars belief. Look at the Economy, the wrecking of the Health Service and now Education …!

    • Richard Dean 4th Feb '13 - 11:09pm

      Phyllis. I had to take the dog for a walk, and forgot to turn the computer off! Now I’m awake and my wife is complaining as only she knows how! :-(

    • Richard Snowdon 4th Feb '13 - 11:15pm

      @ Helen Tedcastle

      “This Bill is not imposing anything on minorities – it is the minorities wagging the mainstream majority dog! It don’t recall J.S Mill defining minority hegemony as a Liberal principle.”

      No, it’s taking away the imposition of not being able to conduct religious marriage ceremonies even if every party involved was in favour barring the state. I admit, I haven’t read Mill for a while (currently revisiting Plato’s The Republic), but this seems to me to be more like the concept of negative liberty.

      I feel your accusation of minorities wagging the dog is harsh, given that even if the bill passes no further action would need to be taken by so-called mainstream churches. As far as I understand they could reiterate that same-sex marriage was not in line with the beliefs of their faith and continue to not offer that service.

    • I’m sure many Christians remain in teaching and registrar positions. It is surely arguable that it is only the politically zealous who have forced themselves out, by their refusal to treat people decently. Why should religious people be uniquely protected from compromising their beliefs? I strongly disagree with religion, yet I am forced to pay taxes to fund religious schools.

    • It s a strange set of affairs when Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove support Equal Marriage and so many Lib Dem MPs do not…. The world has turned upside down.

    • The problem I have with Richard Dean and others’ position is that despite all the irrelevant points about childbirth quite neatly defeated by Simon Bamonte’s comment, they haven’t managed to articulate exactly how and why the experience of being in love and in a committed relationship with someone else differs significantly with regards to that other person’s gender.

      I don’t accept that there is a significant experiential difference between those two states of being. For that reason I see no reason for creating or perpetuating artificial distinctions between things that are in every meaningful sense the same experience.

    • Liberal Neil 4th Feb '13 - 11:58pm

      @T-J – spot on.

      Nor have they been able to explain in what way allowing an additional group of people to get married diminishes in any way the status of those of us who already are.

    • Liberal Neil 5th Feb '13 - 12:01am

      @Chris “If you were arguing that a marriage can only be a marriage if it involves children, then that would rule out heterosexual couples who cannot have children. Instead, you are quite happy for them to be married, but you want to exclude homosexual and lesbian couples who do have children. Clearly, your objection has nothing to do with the presence or absence of children – it’s purely based on the sexual orientation of the parties involved.”

      Spot on.

    • Chris ” And yes, I am making a point. It’s that your argument about children – which you never state clearly, apart from making vague allusions to marriage being the “foundation of family life” – is completely bogus.”

      Absolutely! The idea that heterosexual couples are distinct from same-sex couples because they enter marriage with a commitment to creating and rearing children is just not true for most people in real life. My husband and I married each other because we wanted to spend our lives together, the idea of children came later. Many people in this day and age get married because they simply want a big wedding.

    • Iain Bainbridge 5th Feb '13 - 12:32am

      Marriage is the llfelong and voluntary union of one man and one woman and a few hundred politicians cannot change this. Marriage is defined by biology not by ideology. Opposing the redefinition of marriage is the right thing to do. Same sex couples can already obtain all of the “privileges” of marriage be entering into a civil partnership. Same sex marriage is an oxymoron just like vegetarian beefburgers!

    • Richard Dean 5th Feb '13 - 12:53am

      Your experience was predictable, Phyllis, in the sense that when men and women fall in lone and want to spend their lives together, they often end up later wanting children too. It is within the context of the predictability of such developing experience that the idea of the social role of marriage is based, as a process if renewing society.

      Look at it from the other way. Society needs a process by which it renews itself. The type of experience you describe is ideal for that purpose – encompassing both the creation of new individuals and their socialization through the love that you both bring – and so society welcomes it and supports this experience and rewards it in many ways. Liberal society allows for all sorts of relationships and experiences, but this particular one is special in this role of renewal.

      Laws and rules of society are pretty blunt instruments, and need to be based on very simple definitions if everyone is to understand them. A very simple definition that is consistent with this role of renewal is that marriage is between a man and a woman. Of course some marriages are childless, for various reasons, but simple blunt rules can’t really be that detailed. A simple rule – marriage is between a man and a woman – is about as complex as a rule needs to be.

      And none of this prevents a same-sex couple from participating in the process of renewal if they want to. Given that the House of Commons Briefing Note expects that the proposed bill will have no effect in terms of the rights of same-sex couples, or even have any significant effect on their lives, why alter the existing rule?

    • daft ha'p'orth 5th Feb '13 - 2:28am

      @Richard Dean
      “Your experience was predictable, Phyllis, in the sense that when men and women fall in lone and want to spend their lives together, they often end up later wanting children too.”
      And they often don’t. And that’s okay. As for the idea that the construction ‘marriage is between a man and a woman’ is ‘simple’, far from it. It’s only simple if one takes a simplified view of gender, which is all right for a slogan but really doesn’t work when it comes to societal fairness. Gender is a remarkably complex construction (a huge and commonplace pitfall is to see it as a simple category and defining feature, which is tremendously dangerous) and our preconceptions about it should be kept as far away from the operation of the law as possible to the extent possible.

