So much has been said about same-sex marriage over the past couple of days. It is important on the occasion of Third Reading to return to the fundamental principle that underpins what we are trying to achieve. That principle is equality. Ultimately, this is about basic human rights. Nobody should be denied on the basis of their sexuality the opportunity to be legally married.
We are righting a wrong and I urge Members in the other place to remember that when they consider the Bill. Peers, including some but not all bishops, recognised the justice of introducing civil partnerships back in 2004, and I hope they will also recognise the justice of now granting same-sex couples the choice to enter into marriage, especially as the Bill has gone to great lengths to protect important religious freedoms.
Colleagues have remarked on the historic nature of the decisions being taken, and I agree. We live in a world where 85 United Nations member states still have repressive laws against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, where same-sex marriage is still a distant dream, and where being L,G, B or T can in some cases be a death sentence. But some dreams come true, and today is an important symbolic as well as practical step forward for equality and human rights.
I met a very inspiring campaigner at a trans networking event in Parliament the other day whose business card carried the strapline, “Tolerance is not good enough”.
That neatly sums up what I want to say. Tolerance is important, yes, but we need to carry on for more than that. We need to fight for true justice, for true equality, for true LGBT rights, as well as for tolerance. For me, that also has to include the issue of equal pension rights for those in same-sex marriages and civil partnerships. I am saddened that we have not made more progress on that here today, but I hope very much that it will be taken forward in the other place, as I hope will righting some of the injustices that still remain for the trans community.
But today on Third Reading is a time for celebration. For many hundreds of constituents from Brighton, Pavilion who have written to me in support of same-sex marriage, this Bill is about their lives, their loves and their futures together. I have heard many stories about why this legislation is important, including from one constituent who simply said, “Everyone should have the right to marry the person they are in love with.” Another told me that she hopes Brighton and Hove will be the first city to perform a gay marriage. To her I say, “Watch this space.”
I also thank those people against changing the law who have lobbied me, all of whom have been respectful of my position and my right to support same-sex marriage. I know it is difficult for some to square the Bill with their understanding of marriage, but I maintain that it is wrong for gay couples to continue to pay the price for that by being denied equality. Equality and justice must underpin everything else—a principle and a priority, not just something tacked on to existing pledges to try to attract more votes. The majority view in the House today has reflected that, and I hope that it will continue to do so as we vote on Third Reading.