My Lords, this Bill is promoted as a measure to end a discrimination against homosexuals, but the present law of marriage does not discriminate against homosexuals. The rights of a homosexual man are identical to mine. Subject to the laws on incest and bigamy, we are each free to marry a woman. Neither he nor I may marry another man. Our positions are identical. If it were to be held that the wish of a homosexual man to marry another man being thwarted by law was proof of discrimination, then the law forbidding polygamy would equally be proof of discrimination. Therefore, undoubtedly, we should move, on the basis of the arguments that have been put forward in favour of this Bill, towards making lawful the marriage of one man with two or more women, or a woman with more than one man.
It does not end there. The claim that the Bill merely undoes an act of discrimination is false; it is worthless and deserves no credibility. Those who support this Bill must find some other reason for it than that. If the Bill were to be enacted, it would introduce a real and novel form of discrimination. I understand that there is no definition of how a same-sex marriage would be consummated, or of what would be regarded as adultery in a same-sex marriage. Therefore, a heterosexual marriage would stand liable to annulment because of non-consummation but a homosexual marriage would not. Similarly, a heterosexual husband or wife might be found to have committed adultery, whereas a homosexual could not be found to have committed adultery. That is real discrimination. Then, of course, we would have to change the law for heterosexual marriage to bring it into line with homosexual marriage and abolish adultery and non-consummation. That would be madness.
Then there is the matter of the law of succession and its interaction with this Bill. There is, I believe, no bar to a lesbian succeeding to the Throne. It may happen. It probably will, at some stage. What, then, if she marries and her partner bears a child by an anonymous sperm donor? Is that child the heir to the Throne? If the Queen herself subsequently bore a child by an anonymous donor, which child then, if either, would inherit the Throne? The possibilities must have been discussed in the deep consideration of this Bill in government, so the Minister must know the answer. If she does not know it immediately, I am sure that her officials will be able to give it to her, because it has all been discussed thoroughly.
Finally, I must express my concern for those employed in schools and churches. Would their jobs be at risk should they question the new orthodoxy? Section 28 of the Education Act prohibited teachers from promoting homosexuality and was denounced by the liberal establishment. This Bill seems to require teachers to promote marriage between homosexuals. What will the liberal establishment say then? There must be some explanation for that.
We know already that a voluntary chaplain to Strathclyde police force has been dismissed for supporting real marriage. No doubt noble Lords have received a letter, as I have, from Ormerods Solicitors, setting out the concerns of many people over the impact of the Bill on those in the church and the teaching profession. Marriage exists not just for the convenience of couples but to stabilise society. It seems to me that this House would be wise to refuse a Second Reading for the Bill until all these concerns have been met. I underline again what has already been mentioned this evening in quoting page 29 of the Explanatory Notes to the Bill. It states:
“This means that ‘husband’ here will include a man or a woman in a same sex marriage, as well as a man married to a woman. In a similar way, ‘wife’ will include a woman married to another woman”.
Does that sound like gobbledegook to any noble Lord? It sounds not merely like gobbledegook but the reversal of the natural and normal meaning of words. It is no good my noble friend waving his hand in that peculiar gesture. That is what it says in the Explanatory Notes to the Bill that he supports. I will support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dear, tomorrow night.