      To me this thread summarises neatly as “Argh, homosexuality in the exceptionalist hetero treehouse! stand by to repel boarders!” I honestly can’t understand why anybody cares whether gay people can get married or not, let alone where this idea comes from that it will somehow devalue marriage ‘between a man and a woman’, as though that institution hasn’t been pretty thoroughly kicked through the mud already. It presupposes that marriage retains any value at present between these man+woman couples, which the statistics would suggest is ever less frequently the case.

    • Julian Critchley 5th Feb '13 - 8:00am

      Seriously, how can there possibly be LibDems who can’t accept the principle that all citizens should be equal before the law ? This is a binary issue – either gay men and women have exactly the same rights before the law as heterosexual men and women, or they don’t. If you believe that all adults should have the same rights, then you support the Bill. If you don’t, then what the hell are you doing in the LibDems ?!

      Or to apply another test : can any opponent of this Bill give any example, which doesn’t involve sexuality, in which two adult citizens should not have the same rights before the law ? Because if you can’t, then your opposition to this Bill is essentially based around the concept that some adults should have their rights restricted on the grounds of their sexual preference. In which case, take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror, and then go join a party for bigots.

    • “Marriage is the llfelong and voluntary union of one man and one woman and a few hundred politicians
      cannot change this.”

      Before I got to the last three words I was going to applaud you for lightening the tone of the discussion.

    • Liberal Neil 5th Feb '13 - 8:55am

      @Iain “Marriage is defined by biology not by ideology.”

      No it isn’t, it’s defined by the law, and by some religious institutions, and in a broader sense by society.

      And a few hundred elected politicians are exactly the right people to decide what the legal definition should be, as they have been on the many previous occasions the legal definition of marriage has been changed.

    • Richard Dean 5th Feb ’13 – 12:53am
      “Your experience was predictable, Phyllis, in the sense that when men and women fall in lone and want to spend their lives together, they often end up later wanting children too. ”

      My sister and her husband married at the same time, and did not have any children through choice. Both of us married in our late 20s, by which time my school friend had been with her same-sex partner for a decade. They both longed for children and have raised a very happy young man, now in his teens. Who are you to say that my sister and I are ‘married’ and ‘renewing ‘ society and that my friend and her partner are not. How would you justify this to their son?

    • paul barker 5th Feb '13 - 9:18am

      The meaning of marriage, like that of any other word is based on a consensus which shifts continually. Marriage now includes a trial period of living together first, an idea that would have seemed bizzare & immoral 4o years ago.
      Gay couples have actually been getting married, in their own eyes, for decades, this is just amatter of the Law catching up with social change.
      The opposition to Equal Marriage is based on prejudice & a general feeling that the world is changing too fast. Libdem MPs who vote against or abstain should be quietly pensioned-off, preferably by their own local parties.

    • Liberal Neil 5th Feb '13 - 9:30am

      @Helen “It is baffling to me that the sincere, majority view of faith communities is sidelined in order to please these minority denominations.”

      So on the one hand you think the majority in the country should ‘sideline’ their views in order to please the minority who are active in mainstream religions, but on the other you don’t think the majority of those in faith communities should ‘sideline’ their views in order to please the minority of those in the faith communities.

      Your arguments really are full of self-contradiction.

    • Traditionally, of course, marriage was a joining up of two families for land and/or power. It still is in many cultures. However we have happily evolved away from that definition.

    • Helen Tedcastle 5th Feb '13 - 9:54am

      @ Julian Critchley: ” In which case, take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror, and then go join a party for bigots.”

      Julian, I agree with you in many areas, especially Education but this comment is unhelpful and doesn’t add anything to the debate.

    • @Iain Bainbridge
      “Marriage is the llfelong and voluntary union of one man and one woman and a few hundred politicians cannot change this. Marriage is defined by biology not by ideology. ”

      “Lifelong” – I take you wish to make divorce illegal ??
      “Voluntary” – It was probably a few hundred politicians who ensured that it is voluntary and despite this we still have problems in the UK with forced marriage.
      “biology not ideology” – Your most ridiculous point. The biology of sex, attraction and sexual relationships has nothing to do with marriage and certainly nothing to do with faithful marriage. In fact it can easily be argued that for a successful lifelong monogamous marriage both parties will need, at various points, to deny biological needs and wants and focus on the less tangible, and certainly unscientific , commitment they have made to each other. Ideology has everything to do with marriage. I, like many others on here I suspect, have numerous friends who have a lifelong committed partnership with no intention of being married. The biology is there but some are simply ideologically opposed to marriage.

    • I think I prefer Birtwistle’s blunt honesty to Pugh’s woolly and unconvincing excuses, which seem to boil down to curbing the religious freedoms of some religious groups to offer same-sex marriages NOW to protect against his religion being potentially forced to maybe hold polygamous weddings sometime in the future perhaps.

      I do not like “slippery slope” arguments. There is a middle ground. The other people I hear making these kind of noises are the religious right in the USA – “why not marry the family dog”?

