My Lords, first, I apologise to the noble Baroness and to the Committee for being unable to speak at Second Reading, although I was present for a large part of the debate. My amendment is very simple and I hope it will be seen by the Committee as an attempt to build on the success of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, which many of us in this Chamber view as one of the great successes of the coalition Government. The noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, who took it through on behalf of the Government, won huge plaudits at the time for the way she did that and for the way in which she won over some sceptical Members of the House as the Bill went forward. There was, however, a major flaw in that Act. It included what in today’s parlance would be called a backstop, but I remember that at the time it was called a “triple lock”. This effectively ruled the Church of England out of the Bill’s provisions. It continued the ban on same-sex couples marrying in Church of England churches.
I took advice this morning from the Public Bill Office, to which I express my deep gratitude, as to whether it would be possible to propose a simple amendment to the Bill to effectively change that so that, at some point in the future—I look at the right reverend Prelate, because I think that it will be in his hands and the hands of members of the Church of England—there will be an opportunity to say that, because the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act has been such an unqualified success and is already allowing thousands of same-sex couples to enjoy the opportunity to be married and live together, it should be possible for the Church of England to follow the lead set by the Anglican Churches in Scotland, the United States, Canada and other countries and permit same-sex couples to marry in church. The amendment provides the opportunity for that debate, and I hope very much that the Committee will look sympathetically on what I am proposing. I beg to move.