The noble Lord, Lord Blair of Boughton, was not correct when he said that the tide of history flows always in one direction—would that it were so. In

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many parts of the world it is flowing in a very different direction and that is one of the great dangers of which we must be aware when we espouse social change of a major order. My noble friend Lord Lothian made the point—and I share many of his concerns about conflict in various parts of the world—that if one does not take the people with one in a social change, one can actually provoke reaction against it. I give one example: I am a member of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and it is clear that there is a stream against continuing with the ordination of women, which we have had since 1927. It is not at all impossible that it might be reversed; it was reversed some years ago in the Presbyterian Church in Australia. Therefore, the tide of history does not always flow in one direction, and it can be greatly disadvantageous.

The question is: what does the community want? The electorate are often much more fickle, saying one thing now and a very different thing a little while later. Have the Government made the argument? My noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston made a thoughtful speech. I noted that she said, near the end, that quite simply the love and relationship are the same and therefore should be included in marriage. I had not even finished noting it down before she said that of course the relationships were different. Both statements cannot be entirely true. In a way, her jest—sometimes the truth is spoken in jest, and she mentioned George Clooney—said a lot because it pointed out that the thought of marriage is for many people about merely a sense of attraction, the wish to be with a person and the wish for that to be permanent. There was not much sense of looking at the other components of marriage that are also important but are not necessarily a part of civil partnership. The bringing into being of children, nurturing them and bringing them up are not things of little importance.

It is therefore important to persuade, and I am not persuaded that the talk of equality is not being mistaken for sameness in the minds of some people. Yet the truth is that equality is about recognising difference, diversity and treating people fairly, not trying to ensure that everyone fits into the same institution. The Bill will not achieve what it is said to achieve for gay Christians who wish to solemnise their marriage in churches. It will not happen unless what happens is similar to what the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, referred to when he talked about those who had spoken in favour of civil partnerships having changed their minds about whether they were going to press for same-sex marriage. Could it be that we find ourselves returning to this issue again in this House in debate and in legislation because, once achieved, there would be unhappiness that all the main churches were still not prepared to accept this matter? Unless one was a Quaker, liberal Jew or Unitarian, it still would not be possible to solemnise a marriage in a church. Would we return to the issue? I fear that we would do so again and again. The arguments must be clear, thoughtful and robust. This is not the only issue of equality whereby the notions of sameness and uniformity seem to have grasped people and they no longer understand equality in any other way.

My time has gone—those who know me well know that I can speak at substantial length on anything I

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care passionately about. I speak not as one who is unpersuadable, nor as one who stands in the way of change if it is clearly thought through and reflected upon, but as one who genuinely feels that sometimes what appears to be a progressive move can trigger quite the opposite. We must tread carefully, thoughtfully and reflectively to ensure that we make real progress for all concerned and for our society as a whole. A lot has been said about individuals but this is a social institution for society as a whole and it must be thought through in that context.

I shall continue to listen and to think. I suspect that I shall not feel able to support the Bill, but neither shall I feel able to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dear, because I believe that, the elected House having spoken, it is our job to consider, reflect and debate upon the Bill in public where our society may see it, and in that way contribute to the further discussion of the Bill.

9.01 pm

Lord Browne of Madingley: My Lords, to my mind, the evidence is quite clear. Marriage is a human construct and the romantic idea of marriage as a beacon of stability does not stand up to scrutiny. Rather, as views about what is socially acceptable have changed, so have the boundaries and parameters of marriage.

The freedom to marry in the United Kingdom used to be confined to Anglicans. Over the centuries, it has been extended to Catholics, Jews and Quakers, to all other religions, and to those of no religion at all. Divorce no longer requires an Act of Parliament and women now have equal status in a marriage.

More than 80% of people in Britain now agree that homosexuality is a way of life that should be accepted by society. What should be, and always has been, the yardstick when it comes to marriage is what is socially desirable; we should then decide what the function of marriage should be—not the other way round. That is one of the many reasons why I support this Bill. I want to offer two more.

The first is a practical argument, based on my long time in business. In 2007, I resigned as CEO of BP because of the lengths I went to in order to hide my sexuality. I thought that coming out might threaten the company’s commercial relationships and my career. I will never know if those fears were justified, but they are no way to do business. People are happier, more productive and make more money for their company when they feel included and they can be themselves. As a business leader, I want people to focus all their energies on their job, not on hiding part of who they are. Inclusiveness makes good business sense and giving gay couples the freedom to marry will eliminate one more barrier to inclusion. If it helps them to be themselves in the workplace, it will represent another step towards the meritocracy to which we all aspire. Gay marriage is a matter of strategic importance for British business.

