There have already been significant steps made in achieving legal equality for people in this country regardless of their sexuality. There is now also cross-party support or equal marriage as all three leaders of the three main parties back equal marriage; Ed Miliband backed equal marriage early on, with the full support of the Shadow Cabinet and the overwhelming support of the Parliamentary Labour Party; the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and his party pledged early support too and David Cameron declared his support at Tory Conference last year.
Civil Partnerships were introduced by the last Labour Government to allow same sex couples to finally have their commitment to one another recognised in the law and to enjoy the same legal rights married couples enjoy. However, the time has come for more change – we should no longer put people into separate categories because of their sexuality. Marriage equality is a logical step, and polls consistently show the majority of the British people believe this too.
Many Tory MPs will be joining the vast majority of Labour MPs and Liberal Democrats in voting to equalise marriage, however, many Tory MPs – possibly as many as half – will resist the change and vote against. Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson is one of those voting against equal marriage – Gordon Henderson must want the law to continue to discriminate against someone because of their sexuality.
Gordon Henderson declared after weeks of deliberating that he would not vote for equal marriage because he believes marriage is between a man and a woman and nobody had contacted him in support of marriage equality, only those opposed to it. After tweeting that, lots of Sittingbourne and Sheppey residents tweeted their support for equal marriage but Mr. Henderson remained silent. As for believing marriage is between a man and a woman – that is perfectly fine; the legislation does not legislate against that belief. Marriage equality legislation will simply say that the state should not define marriage in a discriminatory way and will allow people of faith who believe same sex couples should be allowed to marry to conduct and host those ceremonies.
Gordon Henderson originally said his concern was over Churches and other places of worship being forced to conduct same sex marriage; Maria Miller, the Women’s and Equalities Minister, has devised legislation which is an opt-in system whereby religious institutions and groups can opt-in to offer same-sex marriage but will not be forced to; if they choose not to then the freedom to do just that is protected under the law.
So, Mr. Henderson believes marriage is between a man and a woman; that belief remains protected under the law even if it is changed – nobody is legislating against beliefs. However, currently those people of faith such as Quakers, Liberal Jews and Christians and many others not of faith who believe marriage should be allowed for same-sex couples are essentially not allowed to believe that. Let us end this inequality and open up the institution of marriage to anybody who wants to make that commitment regardless of their sexuality.
There is no reason for Gordon Henderson to vote against equal marriage. Currently the law is discriminatory and unfair so I encourage Mr. Henderson to join his own Prime Minister in voting to change this or forever be on the wrong side of history by voting to uphold discrimination.
Ashley Wise, Sittingbourne & Sheppey Labour Party Youth Officer and Labour Candidate for Swale East