Opinion: Lib Dem MPs: Vote for equality, human rights and love today

The culmination of more than three years of heartfelt campaigning by the LGBT+ Lib Dems finally comes to the final hurdle in the House of Commons battle for equal marriage this week, with votes today and tomorrow.

It will sadly see the ultimate opportunity for those MPs who remain implacably behind the times in opposition to equality and fairness in the United Kingdom to block progress. It is also the opportunity for the sun to shine on those MPs who vote in favour of equality, fairness, human rights, respect and love. LGBT+ people want to celebrate and share their love just like any other couple would, and this would enable Britain to once again go one further step on the road to re-joining the 14 or so other countries who have already made marriage equality a standard bearer as a beacon of equality. The House of Lords is yet to come and the LGBT+ will be ready for that challenge too!

The campaign has been fraught with debate from all sides, but LGBT+ has tried desperately to listen to all sides, intellectually and constructively both in responding and replying to, frankly, discriminatory views which have been difficult for us to hear. However, now is the time for every one of our MPs to fulfil the Preamble to our Constitution. And if they don’t know it by now, I’ll repeat it again:

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.

When our MPs go through the lobbies for the third reading vote, I hope this article resonates in their minds and souls. We all accept that people have consciences, and some with very firm beliefs of all different kinds, but when your party has made its views clear, as our Conference did in 2010 when it overwhelmingly endorsed equal marriage,  then you should not go against it lightly.

If Liberal Democrat MPs fail to support this bill, it will be difficult for those who believe in equality to campaign for them in 2015 and beyond.  Any MPs who vote in favour of wrecking amendments, based on religious dogma in the face of equality will be letting the Party down. Few of us will want to help them in the future.

We are the party of equality and fairness for every citizen in the UK.  This overdue bill on same-sex marriage is one which Liberal Democrat MPs should naturally support. Please Members of Parliament, support all our LGBT+ members and supporters, and ensure that this is a clear victory for the Liberal Democrats in our fight for a fairer society.

* Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett is Secretary of the Federal International Relations Committee (FIRC) and Vice Chair Of Communications for LDEG ( Liberal Democrat European Group)

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32 Comments

  • The next to last paragraph here is just bullying, and should be called out as such. It’s a free vote, quite rightly so. Anyone can make their own mind up about who they campaign for – but if you’ve got such an issue with MPs who have a conscience to the point that you would rather see their opponents win, I have to wonder where the real intolerance is here.

    A shame as the rest of the article is well-written. Although unenthusiastic I’m resigned to this passing, but feel it would be improved by some of the amendments passing.

  • Andrew Emmerson 20th May '13 - 1:35pm

    I don’t think it’s intolerance at all to say few will want to help them.

    If I have a choice, I’ll be using my campaigning time for someone who I most agree with, it’s a free choice of activists, much like it is a free vote. If you vote to betray party principles and to discriminate against LGBT people, many people in the party will take their free choice to campaign for those who don’t.

  • Gareth Wilson 20th May '13 - 1:41pm

    @ Andrew

    100% agreed. If the MP can vote with his conscience then surely the party activist can vote with his conscience by not campaigning for that individual. Anything else would be hypocritical.

    Also fair play to David Cameron, I’m amazed this controversial but long overdue piece of legislation looks like it’ll make it into law and even more surprised it was done in coalition with the Conservatives.

  • Why should I campaign for someone who doesn’t believe I deserve the same rights as themself?

    Also, to suggest such comments are bullying is ludicrous. Maybe consider the LGBT people who have spent most of their lives being bullied?

  • It’s not intolerant to refuse to campaign for an MP that votes against same sex marriage. Activists will campaign for whomever they believe will represent what matters the most for them in Parliament. Equal Marriage is very very close to many members’ hearts (especially younger members).

    In the Liberal Youth Gold Guard where we campaigned in target seats, many young members said they would not campaign in Northumberland due to Alan Beith voting against equal marriage. They morally could not support it. Now personally I will campaign for the majority of Lib Dems because I believe that we need larger numbers of Lib Dems in parliament to push for things like equal marriage. But our members have free consciences and particularly the younger members see this as a red line liberal issue. If the MPs don’t support LGBT equality, many members won’t support the MPs.

