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

I want to make some progress, as I am conscious that many hon. Members want to speak and that the time restrictions are considerable. Once I have done so, I will allow the Government Members who are standing up to intervene. I know that somebody behind me wanted to intervene, too.

Parliament should not stop people getting married just because they have fallen in love with someone of the same sex, and we should not say that same-sex relationships are intrinsically worth less. I know that many Members have raised objections: they fear that their Church or faith will be forced to hold same-sex marriages when they do not believe in it; they believe that, by definition, marriage is between a man and a woman, as it has been through the centuries; they believe that at the heart of marriage is the biological procreation of children; or they fear that widening marriage will undermine other relationships, stability and society. I disagree with each of those four objections, but I know they are held strongly by people whose views I respect, so I will address each of them in turn.

The first is the fear that Churches will be expected to support same-sex marriage in future. It is clear that they will not have to. I thought that the Minister for Women and Equalities powerfully explained the safeguards in the Bill. We have a long tradition in Britain of respecting religious freedom, which is built into our law and traditions.