      I understand that some religious groups do not wish to marry same-sex couples, or indeed, allow homosexual acts. But most polls show that most people in the UK support same-sex marriage, and ALL polls show that the support is growing, and is overwhelming among under-35s.

    • Helen Tedcastle 5th Feb '13 - 11:22am

      @ Andy Hinton: ” Today my parents received a reply letter from their MP Daniel Kawczynski (Con, Shrewsbury & Atcham), setting out beautifully the reasons why his Christian beliefs have led him to the conclusion that he should support the Bill. ”

      I received an email from Daniel Kawczynski, my local MP just yesterday and in he gave no clue as to how he would vote! He is going to ‘weigh up the arguments on both sides etc…! All things to all people, clearly!

      “It’s not often I have reason to think well of Daniel, but today, for once, I feel like he is genuinely representing the values of the town I grew up in, rather than pandering to a few raging dinosaurs.”

      Firstly, he doesn’t represent my views on this issue but then again, he never has. This MP is passionately Euro-sceptic and has ‘interesting friends’ in the right-wings of the Serbian and Polish political system – I’ll leave it there.

      ” raging dinosaurs” – not a very liberal or tolerant comment .

      I thought the party was better than this, especially as the Liberal Party (particularly) was reliant in its history on the courageous and tireless work of Christians from the Methodist and other non-conformist traditions – with a notable Catholic (and Anglican input) especially after Catholic emancipation in 1850 – who have bequeathed to us the party we have today. We write these people off as ‘dinosaurs’ at a cost to the Party and to Liberal history.

    • “There are those of you who are of the view that marriage is about procreation.”

      If anyone does hold the view that only couples capable of procreating should be married, then that’s fair enough. Provided, of course, that they are consistent in applying that criterion to all couples – heterosexual as well as homosexual.

      But if someone continually says that same-sex couples shouldn’t be married because marriage is “about procreation”, but is quite happy to see opposite-sex couples married when they are incapable of procreation, then I think they must expect the honesty of the their argument to be challenged very robustly.

    • Helen

      This is from a press release of today’s date on Daniel Kawczynski’s website:
      “My convictions as a god-fearing man, and as an individual that believes in a progressive society and equality for all have led me to decide that I will vote in favour of the Same Sex Marriage bill next week.”
      http://www.daniel4shrewsbury.co.uk/news/same-sex-marriage-bill-%E2%80%93-open-letter

    • Old Codger Chris 5th Feb '13 - 11:43am

      I’m amazed that some Liberals think the vote should be whipped . We know that party discipline is necessary to enable governments to achieve anything but there are many issues which should not be party matters and this is one of them.

      It’s more than a hundred years since the first performance of HMS Pinafore which contains the lines “I always voted at my party’s call – and I never thought of thinking for myself at all”.

    • I’m relieved no-one has brought up ‘consummation of marriage’ – at least we have not sunk to that level on LDV !

    • Pugh’s refers to Civil Partnership in his justification. It is worth looking at his voting record.

      Local Government Bill — Repeal of prohibition on promotion of homosexuality (Section 28) absent Majority (strong)
      Commons 12 Oct 2004 Civil Partnership Bill [Lords] absent Majority (strong)
      Commons 9 Nov 2004 Categories of civil partners other than same sex couples absent Majority
      Commons 9 Nov 2004 Civil Partnerships Bill [Lords] — Third Reading absent Majority
      House Date Subject John Pugh Policy vote
      Commons 19 Mar 2007 Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations absent Majority (strong)

    • Julian Critchley 5th Feb '13 - 12:31pm

      “Whilst you have the right to debate, you have an obligation to respect the right of others to hold opinions different to your own, no matter how much you don’t like them.

      It would be nice if some of you gave that some thought, and I particularly mean you, Julian. Calling your opponents ‘bigots’ doesn’t seem likely to change their minds, and hardly represents courtesy as outlined by our comments policy.”

      Hi Mark

      A couple of things.

      1. You rightly argue that we should all respect the right of other people to hold opinions we disagree with. I don’t believe it should be illegal to be homophobic or bigoted, so long as you do not cause harm to others. However, that is a long way from respecting the opinions of others. The fact is that I no more respect the opnion that gay people should be treated differently by the law than I would respect the view that black people should be treated differently under the law. I have no problem with being disprespectful towards people’s views, and I also have no problem being disprespectful towards people who hold views I consider to be abhorrent. Even if I would then apply Voltaire’s rule that they should not be persecuted for holding those views. That, it seems to me, is the very essence of liberalism. You will, however, note that I have not directed the term bigot at any individual on this thread. However, I retain the right to use the term “bigot” to refer to that group of people who believe that the law should reflect their prejudices about the relative value of different groups in society – which is what opponents of this Bill are demanding. That is, it seems to me, the very definition of the word bigot !

