Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:00 pm on 5th February 2013.

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Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills) 2:00 pm, 5th February 2013

Today is a significant day for Britain as an equal nation. Today is about equality, but it is also about one of the fundamental principles that I think each of the political parties represented in this House recognises, namely that, basically, we should live and let live: we should let people get on with their own lives and give people who are gay the same basic rights that the rest of us enjoy.

I have received a tremendous amount of representations and the vast majority from those on both sides of the argument have been respectful and passionate and have reflected deeply-held views. I have had three meetings with objectors in Chesterfield to understand their objections and, if this Bill passes its Second Reading, I will have further meetings with them to understand the actual detail. As hon. Members will know, a Second Reading debate is about the central principles of a Bill. Some Members, such as Nadine Dorries, say that the Bill has flaws, but if Government Members were to vote against every Bill because of an occasional flaw, the Government would never get anything past Second Reading. We need to understand that what we are talking about today is the principles, which are of central importance.

I recognise that some people—predominantly older members of society—are worried about the way the world is changing and the things that they are seeing. I am pleased that the Minister has confirmed that there is no compulsion on faith groups to do anything and that, while the Church of England will have the opportunity to opt in, it will not be forced to do something that it does not want to do. My right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper also made very well the point that marriage belongs to all of us, rather than simply to religious groups. I am also glad that the Minister has confirmed that there will be no requirement on teachers to promote gay marriage and that, in fact, as with civil partnerships, the Bill will make no difference to the questions they might be asked. That is important, because some of my constituents were concerned about it.

As a Christian, I see Christianity as a tremendously generous religion. As I have said previously, I think that Jesus Christ led the way on promoting equalities. There are any number of stories in the Bible that make it absolutely clear that Jesus stuck up for groups that had been oppressed over the years. As a Christian, I feel entirely comfortable voting in favour of this Bill. As someone who got married at the famous Crooked Spire church in Chesterfield, I do not think that my marriage will be besmirched or undermined in any way by the fact that gay people in the future might also be able to say that they are married.

Some of those who have written to me seem to believe that the argument is about whether heterosexuality or homosexuality is better. They seem to argue that, because gay marriage will be an option, some young people will suddenly decide that they are not straight anymore, but gay.