The second reason comes from my personal experience. I grew up in a climate of fear, where homosexuality was illegal. My mother was an Auschwitz survivor and advised me never to trust anyone with my secrets. I avoided discrimination by simply keeping quiet. Young

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gay people today live in a different, more tolerant world but they still worry about discrimination, marginalisation and how their families and friends will react. One of the most effective ways to dispel this stigma is through the provision of role models. If I had seen gay men in legally recognised public relationships of the sort my parents were in, I would have found it easier to come out and I would have been a much happier person.

We must not lose the plot. The Bill enables same-sex couples to be married by civil and—only if they provide their consent—religious authorities. At critical points in history, this House has recognised the need to adapt to changes in society. That is the source of its strength and the reason for its longevity. I intend to vote against the noble Lord’s amendment.

9.05 pm

Lord Framlingham: My Lords, the first thing I must say is that I have absolutely no choice about how I vote on this issue. The principle of marriage being a union between a man and a woman for life is sacred, and the role that it plays in binding together families and nurturing children is an indispensable part of the fabric of our country. That has always been one of my core beliefs and I cannot desert it now. I really do believe that if this Bill were to become law, untold and unforeseen damage would be done to our country and to how we see ourselves.

This issue is not like a debate and a vote on the National Health Service, on our nation’s defence or even on the structure of your Lordships’ House, important though those matters undoubtedly are. As far as I am concerned, this is a change that we should not even be contemplating or debating. The fact that we are is a very sad indicator of just how far our country has lost its moral compass or perhaps of just how wide now has grown the gulf between the people and those who govern them. I feel sure that millions of people share my beliefs and concerns to a greater or lesser extent and that, if this measure goes through, their belief in what their country stands for and the role of your Lordships’ House will be severely damaged.

If this proposal has genuine merit, what harm can voting against its Second Reading at this time honestly do? The worst that can happen is that the Bill will be delayed, giving time for government, all the political parties and the people in the country to think the matter through carefully. It can then be put forward again properly in a fair and honest way at the next general election, which is now not very far away. That is the worst that could happen.

But what is the worst that could happen if we allowed the Bill to pass its Second Reading without having thought carefully about all its ramifications, and without a proper political and national debate, which of necessity must be thorough and will take some time? I say that that would prove to be a disastrous course of action and one that we must set our faces against.

I beg noble Lords not to be bamboozled or seduced by the argument that says, “Just vote for the Second Reading and all your concerns will be ironed out at the Committee stage”. Once your Lordships have agreed

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to a Second Reading, the game is lost; they have sold the pass. A question of principle becomes a war of attrition in which the Government almost always prevail. Noble Lords should remember that they will constantly be told, “Well, you voted for it at Second Reading”.

The role of this House, and its legitimacy and relevance in the world today, are constantly being questioned—not, I hasten to add, by me. I have the utmost faith that this House will always do the right thing at the right time. However, these questions still hang over us.

Let us be honest: there is no desire or support for this Bill in the country. This is surely the moment to demonstrate our relevance, our understanding and our purpose in a way that will earn the undying gratitude of many immediately and, I believe, the vast majority of the British people when they come to understand what really was at stake. I will certainly support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dear, tomorrow.

9.09 pm

Lord Carey of Clifton: My Lords, we have heard some stirring speeches today. No one doubts their sincerity and commitment. I particularly want to thank the Minister for the way she contributed to the debate in her opening speech, and the tone she set. That tone has been followed throughout the day. I also want to thank the noble Lords, Lord Black and Lord Smith, for their personal testimony of what it means to be homosexual, and the noble Lord, Lord Browne, as well. We need to hear those kinds of stories and take them into our system, so that we can think more about them in the days ahead.

In three weeks’ time my wife and I will celebrate our 53rd wedding anniversary. I know that some Members of this House can claim to have served longer in the marital stakes than we have, but whether we have been married for just a few months, for as long as I have or for longer—perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, has the edge on me—all of us can say that along with the joy, the difficulties and some tragedies that happen to us on the way, marriage is at the heart of human love and society.

Those of us who were married according to the Book of Common Prayer will recall the preface to the wedding service:

“And therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly”.

