Today is indeed an opportunity to celebrate the progress that we have made, but as I said at the start of my speech, I fear that we still have a long way to go.
As law-makers, it is our responsibility to ensure that the law does not discriminate against groups of people on the basis of religion, ethnic origin, sexuality or anything else. We should be proud that it was hon. and right hon. Members, past and present, who tackled the injustices that I have set out. I am particularly proud that it was a Labour Government who did so much in this area—equalising the age of consent, abolishing section 28 and introducing civil partnerships. Some of the same arguments that we have heard in opposition to the Bill today are the arguments that we heard back then, but since then those changes have been accepted.
There seem to be two key arguments against equal marriage, which I want to tackle head-on. The first is that it will somehow weaken the institution of marriage. That argument is simply illogical. On the contrary, I think that allowing more couples to enter into marriage will strengthen the institution of marriage, not weaken it. There are many countries in Europe and around the world, as well as many states in the United States, that have introduced gay marriage and it has not weakened or undermined marriage in those countries—quite the contrary.
The second argument is that equal marriage would threaten freedom of religion. Again, I refute that argument. I wholeheartedly support the freedom of religion, but the Bill contains guarantees that neither a religious institution or organisation nor a minister of religion will be forced by the law to marry same-sex couples.