My Lords, I want to follow the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, because I have experience of this. Let us be clear about the prejudice of not being able to be married in the Church of England. I married just over 16 months ago. I and my husband, like every other couple, went into this with a sense of enjoyment and excitement, wishing to reaffirm our love of 23 years in the eyes not just of society but also, because of David’s view on religion, of the Church. We were denied. The law of this country denied us that right. We were not equal in the eyes of the law. So when we talk about same-sex marriage, it is not equal in law at the moment because of the provision concerning the Church. How do you think that makes me feel? We are not talking here about an abstract concept; we are talking about humans. It made me feel, in my country, not equal, not worthy of the Church rejoicing in my love, not worthy of being born in the eyes of God and being seen as equal.
The powerful nature of that prejudice is deep. It has an effect on human individuals beyond just feeling that an institution cannot marry them. It devalues the very love that I, my husband and others have. As the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, said, this amendment does not order the Church to accept me. It puts down in legislation the provision that if the Church so decides, as faith evolves—if it understands that the love between me and my husband, that love in all same-sex marriages, is equal to that of any other—it can bring my marriage and others into its arms.
It is for that reason that I ask noble Lords to support this, because it has a profoundly human effect. I hope that the Church welcomes this with open arms, although I understand that for some—not for all—there may be some theological reason why this cannot be done at the moment. As debates go on within the synod and the Church, this amendment gives the provision to do at some later date what other churches have done—to accept me, my husband and other same-sex couples as equal. If not, the prejudice that we have received will continue to be hurtful and enshrined in law.