  • “… if you’ve got such an issue with MPs who have a conscience to the point that you would rather see their opponents win, I have to wonder where the real intolerance is here.”

    But if their opponents are more liberal than they are, why wouldn’t any liberal prefer those opponents to win?

  • David Blake 20th May '13 - 2:17pm

    @Andrew Agree. It’s not bullying at all. What I can’t understand about all this is that the bill doesn’t force anyone to do something they don’t want to do. Why on earth are so many Tories up in arms about it? I thought they believed in liberty and freedom. Obviously the ‘freedom from’ rather than the ‘freedom to’ kind.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 20th May '13 - 2:47pm

    Dear Colleagues,

    I for one do not see Adrian’s comments as bullying, but a reminder to some of our Parliamentarians which political party they are members of, and the ethos that we promote. Although Parliamentarians, as with all elected officials should represent their constituents, this does not mean that there is a necessity to reflect their bigotries as well. Our political leaders I would suggest will benefit from being leaders in promoting equality, rather than followers of intolerance.

    For too long some within society feel that the Liberal Democrat Party has merely preached laudable rhetoric and failed to “walk the talk” regarding the promotion of equality and diversity, and if this continues then as a Party we will pay the price at the ballot box.

    Although I fully believe and respect that people can hold discriminatory beliefs, for me opposing equality for Gay people is akin to opposing equality on grounds of ones race, and Peter Tatchell, the renowned human rights activists summed this up only today when he tweeted “If you oppose legal equality for black people you’re a racist. If you oppose #EqualMarriage for gay people you’re a homophobe”.

    I would tend to agree with Peter on this matter, for we must remember that it was not too many years ago in this country that some people used their faith as a means to corroborate their racism.

    Let us once and for all place homophobia in the archives of our Party!

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats – Vice Chair

  • “Labour has launched a bid to save a Government bill to legalise gay marriage …”
    http://news.sky.com/story/1093165/gay-marriage-labour-wont-back-amendment

    What a shambles this government is turning into.

  • Liberal dilemma – ought we to act to protect the rights of those want to act to deny rights to others …?
    Well, not if they are Liberal politicians seeking grounds to act illiberally. If the Bill is passed, I think we should recognise David Caneron’s role in this, even if his (and, amazingly it seems to me, our) party contains those with misgivings.
    Whither liberalism if, once again, a higher proportion of Labour MPs than LDs backs a fundamentally liberal measure?

  • Stuart Mitchell 20th May '13 - 7:08pm

    @Chris
    Labour has been saving this bill for the past year, since Cameron was forced to give his party a free vote. The government is incapable of delivering this.

  • Well, Simon Hughes said he was “sympathetic” to the amendment on teaching about marriage in faith schools. Unluckily (or perhaps luckily) for him, it has been withdrawn, though.

  • Richard Marbrow 20th May '13 - 7:49pm

    Adrian’s article is not in any way bullying, it is a statement of a perfectly reasonable consequence for MPs who choose to vote against equal marriage.

    One of the major beliefs that unites Liberals is that of equal civil rights in law for people regardless of colour, gender, sexuality and many other completely meaningless distinctions that humans put between themselves. If a Liberal Democrat MP votes in a way that shows that they do not share that same belief as me, why should I campaign for them?

    I campaign for the Liberal Democrats because I believe in Liberal Democracy, not out of blind loyalty to a tribe. I’ll look at the totality of someone’s beliefs before I decide where my valuable time goes but to suggest that that is bullying is an unpleasant accusation in the extreme.

    Some MPs will be voting because they have considered their own constituents reactions. It is not unreasonable for them to also have to consider the reaction of activists both positive and negative.

