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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:20 pm on 3rd June 2013.

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Photo of Baroness Knight of Collingtree Baroness Knight of Collingtree Conservative 6:20 pm, 3rd June 2013

My Lords, we have been told by many speakers in this debate that the Bill is all about equality. People must be treated equally and Parliament must ensure it. The first statement is reasonable; the second is not. Certainly we are all equal before the law, but a far higher authority than even anyone here has already decided that people are not equal. Some are stronger, cleverer, lazier, plainer or better-looking than others. Some people can see, while others are blind. If anyone brings a Bill to this House to change that, I will be the first in the Lobby to vote for it; but no Bill can change that.

This Bill ignores a fact well understood for centuries: marriage is not about just love. Of course, homosexuals are often very delightful, artistic and loving people. No one doubts that for one single moment. However, marriage is not about just love. It is about a man and a woman, themselves created to produce children, producing children. A man can no more bear a child than a woman can produce sperm. No law on earth can change that. This is not a homophobic view. It may be sad, it may be unequal, but it is true. This Bill is either trying to pretend that it can change men into women, or vice versa, or telling us that children do not need a father and a mother and that a secure framework for children to be brought up in is not really important any more.

There is more mischief here. A free and just country must allow its people to live according to their consciences. We may not agree with their views—that does not matter at all—but they have a right to follow them and live by them. Year by year in Britain, this right is being eroded. The Government assure us that no church and no person will be forced to act against their conscience by this Bill. Did nobody notice, in earlier debates in the other place, that the Government disallowed any amendment that would protect the right to a conscience? It was all going to be fine and dandy because nobody would be forced to do anything that they did not want to do. However, promises of this kind have been made and broken so many times that we know they are false. It is not fine and dandy. These promises cannot be alone in all the promises that have been made over all the years and proved to be false.

As long ago as 1967, nurses and doctors were told that those against terminations would not be forced to do abortions. Then what happened? They could not get a job. Only last month there were press reports of a court case brought by midwives, still fighting after nearly 50 years for the rights that they were promised and never received. Christian teachers now tell us that this Bill will force them to teach homosexuality, entirely against their conscience. Registrars will be forced to conduct same-sex marriages; in fact, several of them have been sacked already because they have said that their conscience was against doing so. That no longer seems to matter. However, to me, it matters a very great deal.

You have to close your bed and breakfast if you will not accept gay couples, although pubs can refuse to serve customers—I do not understand that. You will be sacked from your job if you wear a cross—even a teeny-weeny one. Catholic adoption agencies, as has been mentioned today, have all been closed because they no longer have the right to follow their teaching, despite earlier assurances that they would be allowed to do so. We should watch how much the law of conscience, and each person having a right to it, has been quietly, piece by piece, disappearing. This is a bad Bill, built on lies, and I shall vote against it.