Although addressed to the couple, the words can bear the broader meaning that nobody should take marriage lightly or indifferently. It is the view of many people that, sadly, this has happened and is happening. The noble Lord, Lord Dear, in his brave speech, gave voice to that. We are treating it all too lightly.

The Conservative Party knows that if the intention to widen marriage to include same-sex couples had been put in its manifesto, it would not have been in a position to form a coalition. Discussion of this fundamental building block of society—we have all described it as that—has been thwarted at every turn. There has not been a proper debate, and the consultative process has been a shambles because, right from the

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outset, the Government have made it clear that the consultation has never been about whether same sex couples should marry, but how it might be achieved.

That is now behind us, but there is a proper question that has come through our debate today, and it is one that I have heard from same-sex couples. They ask, “When you talk about celebrating married love, why can't it be for us as well?” That is a very important question that we need to face up to. Those proposing change usually argue, as they have done today, in terms of equality. But with respect, we are told that those in same-sex relationships already have parity with marriage through civil partnerships, which give them equal rights. Equality is hardly the right term to use when comparing same-sex couples with those who are married, not least because marriage is not, and has never been, viewed in terms of sameness, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester mentioned earlier, but of difference—the difference of male and female, which creates and nourishes life.

Of course, marriage does not have to include children, but in the majority of cases it does. It is a procreative institution. This is the major and crucial difference between marriage and civil partnerships. This point has not come across as powerfully as it should. Those of us who are resisting change are not doing so because we are cussed or bigoted, but because of the fundamental principle that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. We should not fall into a trap. We have heard once or twice that morality is on only one side of this debate; it is not. Those of us who disagree are morally concerned about the issue as well.

I will end by making this point. I have no doubt whatever that should this Bill pass, marriage as we know it will be weakened and diminished. I do not believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex couples will strengthen it, as the Home Secretary has declared on several occasions. Recent research in countries where the marriage of same-sex couples is already a reality shows the collapse of traditional marriages alongside same-sex marriages. When we vote on the Bill tomorrow, we need to bear this evidence in mind. We shall all follow our consciences, of course, but I shall keep faith with the institution of marriage as I have experienced it and as I have taught it. Therefore, I will vote for the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Dear.

9.15 pm

Lord Deben: My Lords, it seems to me that one of the difficulties we have when faced with something that appears to be so new is that we cannot quite imagine what it must have been like when something like this happened in the past. However, there is a direct 19th-century parallel to the debate we are having here. It was the argument about the right of a man to marry his deceased wife’s sister. That battle was horrendous. The Table of Kindred and Affinity, that schoolboy refuge from boring sermons, specifically forbids such a union. It is the same chapter of Leviticus that condemns gay sex, and it called marriage with your dead wife’s sister an abomination. On that basis, your Lordships’ House stopped reform from 1835 right up to 1907. Last week, I reread the arguments of

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those who scuppered the reform, and I fear that I have heard them all again today. Your Lordships then complained about rushed legislation. They said that it would be the end of marriage and that it would encourage incest. They hinted at polygamy. They said in particular that for 2,000 years such an outrageous thing had never been contemplated, and yet, once passed, that most controversial of Acts was wholly accepted. The Church of England revised the Table of Kindred and Affinity so that what was once an abomination is now holy matrimony.

It was the science that did it. Once we understood consanguinity, we distinguished between relationships that were genetically dangerous and those which were simply culturally arguable, and so it is with gay marriage. Once we understand scientifically that some people are solely attracted to their own sex, we realise that homosexual practice is not heterosexuals behaving badly, but gay people behaving naturally. That automatically means that the state can no longer exclude this minority. As a result, in my lifetime we have moved from criminalisation almost to equality. Today, we have the chance to complete that journey, to accept the science, and to allow civil marriage for all.

This is civil marriage. State marriage has diverged from church teaching for more than 150 years; some would even say since Henry VIII rigged the rules to his own advantage, but that would be an embarrassment to some Members of this noble House. As a convert Catholic, I have chosen to accept that Christian marriage is about procreation, that it is indissoluble, and that there is no such thing as divorce. Yet, as a parliamentarian, I cannot demand that non-Catholics should accept that definition. As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey, has reminded us on other occasions, marriage is owned neither by church nor state. Otherwise, I have to say to the noble and right reverend Lord that I am worried about the basis of his theology. It seems to be stuck in an earlier age. There are no echoes of René Girard, one of the greatest theologians of our time. There is no word from Dom Sebastian Moore, not a touch of James Alison. It remains a theology that has not come to terms with Freud. In that it is a precise parallel with the 19th-century bishops who spoke here in that debate and who, like Samuel Wilberforce, had a theology that could not admit of Darwin.

