Lynne Featherstone

MP for Hornsey and Wood Green

my blog
Lynne's Parliament and Haringey Diary, established 2003

An amazing day for equality!

Here’s a copy of the email I sent out to all Liberal Democrat Members today…

It’s been an amazing day for equality today as the Coalition Government announced it will introduce legislation to open marriage up to same-sex couples.

I am so proud of our Party because – don’t let anyone fool you – it’s because of Liberal Democrats that this is happening.

It all started two years ago when LGBT+ Lib Dems and Conference broke new ground. In September 2010, Liberal Democrat members voted to support equal marriage and end the separation between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. I took that vote to heart, saw an opportunity, telephoned Nick to say that I was going to go for equal marriage in my role as Equalities Minister at the Home Office. Nick gave me his support and his blessing – and quite frankly – at sticky moments during its passage his full-on powerful interventions when and as needed.

We’re two years on and it has been a hard battle. As Equalities Minister I was in charge of putting together the consultation on equal marriage. I met with LGBT groups, campaigners, lawyers, faith groups and many others. As we all know, marriage is an ancient institution, often tinkered with, but I had no idea how confusing the patchwork of legislation that governs it was. At one point the naysayers were making ominous noises about how it would lead to disestablishment of the Church if I pushed ahead with this!

Now you all know me better than these people did. It just made me more determined to show we could achieve this without the world as we know it ending. When we launched the consultation the Government was deluged by so many anti-equality voices trying to stop me (and recently Jo Swinson who took over from me in the reshuffle) pushing for this in government.

These voices were heard not least on the backbenches of our Coalition partners by those who still get somewhat hot under the collar when you talk about a modern, diverse and open Britain! Still – with Liberal Democrats firmly behind this policy, David Cameron has the votes necessary to defy them.

It became clear during the consultation that many same sex couples wanted to get married and wanted to do so in a full religious ceremony. And there were many religious organisations who wanted the freedom to conduct same-sex marriages. With Nick’s help we delivered this victory for religious freedom, at the same time protecting the rights of those religions who do not want to conduct such services.

It’s been a proud day for me and you should feel proud too. Without us – this would never have happened!

Tue 11 December 2012
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Comments

  1. James Davidson says:

    Dear Ms Featherstone

    I do not understand your seeming pleasure over this botched piece of legislation.

    As one of your gay constituents I have no interest in marriage, nor in any others’ sanction of my personal arrangements, nor requested that you interfere in this matter.

    Now, to be responsible for the introduction of legislation to alllow gay people to marry that will not be recoginised by the churches that would be expected to serve the majority of gay people who would be interested in getting married seems extremely shortsighted to me.

    While I was already aware of the bigotry of many in the state church against me and those like me, it does not seem advantageous to have this enshrined in statute.

    Badly done. I was better off without.

    James Davidson

  2. The Church of England can come to government any time to ask to opt in – that was made clear in the Chamber.

    Lots of gay couples don’t want to get married as you say – but lots do. The State’s role, in my view, is to facilitate same sex marriage for those who do.

    As to the Church – go have your battles with the Church that spurns your sexuality. That is your battle with the established Church. Write them letters and emails and campaign for equality there – where hearts and minds need changing.

    Politics is the art of the possible and whilst you may believe you are better off without – thousands disagree with you.

  3. James Davidson says:

    Hi Lynne

    Missing my point, but if, as you say, many gay people want this change….where are they going to take advantage of it. If you add all the Quaker Meeting Rooms and Liberal Synagogues around the country….there will surely be insufficient appropriate premises to hold all these weddings! We’ll need the churches after all!

    Really I object to the fact that with this proposed legislation you and the Tories are giving nthe established church of this country another way to discriminate, legally against gay people, totally unnecessarily. It would have been braver and more democratic to take the fight to the bigots, if you were going to do anything, and force them to accept the society of the 21st century.

    To my mind a better, moderate route would have been to open civil partnerships to heterosexual people.

    Best wishes

    James

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