My Lords, marriage between a man and a woman has been the bedrock of society over the centuries and has proved to be a tried and trusted way of living and rearing children. The Bill that we are debating threatens the sanctity of marriage by the forced acceptance of same-sex couples. There are basically two levels to the traditional definition of marriage: the secular civil partnership and the religious commitment. The civil partnership is the practical relationship between two individuals who have decided that they wish to live together. The religious and spiritual part of the marriage contract is defined by the particular religion that is involved.
The civil partnership element of marriage rights is readily available to same-sex couples. The question underlying this debate is whether the state has the right to require religions to accept same-sex couples. The Bill before us, in its 52 pages, argues that it does—but I am one of the many speakers in this debate who do not accept that the Government have the automatic right, and who therefore believe that the Bill should be rejected. I therefore will be supporting the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Dear.