      2. While there are some issues around which polite argument can take place, this is a line in the sand. To me, it is appalling that we might be expected to be polite to people who are essentially adopting a position that their prejudice about the relative value of different individuals should be imposed on the rest of society. In a logical, liberal sense, there is absolutely no difference between treating people differently according to their sexual preference and treating people differently according to their colour. Both are characteristics which should have absolutely no role to play in a legal system which is equally applied to all citizens. Can you imagine how “polite” the debate would be if there were people here arguing that blacks and whites sould not be allowed to intermarry, or that the law should not grant the same marriage rights to indian couples as white couples ? There would be furore and contempt – and rightly so. In cases like this, being polite is effectively being complicit in providing social acceptance for irrational prejudice. There is, and can never be, for a Liberal, a justification for denying equal rights under the law to people based on their ethnicity, gender or sexuality.

      It strikes me that we need rather less politeness and rather more holding of the mirror up to the ugly face of prejudice and bigotry. We didn’t confront racism by gently being polite to people who argued that black people were inferior. We told them they were wrong, and if they surfaced again, we’d let them know exactly what we thought of them and their views. So I cannot for the life of me see why a prejudice about sexuality should be treated with kid gloves, where a prejudice about skin colour would be rightfully shouted down as bigotry.

    • Bravo Julian Critchley!! Well said!! If only there were Lib Dems in government with the same courage, we would see a surge in support!

    • David Evans 5th Feb '13 - 12:53pm

      @ Paul Barker
      ” Libdem MPs who vote against or abstain should be quietly pensioned-off, preferably by their own local parties.”

      There’s another bunch of lost seats next time, then.

      It’s good to see your support for the party as a whole is so steadfast.

    • @ Paul Barker
      ” Libdem MPs who vote against or abstain should be quietly pensioned-off, preferably by their own local parties.”

      Even if it is the President of the Lib Dems?

    • Simon Banks 5th Feb '13 - 1:15pm

      I don’t understand the argument that the state does not have the right to redefine marriage or that the Bill would draw the state into matters it should stay out of. Who defined marriage in the first place? It existed long before Christianity and as a Christian I see no justifiucation for a Christian claim to be able to define marriage for people who are not Christian. As for the state being better out of the matter – it’s already in because the state defines what’s acceptable for marriage before a registrar and I see no alternative to this. What the Bill does not do is to define FOR RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS what marriage means to them, which would indeed be illiberal. Anglicans and Catholics can continue to define marriage to exclude gay marriage, as is their right.

    • Lease vote against the gay marriage act, it’s wrong !

    • Marriage is the best way to raise children. My mother and father were married for 16 years; just before I turned 11, they finally and thankfully devoiced. My mother met a new partner whom she did not marry, but who was a great ‘father figure’ for me.

      My remarried a new partner, unfortuately the person he married did not like my sister and led to my sister and father never speaking to one another again. She was merely 17 at the time; how is the conducive to her development?

      Marriage and being a good parent have no correlation. It is about the people themselves and how they foster their family.

    • @Dave Page – thanks for your reply and sorry to only come back after 100 posts. Your first paragraph is helpful – however in such a polarised debate agreeing on a definition of “fundamentally reasonable” is optimistic! Sexual orientation and religion are both protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 and although there are institutional safeguards (on balance I’m inclined to agree these are robust) the safeguards for individuals just aren’t there, the impact on teachers who refuse to promote gay marriage is the much quoted case. My judgement is that the restrictions – and discrimination – on those who believe marriage should be between a man and a woman are not significantly outweighed by the benefits of the change, and I don’t believe they should be seen as inferior, as many in the party do.

      I must say though that I don’t believe this has any bearing on the quality of relationships. There are too many soul-less, stale marriages, and gay partnerships providing great companionship, intimacy and fulfillment – it’s the individuals who give meaning and satisfaction to the relationship and I’m not convinced that changing labels will have any impact on quality of relationship.

      I don’t find your second paragraph helpful: ” And that’s not the kind of “liberalism” whose support I’m that keen to keep” although others have posted far worse later on. Two thoughts here: firstly members have joined the party for many different reasons, Those who sign up as they are passionate to make a difference in certain areas do not automatically take a philosophy which defines them in all other issues. If we start saying that people aren’t welcome in the party if they don’t toe the line on specific issues, we will sooner or later all be in a party on our own.

      Secondly, if we say we don’t want the support of dissenters here, it won’t be long before it’s the issue you feel strongly about that comes under the spotlight. The Lib Dems have a proud tradition of standing up for minorities – you never know when you will find yourself in one within the party and that is when our values sre tested. Adrian Sanders’ comments above hit the tone exactly.

      Finally look at the big picture – tonight there will be an overwhelming vote in support, and the Tories will be pulverised with internal agony as they split down the middle. And for most of our party it will be all the sweeter that it was achieved on a free vote across all the parties rather than being forced through by whips. So this is a time to savour what has been achieved, rather than condemning (you have not done this, but others have on the thread) members with concerns.

      Best wishes

    • The greatest intolerance I find is against those who disagree with this as if they have no right to their own belief. MPs being threatened is one example.

    • Matthew Huntbach 5th Feb '13 - 2:16pm

      Simon Banks

      I don’t understand the argument that the state does not have the right to redefine marriage or that the Bill would draw the state into matters it should stay out of. Who defined marriage in the first place? It existed long before Christianity

      Which is actually the Catholic Christian argument against gay marriage – that the state does not have the right to change by decree something that seems to be universal to humans.

