Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill — Second Reading (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 3rd June 2013.

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Photo of Lord Quirk Lord Quirk Crossbench 8:30 pm, 3rd June 2013

My Lords, I shall be brief. I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, has just said. However, let us agree that the Bill has the noblest of aims: advancing the cause of fairness and equality to a minority absurdly disparaged and cruelly treated, not only in centuries past but in many societies even today. However, the Bill’s aims must be addressed with forethought and wisdom, of which it shows an embarrassing deficiency at present. I, too, urge the Government to withdraw this current muddled and flawed attempt. The equality that it purports to seek is a cheapened version of spurious uniformity in glaring defiance of reality. Our gay community, talented and caring, deserves better and can have it.

I wondered when I first looked at the Bill, whether amendments could bring it up to scratch. In places, they clearly might. In Clause 9(7), for example, the Bill enables the conversion of civil partnerships to marriage, but permits such conversion to have an effective date that would be several years before the relevant form of marriage became legally possible. There, surely, is an absurd anomaly that could be rectified by amendment.

However, as I read further and, of course, before having heard the devastating critique of the noble Lord, Lord Dear, today, it became obvious that only a thorough reworking of the Bill, with a root-and-branch rethink of its proposals and their implications, could do the job. This is perhaps especially manifest in the 60-page document, laughably called Explanatory Notes, which has several explanations such as this one on page 29, which states that,

“‘husband’ here will include a man or a woman in a same sex marriage … In a similar way, ‘wife’ will include … a man married to a man”.

Such linguistic acrobatics, distorting the marital bed into a Procrustean one, are inherent in the Bill at present. They smack, not so much of Humpty Dumpty’s world—as the noble Lord, Lord Dear, implied this morning—as of the dystopias of Jonathan Swift and George Orwell. After all, Lewis Carroll was only joking; Swift and Orwell were deadly serious.