  • 11 Lib Dem MPs – nearly a fifth of the parliamentary party – voted for the amendment that would have allowed registrars to refuse to marry same-sex couples on grounds of ‘conscience’:

    Norman Baker (Lewes),
    Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed),
    Gordon Birtwistle (Burnley),
    Paul Burstow (Sutton & Cheam),
    Tim Farron (Westmorland & Lonsdale),
    Andrew George (St Ives),
    Duncan Hames (Chippenham),
    Simon Hughes (Bermondsey & Old Southwark),
    John Pugh (Southport),
    Sarah Teather (Brent Central),
    Steve Webb (Thornbury & Yate)

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th May '13 - 9:39pm

    “If Liberal Democrat MPs fail to support this bill, it will be difficult for those who believe in equality to campaign for them in 2015 and beyond. Any MPs who vote in favour of wrecking amendments, based on religious dogma in the face of equality will be letting the Party down. Few of us will want to help them in the future.”

    What an illiberal statement.

    Lets describe this statement for what it is – an appallingly intolerant diatribe which disregards freedom of conscience and tramples on religious beliefs – calling them dogma.

    I don’t know what kind of party people who write this stuff think they belong to, but the statement sounds like something from the Labour Party not the Party I joined some 20 plus years ago when there was tolerance of different opinion and diversity.

    Also, when I joined, there was not the constant denigration of those of religious belief, which is actually a living practice and not something to be discarded for the good of a few over zealous activists. This is a pluralistic Party and not a branch of the British Humanist Association.

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th May '13 - 9:44pm

    I would also like to make the following point. In the recent local elections, I helped deliver hundreds of leaflets for a candidate I knew supported gay marriage. I happen to oppose the gay marriage Bill and will continue to do so despite the veiled threats above. The reason? I look at overall policy priorities and whether the candidate would make a good councillor.

    The idea that some would actually not help someone in an election because of one policy area they disagree with, is pathetic and childish.

  • Helen

    It must have been pointed out to you about a hundred times now – nobody wants to stop you believing whatever you want to believe. The problem comes when you try to impose your own beliefs on other people, as you are trying to do, if you are dictating what form civil marriage can and cannot take on the basis of the religious teachings that you subscribe to.

    That is what is deeply illiberal, and I think by now you must understand perfectly well what people are objecting to. So please don’t try to make out that you are being subjected to some kind of persecution.

  • Paul In Twickenham 20th May '13 - 9:51pm

    This evening 11 “Liberal” Democrat MPs voted in favour of the “I’m not marrying fags” clause for registrars.

    Have I spent 30 years misunderstanding the fundamental principles of the Liberal Party and the Liberal Democrats?

    Presumably so. What other explanation can there be when 1/5 of the Parliamentary Party vote to enshrine bigotry into law.

    For the avoidance of doubt (because I believe this is an emotive word),here is how the Merriam Webster dictionary defines a bigot:

    big·ot
    noun \ˈbi-gət\
    : a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance .

    Undoubtedly there are public officials who object to miscegenation. Can we expect these Liberal Democrat members will demand that the sensitivities of those individuals should also be respected?

  • Malcolm Todd 20th May '13 - 9:55pm

    @Helen
    Where is the denigration of religious belief in this article, or in any of the comments above? Maybe your motives for taking what I (and I think most people using this site and it would appear the majority of the public) regard as an extremely intolerant stance on this issue are religious, but that doesn’t mean that those who oppose you are motivated by hatred of your religion.

    To claim that it is “appallingly intolerant” to say that you won’t support an MP who votes in a way you profoundly disagree with is frankly bizarre. On what exactly should we base our decision on who to vote for and who to campaign for, if not their publicly expressed and enacted views on issues that matter to us? Would you, for example, be prepared to campaign for an MP who voted to bring back the 11-plus across the country, or otherwise mount what you might see as an assault on educational values you hold dear?

    Or would you say, for example, of a politician you had helped elect who now acted in a way quite contrary to your own views, “We put him there – and we can remove him. As soon as possible, especially after this gross insult”?

  • Malcolm Todd 20th May '13 - 9:56pm

    Darn: link should have led here.

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th May '13 - 10:37pm

    @Malcolm Todd – This is the part of the article I object to: ” Any MPs who vote in favour of wrecking amendments, based on religious dogma in the face of equality will be letting the Party down”

    I disagree profoundly with this as the vote in favour of wrecking amendments has nothing to do with dogma – marriage is not a dogma it is a doctrine ie: a teaching of the Church. The use of the word dogma by the writer in this instance, is to convey the idea that these MPs are not acting out of conscience but without thought – following a line or a rigid rule. I really think some people do not understand that religious belief and practice go together. This is a conscience issue and a few MPs are exercising their consciences – this is perfectly compatible with Liberalism. The idea that because conference has spoken, all free thinking or belief goes out of the window is bizarre.