      To me it comes down to this – why should we think a relationship which is acknowledged between a gay couple is any less in worth than one between a man and a woman? The supporters of gay marriage are saying it is. They are saying that the relationship of two gay people will only be considered of equal worth if they pretend to be heterosexual by insisting on labelling their relationship with a term which is inherently heterosexual.

    • Sorry but I can’t help quoting this from #equalmarriage

      @Run4demHills: #equalmarriage is very dangerous as it may lead to a tolerant church with women bishops & God only knows what next.

    • To be honest I’m bitterly dissapointed in some of the attitudes shown by lib dem mps and members. How can you call yourselves liberals? It’s a sad state of affairs when even the so called liberal party contains those opposed to the most liberal of ideas. Shame on you.

    • And this :

      @PeteOfTheNorth: Roger Gale MP. Three wives, three children. Two divorces. This man knows marriage. #sigh #equalmarriage

    • @Anne, I can assure you that is wrong. There has been many a questionable thing said by both sides.

    • Anne 5th Feb ’13 – 1:30pm
      The greatest intolerance I find is against those who disagree with this as if they have no right to their own belief. MPs being threatened is one example.

      Really, Anne? That is the greatest intolerance you find? You haven’t heard of gay people being vilified, beaten and even killed just for being gay then? Let’s have some perspective here.

    • Liberal Neil 5th Feb '13 - 3:03pm

      Roger Gale MP takes the biscuit. Hasn’t he worked out that he could only remarry twice because Parliament previously redefined marriage?

    • “Which is actually the Catholic Christian argument against gay marriage – that the state does not have the right to change by decree something that seems to be universal to humans.”

      But this idea of lifelong marriage between a man and a woman as a “universal” human institution is simply nonsense. Look at the prevalence of polygamy in the Old Testament. The same for Islam – and of course polygamy is still permitted in most of the Muslim world. Logically, by your argument polygamy should be permitted today in the UK, as it was around before both the church and the state, and neither has the right to alter the institution of marriage. On the contrary, the only reason monogamy is the norm in the Judaeo-Christian tradition is that marriage evolved.

      As for the “lifelong” bit, historically that has been anything but a universal characteristic of marriage. Look at the ancient Romans, for example. In this country, obviously it went by the board in the 20th century after Parliament liberalised the divorce laws. You can maintain that Parliament didn’t have a legal right to do that if you like, but I don’t think many people will take you seriously. Anyhow, the truth is that that was the really important practical change in the nature of marriage in modern Britain, and if the legalisation of same-sex marriage has any discernible effect on opposite-sex couples (which I very much doubt) it will be minuscule by comparison with the effect of those reforms in the divorce laws.

    • If equal marriage can be so fiercely resisted by many, even some in our own party, whither republicanism? Or drug liberalisation? On current trajectory they’re about two thousand years away.

    • “They are saying that the relationship of two gay people will only be considered of equal worth if they pretend to be heterosexual by insisting on labelling their relationship with a term which is inherently heterosexual.”

      That is a really bizarre way of looking at things. This business about marriage being “inherently heterosexual” is only your opinion, for which you’re unable to show us any objective evidence. If there’s one thing that’s crystal clear, it’s that same-sex couples who wish to get married don’t share that opinion – or they wouldn’t wish to get married! And of course the majority of the population don’t share that opinion either, on the evidence of the opinion polls.

      The sheer strangeness and illogicality of the arguments produced by opponents of same-sex marriage are very revealing, I think.

    • Matthew, if you take the single institution of marriage, and artificially divide it depending on whether the marriage is between people of the opposite sex or of the same sex (and why is that an obvious, necessary, or natural division? We might as well divide marriages into “marriages between blonds and brunets” and “same-colored partnerships”) — and then you call the first type of marriage “marriage”, and the second type of marriage “civil partnership”, you’re clearly inviting people to believe that the first type is a real, valid, first-class marriage, and the second an unreal, fake, second-class non-marriage. The only way to avoid the two being treated differently, socially or legally, is to remove the artificial distinction.

    • Matthew Huntbach “the relationship of two gay people will only be considered of equal worth if they pretend to be heterosexual by insisting on labelling their relationship with a term which is inherently heterosexual.”

      I don’t agree that same-sex couples want to ‘pretend to be heterosexual’. It’s about recognising the commitment between two loving people as having the same value regardless of sexuality.

      If it means so much to people in same-sex relationships that their love and commitment be recognised in marriage and does you no harm, then what’s your objection? You won’t be any less married to your good wife.

    • “Roger Gale MP takes the biscuit. Hasn’t he worked out that he could only remarry twice because Parliament previously redefined marriage?”

      Apparently not. He reportedly said in the Commons that this measure is ‘Orwellian’ because it changes the meaning of marriage. Given Gale’s own marital history, I suspect Orwell would have described him as a doubleplusgood duckspeaker.

