Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:57 pm on 5th February 2013.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights) 2:57 pm, 5th February 2013

I understand exactly how the hon. Lady feels. I would feel the same if I were a Tory.

The quadruple lock the Minister referred to makes worrying reading. There is no protection for public sector chaplains in the armed forces; NHS and university staff will be denied, for fear of losing their jobs, the freedom to express the opinion that marriage is between one man and one woman. Some 40,000 teachers have expressed the valid fear, backed up by legal opinion, that they will not be able to opt out of endorsing same-sex marriage and allow someone else to teach that aspect of the curriculum. There is something horribly wrong about a teacher losing their job for seeking to bow out gracefully of teaching that section by allowing someone else to step in. It is also wrong that parents have no protection enabling them to remove their children from classes in which they will be taught something that is expressly against their beliefs. When did we become a country that enforces ideals on people to the detriment of their personal faith? I do not believe that we are such a country, and I urge everyone today to ensure that we do not become it.

What about council registrars who feel unable to follow the new definition because it is contrary to their faith? The Minister has claimed that the quadruple lock will ensure that Europe cannot change things. She and everyone else in this House knows that Europe decisions have been made that overturned legislation in this country. I have five examples, but I will give only one, because time is against me: Islington council sacked registrar Lillian Ladele for requesting an accommodation of her conscientious objection to same-sex civil partnership, and the European Court confirmed that a public authority could force employees to act against their beliefs on marriage and sack any who resist. That demonstrates that a quadruple lock and any other kind of lock will fall down when it comes to the European Court. Is there any other reason why the Minister believes that Europe will support us?

In December 2011, the Prime Minister stated that the UK is

“a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so”.

Today, I urge the Government to put that statement into practice and show that we are not ashamed to live by the Christian principles of loving God, loving our neighbour and living by the word of God. Do not take away people’s right to do that and say it is for equality. It is not. Parity of rights is already secure. Instead, let people live their faith without fear of persecution, aided by this Government. I urge right hon. and hon. Members to oppose the Bill.