There are, of course, those who say, “Why can’t these homosexuals make do with civil partnerships?” That is entirely to miss the point. Civil partnership is a means of protecting legal rights. Marriage is a public affirmation of love. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey, says that marriage is at the heart of love. He is saying that this House should say to homosexuals that they may not express their love in that way. Married for 37 years, I find that offensive. As a parliamentarian, I cannot say that to fellow citizens. I cannot accept a society that will not go that far.

Lord Carey of Clifton: I wonder whether the noble Lord would allow me to say that my argument was built on a very unsatisfactory Bill. We need to send it back to the country so that we can have a proper debate on it. The noble Lord talks about the changes to marriage. Of course there have been many changes,

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but there has not been a change to the fundamental fact about male and female. I think that all the theologians, stretching back, would agree with me.

Lord Deben: All I would say to the noble and right reverend Lord is that he is asking for us to go back to have a debate that he has already concluded. He has said that it cannot change this basic fact. I am suggesting that we have to accept that major social changes do not happen when the majority have aligned themselves. Major social changes have almost always happened when a minority have stood up for what they believe to be right and put it to the public, and in the end have proved that they are right.

I suggest that many of those who talk about civil partnerships were not terribly notable for their support of them at the time. I voted against civil partnerships because I thought that they were a fraud. The Government told gay people that it was marriage and straight people that it was not. I can now, in good conscience, vote for a truthful statement of a necessary reform and for a Prime Minister brave enough to promote it. I hope that this House will not repeat its 19th-century error. I hope that understanding will break through our misgivings and Christian charity through our doubts, and that the House will have the strength to say yes to this Bill.

9.23 pm

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, this Bill is about human rights and, as one citizen wrote to me, the creation of a society,

“where citizens are equal both in rights and responsibilities”.

In other words, this means equal citizenship for lesbian, gay and transgender couples. In the words of an LGBT carer, cited by Barnado’s, which supports this Bill in the interests of children, despite the fears expressed by a number of noble Lords,

“this is an opportunity to take away yet another barrier to equality, removing something that makes our families different to straight families”.

I would like to cite and pay tribute to a colleague of mine at Loughborough University, who has been at the forefront of the battle for equal marriage, Professor Sue Wilkinson, and to her partner, a former colleague of mine, Professor Celia Kitzinger. They married in Canada when Professor Wilkinson was based there, only for their marriage to be automatically deemed a civil partnership in this country when she returned. That for them was not equality. The noble Lord, Lord Deben, has explained extremely well why it was not equivalent. They wrote:

“As long as marriage is open only to heterosexuals, and civil partnerships only to lesbians and gay men, the British government is maintaining a symbolic separation of straights and gays, and sending out the clear message that our relationships are of less value to society than heterosexual ones. This is insulting, demeaning and profoundly discriminatory: an affront to social justice and human rights”.

I thus congratulate the Government on legislating to remove this affront.

In doing so, however, the Government risk creating a new source of injustice: the denial of the right of access to civil partnerships for same-sex couples. The

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announcement of an early review of civil partnerships is therefore welcome. I very much hope that that review will lead to their extension to same-sex couples, not their abolition. The Government Equalities Office published a document challenging some of the myths around the Bill. It states:

“MYTH: There is no difference between civil partnership and marriage. REALITY: There are some small legal differences … But for many people there are important differences in the perception of and responsibilities associated with these separate institutions”.

In the interests of those same-sex and opposite-sex couples alike for whom these differences matter, it would be a backwards step to do away with civil partnerships.

When the Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a member, questioned Ministers, the Secretary of State had some trouble in understanding why some straight couples might prefer a civil partnership over marriage. The noble Lord, Lord Faulks, who is not in his place, explained:

“There are a number of people, particularly women, who do not perhaps share your enthusiasm for marriage and think that marriage oppresses women. None the less, they would like the benefits of a civil partnership and find it rather peculiar that they would not be able to have the benefit of this relationship when same-sex couples can”.

