Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:12 pm on 5th February 2013.

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Photo of Emma Reynolds Emma Reynolds Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 4:12 pm, 5th February 2013

No, I will not—I will not get any more time, so it is not in my interests.

Many European countries that are members of the Council of Europe have already introduced same-sex marriage, some—in the case of the Netherlands—as early as 2001. It has also been introduced more recently in Denmark, Sweden and elsewhere. Those countries have managed to introduce same-sex marriage while at the same time protecting religious freedom. As has been stated, no successful case has been brought before the European Court of Human Rights.

As my right hon. Friend the shadow Minister underlined, the freedom of religion goes both ways. It is also right to protect and promote the freedom of those religious organisations that want to conduct wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples. The Quakers, liberal Jews and Unitarians have all expressed a desire to do so. I do not think the state and the law should stand in the way of that. I know there is a live debate in the Church of England and that the Bill exempts the Church of England, but I am concerned about this. Only this morning I had a discussion with Canon Dr Giles Fraser. He passionately believes in the introduction of same-sex marriage and would like to marry same sex-couples in his church. My understanding is that the Bill as currently drafted would not allow that.

The love that two men or two women feel for each other is equal to that felt by a heterosexual couple. Their love is no less significant and no less important. I passionately believe that it is time the law recognised this fact. It is time that the state stopped standing in the way of same-sex marriage and we celebrated the enrichment of marriage that this Bill will bring.