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View from Westminster, February 7, 2013
11:00am Wednesday 6th February 2013 in MP's View - Mark Garnier
THE big event in parliament this week was the second reading of the Marriages (Same Sex Couples) Bill – the so-called ‘Gay Marriage’ Bill.
I have written about this before in this column.This is an issue that for a number of people raises huge emotions, but for the majority – myself included – it is not something that people feel strongly about either way.
The letters I have received (over 300) have been varied with their argument and some have stuck out as key in the debate. One young man wrote to me about how he was a victim of homophobic bullying at school and it this has struck me as something that is utterly appalling. Discrimination of any sort should be absolutely eradicated but we know that, for example, women still suffer lower wages at work. That is why Labour’s Equalities Act is broadly welcome.
But this Bill was never a manifesto pledge of any party at the last election. Indeed, it never came up in the Queen’s Speech so it has had a very short gestation period.
That has meant that it has come about with very little public debate. So given that this is, for religious groups and the gay community certainly, something that is of intense interest, I felt I needed to gauge public opinion.
I felt this was important because had it been a manifesto pledge at the last election, it may have altered the outcome and without any sort of electoral mandate, I did not feel that I could just take the party line.
My first thoughts were that as long as no church was forced to do this against its will, what harm does it do? But it became very apparent that those who are practicing Christians did not feel the same. So I went out and tried to correspond with people, meet with church leaders, where I could ask the opinions of a younger generation and of people whom I know to be gay. I even used this column to seek views especially by those in favour of the proposals. Yet overwhelmingly the response came back as ambivalent to strongly against. Importantly, I found not one single person who felt that this was a pressing issue. Even in the last week, when the pro-campaigners started to up their game, the view of Wyre Forest residents was significantly against. So I voted to support how I had been asked to and voted against the Bill.
But one last postscript to these thoughts: it is a rubbish Bill. Given the quadruple lock to prevent churches being forced to undertake these ceremonies if they do not want to and the automatic exclusion of the Church of England, I am pretty certain that this will not address properly the points that it attempted to.
I suspect the gay community will be more frustrated by the limitations of the Bill when it eventually comes into force. But that is a story for another day.
CONTACT YOUR MP
- Email: mark.garnier.mp@ parliament.uk
- Telephone: 020 7219 7198 or 01562 746771.
- Write: 9a Lower Mill Street, Kidderminster, DY11 6UU, or House of Commons, Westminster, London