I have to confess that I was one of those women who chose not to enter what I saw as a patriarchal institution, even if the likes of George Clooney were available, which of course he was not. However, I might well have welcomed the possibility of a civil partnership—particularly with Mr Clooney. The committee also questioned Ministers about the costs argument that they had advanced. The Minister for Pensions cited a figure of £3 billion to £4 billion, but later indicated that this figure referred to the cost of total equality in public service pension schemes. Of course, the Bill does not end discrimination in pension schemes, an issue that was raised in the Commons. Could the Minister now provide a more accurate and focused estimate of the cost of extending civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples?

In the time available, it has not been possible to go into the Bill’s details or raise issues such as the legal recognition of humanist weddings, which I would support in principle. To finish where I began, I believe that this Bill represents an important step for human rights and equal citizenship. I therefore hope that your Lordships’ House will support its basic principles when we come to vote tomorrow.

9.28 pm

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I regret that I cannot wholly follow or agree with the noble Baroness. Many speakers today have pointed to the social changes of the past 50 or more years. I do not, however, believe that progress is either automatic or linear. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, that the proponents of change must justify their case to the full.

I regret very much that the fine old English and French word “gay” has, in my lifetime, been appropriated by a small but vocal minority of the population. The result is that it can no longer be used in its original and

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rather delightful meaning. Now, under the pretext of securing equality, Her Majesty’s Government are proposing to change the meaning of marriage. It is surprising that the leaders of the Conservative Party, who might be expected to uphold traditional values, should lend themselves to this attempt. My noble friend Lord Dear and others have pointed out the constitutional and procedural defects of this Bill, so I will not repeat them. I do however agree with those who have identified unintended and unanticipated consequences.

After these criticisms, I will try to be constructive. Civil partnerships are already recognised in and defined by law. Surely the whole country should regard them as being an honourable status not to be entered into lightly but rather with the intention of permanence, as several noble Lords have already argued. Why should civil partnership be considered a second-best choice or a “make do”, as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, put it, which somehow must be promoted to equality with marriage? Those who are in or who propose to enter civil partnerships have a responsibility to live in such a way that their status deserves as much respect as that of married couples.

I conclude that the whole matter has not been adequately considered. It urgently needs further and deeper thought. We should not be rushed off our feet just because some other countries have already legislated for same-sex marriage or because the Bill may be needed to cement the coalition. There is ample evidence that public opinion, including medical opinion, is against the Bill. I therefore support my noble friend Lord Dear and will vote for his amendment. I commend his courage and thoroughness.

9.31 pm

Lord James of Blackheath: My Lords, I got a phone call last week from a former colleague of mine, whom I had not heard from or seen for some time, asking if I would come to his same-sex wedding. I said, “Yes, when is it?”. He said, “As soon as you lot have passed the Bill”. I said, “We might not pass it”. He said, “Well, you’ll vote for it won’t you?”. I said, “No, I won’t”. He said, “Well, you can’t come to the wedding then”. I said, “You’ve just exercised extreme prejudice against me. Why are you doing that? You’re pleading that you want this in order not to have prejudice, and now you’re prejudiced against me because I’m saying that I’m going to vote against it”. Then he said, “It’s not you we want, anyway, it’s your wife—she’ll really make the party rock. Can she come instead?”. I said, “Yes, of course she can. You had better write and ask her. She’ll agree”. They did and she is going.

I said, “By the way, is this anybody I know?”. I thought it might be another member of the team. “No”, he said, “We’ve been together for eight years, but he’s someone you don’t know”. I said, “Good luck”. He then said, “Tell me, really, why you aren’t in favour of this”. I said, “I’m not in favour of it because you’re going to create a series of new minority sectors in the community. You think that you’ve been underprivileged and that you can now get to a point of parity, but you’re going to be like the animals at the end of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. You’re all going to be equal, but some of you will be much more equal

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than others. And what are you going to ask for next? This is the way it’s going”. He said, “It’s very unfair”. I said, “Look, my concern here is that this is introducing a new division and a new disturbance into British society at exactly a moment when we ought to be putting all of that behind us and getting on with being one nation, trying to sort out the dreadful problems we’ve got without worrying about creating new sub-divisions—and you are a sub-division that will cause a major rift in society”.