    • Ben Jephcott 5th Feb '13 - 5:46pm

      I’ve thought about this issue deeply for a some time, having always regarded myself as a supporter of LGBT equality and diversity. Equality of legal rights and parity of esteem for gay couples is essential – so I would support further changes to civil partnerships to address remaining problems as far as possible – but I am afraid I have reservations similar to John Pugh about the effect this proposal will have to change and alter the generally accepted and particular meaning of the term marriage vis-a-vis the care of children.

      I think gay couples make excellent parents but the nature of the way they become parents is inevitably different . Therefore any linkage between marriage and children will have to alter and become more diffuse, if marriage is to encompass same sex as well as mixed sex couples with no distinction at all.

      I do not think the safeguards referred to by Adrian Sanders will carry any weight with Roman Catholics and most Anglicans or any of the other religious denominations who are opposed, for reasons which are entirely consistent with their faith and with the most fundamental acceptance of what marriage means.

      I hope any of our MPs who share these reservations will not vote for it, and I regret the way this issue is being pushed as a touchstone issue of liberalism.

      I think we need to revisit the role of the Established Church in England and look again civil partnerships to improve and enhance their standing, but I am afraid I can’t support this Bill.

      Ben Jephcott

    • Sorry but I can’t resist:

      @jamesrbuk: “This nation – and House – has a long tradition of closeted gay men marrying cat-loving female friends. These marriages are under threat!”

    • “Therefore any linkage between marriage and children will have to alter and become more diffuse, if marriage is to encompass same sex as well as mixed sex couples with no distinction at all.”

      The thing that I find frustrating about statements like this is that it’s never really explained what people are suggesting would be the consequences of the “linkage” altering and becoming diffuse (or whatever). I wish I could understand what sort of harmful effects people are thinking of.

      The only thing I can think of is that a heterosexual couple intending to have children – and considering marriage because they thought that would be beneficial if they were going to have children – might be put off because the legalisation of same-sex marriage resulted in a smaller percentage of “marriages with children” and therefore somehow weakened the association in their minds between marriage and children (though we’d have to suppose they weren’t put off by the existence of heterosexual married couples without children).

      I have to say that such a scenario seems completely implausible to me. How do the benefits of a particular couple marrying depend at all on what percentage of other married couples have children? In fact, even if 99% of married couples didn’t have children – for whatever reason – I can’t see how that would change by one iota the benefits derived by the children in a particular family from their parents being married.

      Can anyone explain?

    • “I think gay couples make excellent parents but the nature of the way they become parents is inevitably different .”

      Gosh – I seem to have missed a key bit of my Biology classes!

    • The issue here is that the four countries of Britain have established Churches, which represent a direct vested interest in the UK legislature.

      Traditionally speaking, marriage has three different and conflicting purposes: procreation and child-rearing, mutual help and support of spouses, and a certain civil standing based upon the public commitments made in the ceremony.

      Over time these have developed into definitions which segregate society, for example leading to tax breaks or additional welfare support for parents, and these tangible benefits are violently defended as a right – so attempts to equalise rights perversely equates to an attack on those rights.

      The fact that so many of the public get their knickers in a twist about ‘gay marriage’ is nothing to with a supposed conflict between religious liberty and civic equality, rather the existence of an established church is the cause of conflict as the defender of financial and spiritual segregation.

      Personally I’m very glad that moral arguments are used in Parliament (despite the questionable morals of some who use them), however a degree of institutional separation would afford much greater social cohesion and sense of fairness in the national community.

      I would welcome greater public statements of commitment by all forms of partnerships, and one way gay couples could demonstrate this would be by filling the social need for more adoptive and foster parents.

      Marriage equality can’t only be about individual choice in the area of sexual relationships, it must also be about social responsibility.

    • Keith Browning 5th Feb '13 - 7:15pm

      Why does this topic get so much airtime – when far important things in life rarely get a comment or a mention. Has the Lib Dems become a party of vested interests. I care nothing either way on the subject, yet so many on here seem so passionate about it – very strange.

    • Foregone Conclusion 5th Feb '13 - 7:50pm

      @Orangepan – only two established churches (England and Scotland); Gladstone and Lloyd George’s governments respectively disestablished the Church of Ireland and the Church of Wales.

    • @ Keith Browning Why does this topic get so much airtime – when far important things in life rarely get a comment or a mention.

      Indeed. Count the number of entries on the ludicrous military adventure in Mali on this site and the LibDem blogosphere, to take but one example.

    • @Keith Browning

      >Why does this topic get so much airtime
      So that there is less time to debate the really important stuff…

      Remember it was a trick New Labour used extensively, for example debating fox hunting for weeks on end but only allowing very limited debate on the substantive (and negative) changes to pensions they were making due to the parliamentary timetable being full…

    • Alex Sabine 6th Feb '13 - 12:39am

      @ Chris
      Given Gale’s own marital history, I suspect Orwell would have described him as a doubleplusgood duckspeaker.

      Indeed! As the campaigning lawyer Elizabeth Birch said when arguing with the thrice-married conservative representative Bob Barr in 1990, ‘Which marriage is it you are defending? Your first, your second or your third?’

    • @Foregone Conclusion,
      thanks, an obvious oversight.

