Baroness Liz Barker writes… A big step for a fairer society

Today, the House of Lords should be voting ‘that this Bill do now pass’ to take the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill through one of its final steps to becoming law. Liberal Democrats can be very proud of the fact that it is only because of us that this is happening.

In the Lords, I have been proud to lead from the Lib Dem benches whilst Lib Dem Ministers, including Jim Wallace and Lindsay Northover, have been speaking from the Government frontbench. You can read and watch my opening contribution to the Second Reading debate on the Bill, here and here (skip ahead to 16:01).

We have helped to comprehensively refute the various arguments put forward by those who would perpetuate discrimination against LGBT people and their families. In fact the Liberal Democrat group, in proportion to our numbers, has had the largest turnout in support of the Bill at every stage. We have been greatly helped by our staff and many party members.

Of course Liberal Democrats campaigned for LGBT equality long before it was fashionable to do so. We were often vilified, but we stuck to our principles and never gave up. Those of us who speak openly and freely on these issues today are conscious of the debt we owe to those who flew the flag when society was much less tolerant.

When the legislation is passed there will still be work still to do. No doubt the groups who have campaigned against the Bill will dig into their deep pockets to bring legal challenges. They must be opposed and reminded that religious organisations will, of course, be under no obligation to act in ways which are incompatible with their own doctrine.

All communities will have to come to terms with a society in which LGBT people and their families are entitled to the respect and dignity enjoyed by others. Liberal Democrat councillors, school governors and members of faith groups will have an important part to play in building and strengthening inclusive communities.

In this way, all Liberal Democrats will continue to work for a fairer society in which everyone may fulfil their potential.

Today, let’s celebrate.

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