I base that view on the fact that I have had a vast number of letters, as my noble friend Lord Naseby said. I think I have had 393 and only three of them have been in favour of this Bill. One of them, which I thought was very sweet, was from a lesbian Christian society. Another, which was absolutely amazing, was from a major research organisation, stating that homosexuality was good because it was an essential part of the evolutionary process for the human psyche. I am still trying to work that one out. As for the rest, everything has been a heartfelt expression of the anxieties that people have over what this will mean for them.

I live in West Sussex, where we have a very strange situation. On the border of the diocese of Chichester, we have two villages called Eartham and Slindon. They are a case study in how the British public reacts. Eartham is a Catholic community and Slindon is Protestant. On one day each in the past 450 years, the populations of those two villages have got up, presumably had a good breakfast and gone out with the express intention of massacring the entire population of the other. They both failed, but they had a very good go at it. The point is that two villages can hate each other to that extent on religious principle and do it for so long.

We have now at last got it sorted out. The tragedy of Slindon and Eartham is the first thing that strikes you when you walk into them: there are no war memorials for the First World War. That is serious. If you do not have a war memorial in a village, it means one of two things. It usually means that somebody in that village was executed for desertion and, therefore, the village is suffering from shame and shock and will not put up a war memorial. In Slindon and Eartham there are no war memorials, but not for that reason. The reason is that when you look at the names of the people who died there—a lot died at the first Ypres—the same names appear on the Catholic and Protestant registers. They are not the same people. They are brothers divided by their religion, which is shocking. That they can live together, go to war together and die together, but not be remembered together, is an outrage. I hope that the right reverend Prelates in front of me will give some serious thought to the possibility that there is a wonderful opportunity for the Church of England to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War next year by setting about a systematic correction of all the missing war memorials in the country to include the 304,000 people who were led out by Protestant priests to face the firing squad. It would be a very nice gesture after this interval of time, and it is way overdue.

We have here an extremely unquiet and disturbed community, which is expressing grave anxiety over what it has. We have heard today that there are real reasons why we have not thought about this long and

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hard enough. I will wholly support the noble Lord, Lord Dear, in his vote tomorrow, and hope that we will get down to some serious thinking to put it right.

The one word I have not heard enough of today is “marginalisation”. There is a real prospect of marginalisation coming in here. I am particularly unimpressed by the story of the Australian sexual equality board, which received a complaint from the two opening batsmen of the Australian women’s cricket team saying that they had been dropped because they were the only two non-lesbians on the team. They wished to complain, whereupon the board wrote back and said, “If you think that this board exists to look after the interests of a couple of straights like you, you have got another think coming. We exist only for the sake of looking after the gays”. That is marginalisation. The board then rather spoilt the argument by saying, “In any event, ladies, neither of you scored enough runs to be worth bothering with”.

9.37 pm

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: My Lords, seven years ago, this House considered the late Lord Joffe’s Bill on assisted dying for the terminally ill. I had been here only a couple of years and found it quite hard to make up my mind. I could see that the key was whether the safeguards were sufficient or whether, in the urge to be copper-bottomed, they had become too complex. I looked forward to Second Reading, because I expected the arguments for and against, and the merits and inadequacies of the various safeguards to be brought out fully. I was shocked when this House refused a Second Reading. It seemed to me that we had refused to do our job. That is how I feel about the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dear, as he knows; he was kind enough to tell me in advance of his intent, and I told him that I could not support it.

As this debate has very eloquently shown, the Bill arouses strong feelings on all sides of this House, as did the assisted dying Bill. I believe that there is a majority in this country in favour of this Bill, though a much smaller majority than was in favour of the assisted dying Bill. I believe that on assisted dying, the majority is now greater than it then was. I hope that when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, presents his Bill, we will not make the mistake we made seven years ago.

However, there is a big difference between the two Bills. This is a government Bill that has passed through the House of Commons. In his eloquent speech, the noble Lord, Lord Dear, made four arguments to support his thesis that the procedures so far have been undemocratic. First, he said that the Bill had been in nobody’s manifesto and was not in the coalition agreement. What new doctrine is this? Would we have abolished capital punishment if it had been a requirement that it should first be in somebody’s manifesto? Would Lord Jenkins, in his remarkable tenure at the Home Office, have introduced the society-changing reforms—wholly to the benefit of society, in my view—if they had first to be in the Labour manifesto? They were not in the Labour Party’s manifesto. I do not think absence of a reference in a manifesto proves that this is undemocratic and I would be surprised if students of Burke were to think that.