    In the 11 plus_ Of course, I would be horrified if a Lib Dem MP to bring back this divisive exam but I would honestly look at all his/her policies in the round.

    In the recent elections, I delivered leaflets for a candidate who supports gay marriage even though I am opposed to the redefinition (I favour civil partnerships) – if I used the logic of the writer of the article, I should have refused to do so and ignored all the other policies – to what end ?

    There are some issues which are conscience cases and we should be big-hearted and mature enough as a party to accept this on occasion.

  • Paul Pettinger 21st May '13 - 12:40am

    Your argument does not make sense Helen. Why can’t Adrian choose not to campaign for homophobic MPs as a matter of his conscience? You seem to want respect when it suits you. As it is, there are many people with and without faith who agree on this issue, and I find your recourse to sectarianism almost as attractive as your lack of respect for the dignity of gay people.

  • Shirley Campbell 21st May '13 - 8:59am

    Fundamentals first. Sort out inequalities from the TOP down. Tens of thousands of OUR people are languishing in abject poverty whilst the so-called exalted ones, which includes she who wears an obscenely jewelled and expensive crown, are fawned over and praised. Why Liberals? Why? Gay people are being exceedingly selfish and are deflecting attention away from the very real suffering of our people. True Liberals would not seek to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of race, gender or sexual orientation, though many are apt to sneer at those over sixty years of age. Ageism will be with us for many moons. Please people get real and support “Born Equal”, an initiative being promoted by REPUBLIC, which will encompass all and everyone whatever their chosen path.

  • Forget what people do or do not do, it does feel rather dissapointing to people who are instinctively liberal that someone who calls themselves liberal might want to stand in the way of equality and liberty in some way and in turn subtly promote further discrimination does it not? It’s 2013 and one would have thought by now that we’d have progressed a bit further than that. However as a liberal, I believe in free speech and people have a right to oppose what I think. It does question for me though whether they really are Liberals?

  • Michael Parsons 21st May '13 - 11:34am

    Quite right Shirley! And as a Lib Dem party member I was horrified that the amendment extending Civil Partnership to heterosexual couples was rejected. So much for equality and love! Presumably the next move will be to deny civil partnership to everyone, thereby removing the non-religious form as a possibility, even for registry office “weddings”, which should be openly purely civil if desired (like the legal signing of the Register in a C of E wedding)

  • Malcolm Todd 21st May '13 - 11:58am

    @Michael Parsons — I think you’re confusing civil partnership with civil marriage. I don’t quite understand the point of the civil partnership now that it’s job as an interim marriage-without-the-name for gay couples is about to become unnecessary. Certainly the idea that it’s the only “non-religious form” of marriage is way off the mark — there was no religion involved in my wedding, I assure you, and that’s so long ago that Clause 28 was still known as Section 27…

  • David Evans 21st May '13 - 5:15pm

    @Paul Pettinger

    “Your argument does not make sense Helen. Why can’t Adrian choose not to campaign for homophobic MPs as a matter of his conscience? You seem to want respect when it suits you. As it is, there are many people with and without faith who agree on this issue, and I find your recourse to sectarianism almost as attractive as your lack of respect for the dignity of gay people.”

    I don’t think any of our MPs hold homphobic views. Do you?

  • Paul Pettinger 21st May '13 - 6:09pm

    Do I think MPs who vote against the same sex marriage bill are being homophobic? I don’t see what Party they happen to be a member of is of significance in this case.

  • David Evans asks, “I don’t think any of our MPs hold homphobic views. Do you?”

    We have, or in recent times have had, Liberal / Lib Dem MPs who think homosexuality should be a thought crime. We have MPs who think the age of consent should be discriminatory based on your choice of partner. And in this debate, we have MPs who think that how the state treats partnerships should, to offer a comparison with train travel, have first and second class sections with many people marked out as second class and barred from the nice seats with the legroom.

    Damn right we have MPs who are homophobic.

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