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It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Will Quince, who has been such an effective campaigner on this issue, and other colleagues who have made such brave speeches about own experience of neonatal birth and stillbirth, and losing their loved ones. I also congratulate my hon. Friend Tim Loughton on this brilliant Bill, which my hon. Friend Maggie Throup rather ingeniously named “the Loved Ones Bill”, a nickname that brings all its elements together.
Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of meeting Denise and Dale from Boughton Monchelsea, in my constituency. They came to the House to talk to me about civil partnerships. They desperately want to make a formal commitment to each other. They want to ensure that they would both be financially protected should something happen to one of them, but they do not want to get married. They want a civil partnership, but, unlike their friends in same-sex relationships, they do not have that option.
The introduction of same-sex civil partnerships was an important step towards greater equality, putting same-sex couples on a similar legal footing as married couples and officially recognising their love and commitment in law. In 2013 we rightly introduced gay marriage, recognising that marriage has a particular status in our society, and that same-sex couples who wanted to marry should be able to do so. Paradoxically, however, opposite-sex couples are now being effectively discriminated against, as they are not given that choice. If we believe in relationship equality and giving couples the same rights and freedoms whatever their sexuality, it makes no sense to deny civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples.
I am married myself; my parents are married, as were my grandparents; but I recognise that not everyone has such good experiences of marriage. Some people see it as a patriarchal institution that oppresses women. They clearly have not met my husband and me! [Laughter.] Not all people feel that marriage is right for them, and their choice should be respected.