Hisotric vote for Same-Sex Marriage

In an historic moment for equal rights in the UK, after a day of heated debate, MPs voted by 400 to 175 to legalise same­sex marriage. The debate was intense and often fraught. Anyone listening to it couldn't fail to be moved by the passion expressed by both sides of the divide – and divide there certainly was.
Many MPs spoke with eloquence and intensity – and the most moving speeches were made by gay MPs
 

'Equality is Absolute'

Bristol West Liberal Democrat, Stephen Williams, noted he was born in 1966, when homosexuality was a criminal offence."During my life we have seen much progress, but it has come in fits and starts and has not always been easy," he said.
"Throughout my teenage years and my years at university, being openly gay was virtually impossible, because occasionally it could be a terrifying identity for an individual to have."I am thinking of the abuse that I received myself, and the far worse that I saw meted out to other people at school and university.
"What I say to colleagues on both sides of the House who oppose what we are trying to achieve today is please have some empathy with what your fellow citizens have been through. Equality is not something that can be delivered partially—equality is absolute."
 
Former Conservative police minister, Nick Herbert, who was also born before being gay was decriminalised. "Not so long ago, it was possible to sack someone because they were gay," he said. "People did not dare to be open. Thank goodness so much has changed in my lifetime. That progress should be celebrated, but we should not believe
 
that the journey is complete. I think of the gay children who are still bullied at school or who are fearful about whether their friends and families accept them.
I think of sportsmen and women—vital role models—who still do not feel able to come out. The signal we send today about whether the law fully recognises the place of gay people in our society will really matter."
 
Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert spoke of his experience as a gay working­class teenager growing up in rural Cornwall where it was hugely difficult for him to be open, honest and up­front with his family, friends and workmates. He said that he welcomed the Bill that would be sending out the signal that people are valued equally across the country. "That signal will deeply affect people like me is the same way I was affected 20 years ago , when the House voted to equalise the age of consent, That was the first time I saw other gay people on a TV screen and it was the first time that I realised I was not alone. It changed my life".
 
Margot James, the first openly lesbian Tory MP said that "Having been different for most of my life, I can assure you that being treated equal is very welcome indeed"

'Personal Battles'

Crispin Blunt, Conservative MP for Reigate, said the Bill was part of an "astonishing and wonderful change" that had taken place over the past 50 years which had "taken millions of us from criminalisation to legal equality and the enjoyment of self­worth and validation. Those sentiments were certainly not apparent to me as a young man. I thought there was something wrong with me that had to be mastered, and for three decades I managed that struggle. The relief and happiness that comes from not having to do so any longer is due to the courage of others who fought for all the measures to advance equality over the past five decades that are the precursors to today's Bill."
 
Stewart Andrew, the Conservative MP for Pudsey, spoke of his "personal battles" and "some of the most troubling and dark times" in his life. "Many people have spoken and written about deeply held religious beliefs. From an early age, I developed those beliefs, going to church without the support of my family. That faith grew over time, but in my adolescence, I began to realise that I was gay. Being gay in a small Welsh village really was like being the only gay in the village. It was the start of some very deep questioning about my faith and my sexuality that has taken me years to try to resolve, and I am still seeking answers."

'Simply Asking for Equal Treatment'

It was another Conservative MP, Mike Freer, (Finchley and Golders Green) who made what is widely regarded as one of the most moving speeches. "I thought long and hard about seeking to speaking in this debate. I genuinely feared the tone of the debate and how colleagues would seek to oppose the bill. So when colleagues talked about gay marriage making them physically sick – or when colleagues suggested it was a step towards legalising polygamy or incest ­ They need to remember that there are people involved – people's lives are involved – and we should 
remember that the words spoken in this chamber hurt far beyond this chamber when we speak". Mr Freer told the Commons that the proudest day of his life was six years ago when he entered into a civil partnership with his partner of 21 years.
 
"Our civil partnership was a huge step forward for us, and yet many argue that we should be content with our civil partnership – after all it affords all of the same legal protections as marriage – but I ask my married colleagues, did you get married for legal protections it afforded you? Did you go down on one knee and say 'darling, please give me the protections marriage affords us? Of course you didn't. My civil partnership was our way of saying to my friends and my family this is who I love, this is who I am, this is who I wish to spend the rest of my life with."
 
Mr Freer added: "I'm not asking for special treatment I am simply asking for equal treatment. "I am a member of this Parliament. I sit alongside you in committees, in the bars and in the tea rooms. I queue alongside you in the division lobbies. But when it comes to marriage, why are you asking me to stand apart and to join a separate queue? I ask you: if I am equal in this House, give me every opportunity to be equal."

'No Room for Complacency'

FFLAG Patron Peter Tatchell comments "The bill may still face strong opposition. The next major battle on the bill will be in the House of Lords, where the outcome is far from certain. The opponents of equal marriage are determined to make a last ditch stand in defence of marriage discrimination. They want to keep lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people as second class, unequal citizens."
 
The Roman Catholic church made clear that it would use the strong objections to the bill voiced by MPs across the house to maintain its campaign against same­sex marriage. The anti­equal marriage group Coalition for Marriage, said that this would not be the end of the fight against gay marriage.
 
Philip Hensher writing in The Independent commented 'Marriages come in all shapes and sizes. Yours is not like your neighbours, and is certainly not like the marriage that you might have had 50 years ago. The description of a formal, legal union between people of the same sex as "marriage" is an important step. People understand a marriage in ways which they do not, quite, understand a civil partnership.'
 
As parents and friends who do all we can to support our LGBT loved ones, we can do no better than to quote Peter Tatchell again 'Our love will triumph over their prejudice'

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