      Hopefully we can agree on the problem of such an unhealthy accumulation of power and influence, and that the harmful effects sadly won’t be resolved quite as easily as a popular legal reform.

      @james
      topics like this get so much airtime because they are a lightning post for opinion.

      And such symptomatic opinion is the only means of pattern identification for root causes of social problems in a competitive marketplace of ideas and ideology.

    • Matthew Huntbach 6th Feb '13 - 11:08pm

      Chris

      That is a really bizarre way of looking at things. This business about marriage being “inherently heterosexual” is only your opinion, for which you’re unable to show us any objective evidence

      Sorry, you can’t say “It has existed for thousands of years, it’s in all societies, it’s not just an invention of the Catholic Church” and then say “It’s just your opinion that it’s inherently heterosexual”. I note that its previous existence has been almost exclusively heterosexual. If you raise, as has been raised, arguments that some societies somewhere had a formal recognition of gay relationships, that;s not the issue – the issue is whether it was recognised as exactly equivalent to marriage.

      I do know my social anthropology and know that historically marriage mostly HASN’T been about “two people who weally weally love each other”, that in fact it has primarily been seen as a mechanism for generating kinship in which the production of children is central. I am being asked to deny this simply because it is politically correct to do so, and damaging to my reputation amongst liberals if I state what I know to be the truth.

    • Matthew Huntbach 6th Feb '13 - 11:22pm

      David

      We might as well divide marriages into “marriages between blonds and brunets” and “same-colored partnerships”)

      Are you saying the difference between a man and a woman is as superficial as that between a blond and a brunet? Or that the difference between two people of different race is profound as that between a man and a woman? I think not. One may wish to say this if blonds and brunets or black and white people were so different in makeup that it was impossible for one to make the other pregnant. The fact that a couple of different race have no more difficulty conceiving than a couple of the same race is actually quite a good argument for saying that racism is silly because the differences are clearly very superficial.

      then you call the first type of marriage “marriage”, and the second type of marriage “civil partnership”, you’re clearly inviting people to believe that the first type is a real, valid, first-class marriage, and the second an unreal, fake, second-class non-marriage.

      You said that, not me. I said nothing which suggested I believe a man-man relationship or a woman-woman relationship is less worthy, than a man-woman relationship, is some sot of fake second class version of it. My argument indeed centres round the notion that if we truly believed in equality we should have no problem accepting that. If, however, we hold that a man-man relationship or a woman-woman relationship is somehow second class unless we give it a name which historically and socially has meant a woman-man relationship, then it seems to me we ARE saying that gay people must fake heterosexuality to be accepted as equal.

    • Matthew Huntbach 6th Feb '13 - 11:34pm

      Chris

      I have to say that such a scenario seems completely implausible to me. How do the benefits of a particular couple marrying depend at all on what percentage of other married couples have children? In fact, even if 99% of married couples didn’t have children – for whatever reason – I can’t see how that would change by one iota the benefits derived by the children in a particular family from their parents being married.

      Can anyone explain?

      It would seem to me to be very obvious. If we define marriage as being PURELY about “two people who love each other”, and insist that’s all it is, then the fact that two people who loved each other once but decided they didn’t any more had produced children would be regarded as neither here no there, they split up never mind the children. However, if marriage is accepted not just as a contract to mutually support each other, but also a contract to mutually support any children produced from it, then we need to consider that contract continues beyond the romantic love stage and in fact requires mutual support of those children even if the love element has gone.

      The arguments for gay marriage have almost always centred on the idea “it’s about two people who love each other, why should they be denied it if they are gay?”. I’m sorry, it was hearing that argument being made, in fact Mr Nick Clegg making it, that convinced me that actually the Catholic bishops had a point – that the gay marriage argument WAS part of a weakening of what was once and historically and still is in most societies the definition of marriage, a social contract which is NOT just about two people who really really love each other.

    • Matthew “two people who loved each other once but decided they didn’t any more had produced children would be regarded as neither here no there, they split up never mind the children”

      This happens all the time, most topically with the former Member for Eastleigh.

    • Matthew “a social contract which is NOT just about two people who really really love each other.”

      If you walk n to any wedding and ask the bride and groom why they are getting married, they will say ‘because we love each other’ . Youngsters growing up dreaming of finding the right person, getting married and settling down and this doesn’t change because their Mr or Miss Right happens to turn out to be the same gender as them.

    • Matthew “However, if marriage is accepted not just as a contract to mutually support each other, but also a contract to mutually support any children produced from it, then we need to consider that contract continues beyond the romantic love stage and in fact requires mutual support of those children even if the love element has gone.”

      Again, I point you in the direction of the former Member for Eastleigh. That is a pretty common situation in my experience.

    • Matthew ” I’m sorry, it was hearing that argument being made, in fact Mr Nick Clegg making it,”

      Come now, aren’t you letting your dislike of the man cloud your judgement just a tiny bit?

    • Matthew

      “It would seem to me to be very obvious. …”

      Maybe, but that appears to be a consequence of your not having read properly the question I asked. Kindly look at it again. The scenario I was talking about concerned “a heterosexual couple intending to have children” being put off from marrying in the first place.

