I fully accept that the state has changed some aspects of marriage, but not its intrinsic, fundamental values.
The irony of the Bill is that it takes the current situation of equality of marriage and civil partnership and creates inequality. Under the terms of the Bill, there will be marriage in two forms—traditional marriage and same-sex marriage, which are neither the same nor equal. The Bill creates further inequality, with traditional marriages being allowed within some Churches and same-sex marriages not allowed. Same-sex couples will have the choice of civil partnership or marriage, whereas opposite-sex couples can have only traditional marriages—yet more inequality. The Bill is trying to engineer a cultural equivalence to tackle a perceived lack of equality in wider society. That does not sound to me like the basis of marriage.
The Government say that the Bill protects religious organisations, but there are conflicting legal opinions that robustly challenge that view. Moreover, there is absolutely nothing to stop a future Government legislating to allow, or indeed require, Churches to celebrate same-sex marriages. In fact, some commentators have said that they cannot wait until the Church of England and other faiths have to conduct same-sex marriages. Given that the Bill creates inequality, a legal challenge would surely be successful.
I am amazed that the Government should bring forward this Bill at a time when there are other pressing issues. Despite having gay friends and relatives, the issue of same-sex marriage has never once been brought to my attention; I have never had a constituent write to me asking me to raise it. I recall that many MPs were quick to praise the civil partnerships legislation as being everything that the gay community wanted—that it created the equality for which they had fought for so long. As we have heard, my hon. Friend Chris Bryant—I hope he is still my hon. Friend—has previously said that in his view the idea that the gay community would want marriage is nonsense.
Marriage is the union of a man and a woman that is open to the creation and care of children—not in all cases, but fundamentally that is its intrinsic value. This Bill will fundamentally change that. Despite all the issues that have been raised and the insults hurled by those on both sides of the argument, I will oppose the
Bill. I believe that it creates inequality and that it does not tackle an existing inequality on the basis that the current legislation has been tested in the European Court and it has been shown that there is no inequality. I will oppose the Bill, and I urge any right hon. and hon. Members who are thinking of abstaining to vote against it.