Vigil to take place as Lords debate Same Sex Marriage Bill

Lobby the Lords Equal Marriage VigilThe House of Lords debates the Same Sex Marriage bill on Monday 3 June. They will address the general principles of the Bill before voting on a Second Reading.

When the matter was debated in the Commons two weeks ago, I was saddened to see that so many of my friends were upset by a protest against the Bill.  Think about how it feels to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and to see people demonstrating outside Parliament to exclude you. They tell you that they think that your relationships are somehow less valid. It makes me feel angry to see my friends put through that sort of discomfort. Love and commitment between two people who want to spend their lives together is the same, so it’s clearly logical that everyone should have access to the same legal recognition.

That’s partly why I’m so glad to see that there is an equal marriage vigil taking place outside Parliament from 5:30 on Monday. I would so love to be there, except this 400 miles’ distance thing is a bit of a problem.

Monday also marks the second anniversary of the death of Andrew Reeves, the much loved London campaigns officer and then Scottish Director of Campaigns. I’ve been thinking a lot about how he would be feeling about the process of the legislation both at Westminster and Holyrood. He’s been a much missed presence at every vigil, every march we’ve been to. I’m sure he would have been very proud of everyone from Willie Rennie, Nick Clegg and Lynne Featherstone to LGBT+ Liberal Democrats who have done so much to turn this Bill into a reality. And I can imagine his impassioned response to some of the opponents’ deeply hurtful parliamentary speeches.

Wherever we are in the country, I hope all supporters of equal marriage will take part in this vigil in some way, whether by tweeting (or  using any other form of social media), blogging or organising local events to show support. It’s also important that we politely and reasonably make the case to the Lords and ask them to support this Bill. Even if they don’t personally agree with it, they should not stand in the way of equalising the rights of others, especially as the Commons has voted it through with such a stonking majority with cross party support. Many people in the Lords will remember the day when it wasn’t just legal, it was commonplace to discriminate on racial grounds. The changes in the law have done much to improve things, although there’s a long way to go on that front, too.

Oh, and a note to people on the vigil, if you happen to see Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore anywhere near Parliament, sing Happy Birthday to him.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Tony Greaves 1st Jun '13 - 11:34pm

    “Vigil” sounds the right tone. It seems that the great majority of Liberal Democrat peers are likely to support the Bill on the somewhat unusual but possibly impeccably Liberal “free vote on a three line whip”.

    I hope that people on all sides of this Second Reading argument (and there do seem to be more than just two) will act and loby in a tolerant manner. Most of the lobbying that has come in so far from members of the public has been couched in reasonable terms (and all that from the pro side) and it’s vital to maintain this tone,

    The House of Lords considers itself to be a place where polite and tolerant argument takes place and anger and “shouting” at Members is likely to be counterproductive, however strongly people may feel. If you support this Bill remember that the important thing is to get it through, not let off steam at people you think are being unreasonable.

    At the latest count there were about 90 peers who had put down their names to speak. The debate will therefore run over into Tuesday afternoon and the vote on Lord Dear’s “wrecking amendment” is likely to take place some time after 4.30pm on that day.

    There are very few Liberal Democrats on the list. We have been asked to apply a self-denying ordinance on the grounds that the debate is likely to be very repetitive, advisory speaking times will be very short, and we need to get to the vote at a reasonable “voting hour”. What matters, it is suggested, is getting people into the voting lobby, not speaking to people whose minds are in most cases already made up. So people should not get upset if they don’t see their favourite LD peer (!) on their feet.

    Tony Greaves

  • Thanks Lord Greaves – I really do believe it is useful for people to have some insight into how the Lords plan to proceed on this extremely sensitive issue, so we are less likely to misinterpret anyone’s actions.

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