Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:13 pm on 5th February 2013.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary, Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities) 1:13 pm, 5th February 2013

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the long-term trends in marriage across a series of different countries, including those that have same-sex marriage and those that do not, he will struggle to find a causal connection suggesting that the fact that some gay and lesbian couples can now get married means that heterosexual couples are all running from the church door or the registry office.

It is worth hearing why many gay and lesbian couples say they want to get married. One gay man told me:

“My parents have a really strong marriage—I’ve always seen how meaningful and important it is. We want the same thing—it’s hard to explain but its about the value of our relationship. I want my nieces and nephews to feel that Uncle Adam and Uncle James are getting married, just like their Mum and Dad.”

Another said,

“we want to have the same celebration and status as our parents and grandparents—it’s about being normal. I want to have children. But I believe children are brought up better in a married relationship.”

Someone else said,

“I asked the question, ‘Simon will you marry me’ he said yes. I said ‘Marry me’, not ‘would you like a civil partnership’”.

Civil partnerships have been a fantastic step forward, providing for the first time proper legal recognition for same-sex relationships, and they continue to be a great source of great joy and of security. It was right of Labour to introduce them in the face of deep controversy, but it is time to take the next step for equality and to allow gay and lesbian couples the chance to marry if they choose to.

Another person reminded me of the practical differences that some people face when they are in a civil partnership. They have to declare their sexuality every time they fill in a form for something such as a mortgage or insurance, as there is a different box for someone in a civil partnership than for someone who is married. Why should they have to? Another person said:

“Language does matter. Marriage is universally understood as a meaningful commitment. People might say that in time civil partnerships will mean exactly the same. We say: ‘why wait?’”

Why should they wait—they want to celebrate their relationship now—when they could get married?