      Obviously, you’re discussing something quite different from that – you’re suggesting that more couples who have married and then had children will divorce when they “fall out of love”.

      The problem is that – as Phyllis has already pointed out – this already happens all the time. 42% of marriages already end in divorce. In the light of that figure, isn’t it ridiculous to suppose that “marriage is accepted not just as a contract to mutually support each other, but also a contract to mutually support any children produced from it”, as you seem to believe? As so often, this is an argument grounded in sheer wishful thinking.

    • I’m beginning to think that it’s some of the opponents of marriage equality who are trying to “redefine marriage” — at least, their definitions and philosophies about marriage bear not the slightest relationship to what I’ve always viewed marriage as.

    • “Sorry, you can’t say “It has existed for thousands of years, it’s in all societies, it’s not just an invention of the Catholic Church” and then say “It’s just your opinion that it’s inherently heterosexual”.”

      My previous response to this has been deleted, so I will simply point out that the statement in quotation marks which Matthew appears to be attributing to me was not in fact written by me and does not in the least reflect what I did write.

      On the contrary, what I actually wrote was: “this idea of lifelong marriage between a man and a woman as a “universal” human institution is simply nonsense”.

    • Matthew Huntbach 9th Feb '13 - 12:24am

      Chris

      My previous response to this has been deleted, so I will simply point out that the statement in quotation marks which Matthew appears to be attributing to me was not in fact written by me and does not in the least reflect what I did write.

      It was a general “you” rather than addressed personally to you as an individual. Replace “you” by “one”, if you like.

      On the contrary, what I actually wrote was: “this idea of lifelong marriage between a man and a woman as a “universal” human institution is simply nonsense”.

      It is how it has been commonly understood across the centuries, and is in most cultures. I was replying to someone who was saying that in order to make the point “it isn’t just what the Church defines it as”, which actually missed the fact that the Catholic argument IS that it is a universal thing, not “because the Bible says so” (that’s a Prot argumen).

    • Matthew Huntbach 9th Feb '13 - 12:29am

      Chris

      The problem is that – as Phyllis has already pointed out – this already happens all the time. 42% of marriages already end in divorce. In the light of that figure, isn’t it ridiculous to suppose that “marriage is accepted not just as a contract to mutually support each other, but also a contract to mutually support any children produced from it”, as you seem to believe? As so often, this is an argument grounded in sheer wishful thinking.

      If I didn’t have a little wishful thinking in my life, I wouldn’t be a Liberal, would I?

      Now, you and Phyllis are pointing out that the damage has already been done. I think, quoting the case Phyllis quoted, we can see the sheer hurt caused by that. Yes, I may hold to values which other people have thrown away here. And so? Why must I conform? I’m a Liberal, I’m meant to be opposed to enslavement by conformity.

    • Matthew Huntbach 9th Feb '13 - 1:08am

      Phyllis

      Matthew ” I’m sorry, it was hearing that argument being made, in fact Mr Nick Clegg making it,”

      Come now, aren’t you letting your dislike of the man cloud your judgement just a tiny bit?

      No, I can assure you, I happened to have heard the arguments against gay marriage put by the Catholic bishops at more or less the same time as I heard Nick Clegg defend it. That really made me think, as the very lines Clegg used proved the point the bishops were making. The bishops were saying (I paraphrase) “gay marriage just leads further to the idea that marriage is about no more than two people who love each other, and thus loses the notion that was strongly attached to it historically and is still central to the Catholic understanding of marriage – that it is also a mutual commitment to raise any children that result from that love”, and Clegg was saying (again, I paraphrase) “I don’t understand, marriage is about two people who love each other, so why should it make a difference if they are man and woman or same sex?”. So Clegg illustrated the very point the bishops were making – that people have lost an understanding of what marriage is really about – which is MORE than two people being ‘in love’ – and the clamour for insisting that a legally recognised gay relationship must be called “marriage” demonstrated that.

      I felt this point being made by the opponents of gay marriage had simply not been tackled by its supporters, who instead just wrote off all opponents as being motivated by anti-gay bigotry. As a liberal, I do believe in listening to both sides of the case, and I felt and feel the supporters of this measure have acted in an illiberal way by dismissing the opponents without listening to their arguments, and by quite disgracefully misrepresenting those arguments.

      The reality is that the arguments on BOTH sides are tokenistic. On the pro side, the argument is that mere legal equivalence of civil partnership and marriage is not enough, the underlying argument on that side isn’t about legal rights, it’s about the tokenistic effect of there being different names, which it is claimed leads to inequality. The argument on the anti side is also tokenistic, it’s about the tokenistic effect of there being the same name which it claims leads to a lack of feeling for the child-rearing aspects of marriage. On the whole I found the Catholic bishops made their point in a dignified way which did not throw abuse at those they were arguing against, and that was very different from the attacks thrown at them from that side, which were abusive and did not give them the courtesy of understanding their point even if it felt the tokenistic argument the other way was stronger.

      If it is felt that for thinking this way I should be drummed out of the Liberal Democrats – and that has been said about those Liberal Democrat MPs who voted against – well, I shall be glad to be spared the indignity of remaining a member.

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