Lynne Featherstone

MP for Hornsey and Wood Green

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

Marriage (same sex couples) Bill – passed 2nd reading today

Today was definitely a day to remember! Equal Marriage came to the Commons for 2nd Reading and passed with a majority of 400 to 175 – a huge leap forward on the journey to full equality. Equal Marriage will become a reality.

A real hurrah for the happiness that this will bring to those who have been discriminated against and prevented from expressing their love for each other in the way that everyone else can.

As the originator of this change to legislate for full equal marriage I have fought for its safe passage throughout. On this journey I have been helped by many, many people who believe in equality and fairness – and I want to thank them profoundly for their support. There are too many to mention – but here are just a few.

So – thank you to the superb team of civil servants who worked tirelessly to ensure that a very challenging and difficult proposal was executed to the highest of standards including handling the biggest response to any consultation in history.

Of course – above all – a massive thank you to the Liberal Democrats who have always been staunch campaigners and believers in equality and have the stand out record on LGBT rights. Special thanks obviously to Nick Clegg who when I first ‘phoned him to say I was going to embark on this endeavour said I had his full support and who has been there every step of the way. Also thanks to Ed Fordham, Brian Paddick, Adrian Trett, Stephen Gilbert, Stephen Williams, Caron Lindsay and many others in the LibDems for continually pushing and pushing to get the messages out there. And congratulations to Stephen G and Stephen W for great speeches in the chamber today.

Less obviously in terms of public perception as having a major role in this – but a big thank you to Theresa May. She was my Secretary of State and without her support – genuine support – this would not have got out of the stables. David Cameron, very helpfully and also genuinely – at the Conservative Conference made it a key commitment himself – and he has been steadfast throughout – despite the angst of some of his backbenchers. Thanks to my colleague during my time at the Home Office, Nick Herbert, who went out to bat for this whenever necessary?

Thanks too to Labour’s Angela Eagle, Chris Bryant and Ed Miliband for making sure that cross party support helped see this through. And thanks to Labour for taking so many of those earlier steps up to and including Civil Partnerships.

Then there are the LGBT groups who have at every trial and tribulation – and there have been many – kept pushing forward and kept responding with reason to the appalling things that have been said during the passage of equal marriage. It was whilst listening to these campaigning groups as Equalities Minister when I was working on Civil Partnerships in Religious Premises that I realised that only equal marriage would answer the call for equality. And I am very glad that the legislation is permissive and will allow those religions who wish to perform marriages to do so.

Huge thanks also go to the LGBT media and LGBT people who work in the media – who have worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the campaign. And special mention for the Out4Marriage campaign – a fantastic effort.

Huge thanks also go to those brave individuals from religious groups who put their heads above the parapet and have stood up for equality against some of the most depressing and terrible things that have been said. I respect and have respected all the way through the opinions and views of those who do not support this change. I can understand that for some people it seems strange and for some it is against their religious beliefs – but nothing really excuses some of the awful things that have been said and written in this regard.

And thanks too to all the countless individuals who have had to endure the sort of attacks and foul comments on websites and who with endless patience have responded and tried to explain what equality actually means. And to all those others who simply believe in equality.

So heartfelt thanks to all who sped this very important Bill on its way. Apologies to anyone I have omitted. No doubt there will be amendments and many arguments as the Bill wends its way through its legislative journey – but change will come.

Good wishes to the team who will now take this through – Maria Miller, Hugh Robertson, Helen Grant and Jo Swinson.

And one very happy LibDem going to have a glass of wine to celebrate a great day in politics.

Tue 5 February 2013
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Comments

  1. Steve says:

    Thanks all round. And of course to your fellow Lib Dem Sarah Teather for voting against it.

  2. [...] Thanks are due again for an excellent article from Lynne Featherstone’s website here. [...]

  3. Chris Smith says:

    Many congrats Lynne – a real, real success. Even my teenage children at uni were impressed with the Lib Dems on this one (not been a common event as you can imagine!).

    Am I missing something in the trenches or are we as a party not shouting about this enough? We get all the soft stuff thrown at us when we are given the regular job of presenting the difficult policies but we have to either mobilise the nation to advertise our good side (e.g.this Saturdays action day which is great) or hand over the positive stuff to others in terms of PR. Apologies if I have missed it but I haven’t noticed anything other than disgruntled bonkers Tories saying how are stance is sending the country’s moral compass down the toilet! Most of the country agrees with us so we should advertise it, and you, more. Rant over!

  4. Thank you Chris – we are shouting about it – but the split in the Conservatives became the story. We just have to keep trying to get heard above the noise.

  5. Diane Sparkes says:

    Hi Lynne,
    Thank you for all your efforts on this bill, I know we still have a way to go but keep up the good work.

    For the transgender community the passing of this bill will put right a serious anomaly for those transgender people who transitioned after they married.

    That anomaly relates to the ability of the transitioned party to be legally recognised, a state driven form of discrimination made due to the fact that from day one, the marriage act failed to recognise the existence of transgender persons.

    As a result of this inadequacy within the marriage act and the fact that if they were ever considered citizens, no state recognition of transgender people was ever considered in the forming of the marriage act. Much like the black people in the USA who were there but had little value in society and who were considered virtually second class citizens, transgender people have in been in the same position for far too long.

    While racism is mostly a thing of the past, unfortunately transgender folk are still an issue for many people who simply do not understand, or will not accept the transgender condition.
    As a result, decades later the most marginalised of the marginalised in society (married and transgender) still ask for nothing more than the rights others have, to stay married regardless of the circumstances.

    One would have thought that in this new Millennium our politicians might just have considered the effects legislation formed in the past had stigmatised transgender people, especially now that there is so much research available to show being transgender is not a mental condition but a variation of the human species.

    Yet still there are those religious and political organisations that cannot get their heads around what they have done the disappointment and fear they have created for just one relatively small section of society. There is some agreement around the fact that the passing of the marriage bill will set everything right. But once again it has not been fully thought through.

    There appears to be no hint of an apology for this appalling application of state discrimination, neither is there any suggestion of repealing the laws that imposed such draconian measures that forced the destruction of so many transgender marriages over the years. Neither is there any suggestion, or of returning those forced to divorce in order to obtain ones true identity; back to their previous married status.

    No doubt those responsible for this new legislation, and many others if it is passed will tell us that we should be grateful for finally achieving acceptance, but what will be their view is it fails at the vote. Will there be any incentive to put right the wrongs of the past in regards to married transgender people, or will we still continue to be second class citizens?

    Let’s have no misunderstanding of the purposes of this bill, rightly so, equality should exist for all people, those mainly affected by this bill passing will be the Gay and Lesbian section of society, and this gives great credit to those who have struggled for so long.
    Certainly those married transgender will also benefit, but should that be it!

    It is well known transgender people have probably always existed, that being the case it is important to ask why was it not prudent to amend the marriage act back in 1994 to include the unique situation where one party to a marriage changed their gender, when it affects no other person but the parties involved. I suggest that homophobia and Transphobia by those involved in drafting the amendments, occurred simply because they could not accept the concept of same sex marriage, a concept still difficult for many today!

    This situation in respect of married transgender people should never have happened, it was an error made by the state by ignoring the existence of transgender persons and for not building in appropriate exceptions within the act at the time of inception. Later; for failing to create a specific amendment for this purpose, something that could have so easily been created for this unique situation. Perhaps our legislators might consider this a possibility should this bill fail.

    Fingers crossed it does not.

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