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Third Reading

Part of Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 15th July 2013.

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Photo of Lord Fowler Lord Fowler Conservative 4:00 pm, 15th July 2013

My Lords, in some humility, I say that I disagree with both my fellow Conservatives who have just spoken, and in particular with the last speech. I do that in the context of paying tribute to the very high standard of the debate that has taken place. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Dear, and his colleagues for the way it has been conducted.

It is never ever been our case—those of us who want reform—that opposition is homophobic. That is not remotely the case that we have been putting. There is a central division between us. When opponents of the Government’s legislation have said, “Remember what people outside are saying”, that goes two ways. We might remember also what many tens of thousands of gay and lesbian people outside are saying. It is important to them, as the noble Lord, Lord Alli, so movingly said, in personal terms. I am struck and touched by the numbers of people who have been in touch with me to say what an important decision this is. It is, of course, after years and years of discrimination. That is what makes their support so moving.

The second point is that it is important in another way. During the passage of the Bill, I have been, as it happens, to a range of countries where discrimination against gay and lesbian people is not only an underlying feeling, but it is set out either in legislation or in official attitudes of those countries. I think in particular of a country I am recently back from—Russia. I think of Ukraine and Uganda. Personally, I hope that the message of this House of Lords is that there is a better way of doing these things than the way that those countries are doing them. It is a plea for equality and for non-discrimination. That is the hope and the message that I hope goes out from this House. I believe that, very shortly, the Government will have done a great thing here and I congratulate them on it.