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I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. That is most regrettable.
The assumption of the Bill is that marriage is just about love and commitment. Of course marriage is about love and commitment, but it is also about the complementarity, both biologically and as a mother and father, of a man and a woman who have an inherent probability of procreation and of raising children within that institution.
As an otherwise ardent supporter of the Prime Minister and his leadership in difficult times, I have tried hard to reconcile myself to his view on this matter. However, I cannot see how any Government can automatically confer marriage on somebody by passing a law without changing the nature of what marriage means. It will lead to legislative anomalies and undermine the recognised obligations and norms that sustain and underpin marriage as an institution. The Government themselves have recognised, in the text of the Bill, that there inevitably will be important distinctions between same-sex and opposite-sex marriages. The Bill is clear that adultery and consummation will apply only to opposite-sex marriages.
In the Stonewall briefing, those concepts are seen as “archaic requirements” and that “unreasonable behaviour” will provide sufficient grounds for divorce, thereby opening a whole new area of debate, confusion and differences within the same new proposed definition of marriage. For married heterosexual couples, the concepts of consummation and adultery will remain, yet they will not apply for same-sex couples who take up the proposed provision. This ludicrous situation underscores why, nearly a decade ago, the wise provision of civil partnerships was made—to ensure that same-sex couples could make an equally valid commitment in law, receiving all the legal rights and privileges conferred by marriage, but remaining different in name.
By a factor of at least 30:1, my constituents have expressed their opposition. Those who are indifferent or in favour of the change are unlikely to change their vote over this issue, but the level of disappointment of a much larger minority, as witnessed by the 635,000 who signed the Coalition for Marriage petition, is keenly felt and will be a highly motivated electoral minority in future elections.
I have stood up against homophobic bullying and prejudice all my political life, and I have to say that the language used by some Christians is, unfortunately, appalling. I want to put on record my abhorrence at some of the representations I have received. Homophobia can never be condoned, but redefining marriage is the wrong way to tackle prejudice. Huge numbers of Conservative supporters feel grave disappointment and alienation at the decision to pursue this legislation. The Government will say that they are strengthening marriage by widening it, but in doing so they are redefining it and in redefining it they are undermining it. If the Government want to strengthen marriage, I respectfully submit that they should leave it alone.