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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:12 pm on 3rd June 2013.

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Photo of The Earl of Courtown The Earl of Courtown Conservative 10:12 pm, 3rd June 2013

As many noble Lords have pointed out, the marriage Bill is highly emotive and induces strong feelings. I make no attempt to synthesize the varying views of this House; I rise to make one simple point. By voting in favour of the Bill we would be gaining something while losing nothing. That is to say, it would be a net gain.

What would we be losing? I urge noble Lords to consider, for a moment, the proposition that some who oppose the Bill have put forward. They say that the institution of marriage would be undermined. They say that by allowing two gay people to marry marriage would somehow no longer be sacrosanct. They infer that their marriage would no longer mean what it once did. I ask noble Lords to consider how their marriage would be undermined, subverted or devalued simply by allowing two members of the same sex the privilege that they themselves enjoy. I have come to the conclusion that my marriage would be just as special the day before this Bill is passed as it would be on the day after it was passed. I suggest that as I was married in the eyes of the Lord, I would remain thus. To reiterate the point, those of us married in traditional marriages would not lose anything at all.

I would like to consider what the country would gain by passing the Bill. As a Conservative, I believe passionately in the institution of marriage. Would we not want to encourage as many people as possible to enter into such a stable institution? Bruce Anderson, on Conservative Home, describes the family as “social penicillin” and an establishment that can,

“cure so many social diseases”.

In a crude comparison of married people and their single counterparts, we can see lower levels of disease, morbidity and mortality, healthier lifestyle choices and lower levels of crime and anti-social behaviour. The more people who seek to take this social penicillin, straight or gay, the better. Put simply, gay people would gain something that was previously denied them, and society would lose nothing.

I will conclude on a point made by my friend Daniel Hannan. He reminds us of the issues that have come before this House over the past 20 years: Section 28, lowering the age of consent, gay adoption and civil partnerships, among others. These issues, bitterly opposed by some at the time, have become widely accepted today. At those difficult moments, we as a House recognised the need for change. We accepted that our understandings of tradition no longer resonated with the modern world. We therefore voted to change those understandings to better reflect the generations growing up beneath us. As we did so, the new settlement became the new tradition. That is to say, the necessities of one generation became the traditions of the next.

It is right that we pay particular attention to what is being said outside this Chamber. We should listen especially to the young, the next generation. We should listen to their opinions and views about same-sex marriage. The young support the Bill in overwhelming numbers. I urge noble Lords to bear this in mind in the Division Lobbies tomorrow and allow the next generation not to reject the traditions of yesteryear but to build the traditions of the future. In doing so, we would be voting to allow the gay community—here I echo the Prime Minister—to walk that little bit taller in the world.