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Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Dear, argued that the Public Bill Committee was skewed in its membership and that its discussions were curtailed. Possibly—I do not know—but it seems a very odd reaction to such a criticism to say that we should be denied any Committee stage. If the Committee stage was too short in the Commons, let us put that right in this place. Thirdly, he argued that the public consultation was inadequate or in some way defective. I do not know about that but let us explore that in our detailed discussions on this Bill. Fourthly, he said that Members of Parliament were under pressure from the party hierarchies and therefore it was not truly a free vote, to which I can say only that Members of Parliament, like Members of this House, are grown-ups. They make up their own minds.

Let us remember that in the other place they face the electorate back in their constituencies and if they are thought to have got it wrong they may pay for that and realising that may affect how they vote. It comes pretty oddly from this place, where we are not exactly paragons of democratic accountability, to accuse the other place of an undemocratic procedure in this case. I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dear, will withdraw his amendment or, if he does not, that the House will not support it.

9.42 pm

The Earl of Shrewsbury: My Lords, like many of your Lordships, I am thoroughly unhappy with this Bill. Bearing in mind the large number of speakers on this matter, I shall be brief. In my 32 years in your Lordships’ House—I am sure I do not look that old—I have never experienced such a large mailbag as I have had on this Bill, not even for the Hunting Bill. I have had only nine letters in favour of this Bill but those letters were written with sincerity—I have no doubt in believing that. Each one was completely different and had a balanced and lucid argument. The letters against the Bill were nearly all virtually identical.

I really have struggled with this issue. At first I would have followed the noble Lord, Lord Dear, into the Lobby, should he press his amendment to a vote, but two further matters occurred to me. First, your Lordships sit here in this highly privileged position to hold the Government to account, to look at legislation and to improve it where necessary, bearing in mind always that the convention is that the elected House—the other place—should prevail over the unelected Chamber. This is a matter of considerable constitutional importance. It is the way in which we make democratic decisions. I have personal experience of wrecking two Bills at Second Reading—it was enormous fun—the Boxing Bill and the late Lord Diamond’s Peerage Bill, but they were both Private Members’ Bills and they were fair game. This is a major government Bill. We should at least give it a Second Reading. If we do not, we will deserve to be targeted by the critics and opponents of our very existence and that of this House. Our task is to improve this Bill, no matter how imperfect and unsatisfactory we believe it to be, by amendment and balanced argument on its passage through this House.

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Secondly, I have listened to the views of many young people, the majority of whom I believe do not consider this Bill to be an issue. On the television programme “Question Time” recently, support for this Bill by young people was clearly demonstrated. Those young people are the next generation. We should listen to them and take their views into account. They have a completely different view of homosexuality and a high degree of toleration for what to many of my age is the elephant in the room. I can quite understand homosexuality as a fact of everyday life, but I find it extremely difficult to accept it as the norm. That is the way that I think—that is me. However, an awful lot of water has flowed under the bridge in the many years that I have been privileged to spend in your Lordships’ House, and things in society have changed vastly over that time. All these matters will continue to change. That is life—that is the way that things go on.

In opposing this Bill, I believe that I should be legislating for the lives of those of a younger generation who will have to live with the consequences of my actions, and I do not feel comfortable with that. However, when the Prime Minister and Mr Clegg refer to this Bill as being a move to create equality, I really object. Heterosexual couples who choose not to be married to one another for their own reasons should be able to join in a civil partnership, should they so wish, and as civil partners they should be able to enjoy all the same financial and legal benefits as those in same-sex civil partnerships or, should this Bill become law, same-sex marriages. That would be equality.

Finally, I have the utmost respect for the noble Lord, Lord Dear, and I congratulate him on his tenacity. However, I can neither support nor oppose him, and I shall abstain on his amendment.

9.46 pm

Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, to be given one of the dog watch slots—number 57—in a debate in this House is usually some form of Whip’s punishment. However, tonight it has been a privilege and a pleasure to listen to superb speeches from all sides of the House and on both sides of the debate, and to arguments that cross parties, religion, and sometimes confound pre-held expectations of allegiance. I suspect the reason for that unpredictability is that every one of us in this House has formed a very personal view of both marriage and homosexuality, forged sometimes by religious beliefs or by upbringing, but certainly by our own personal experiences.

We have lived through some quite extraordinary times. The way our society treats homosexual people has changed dramatically in the course of one generation, from being a crime to be punished with hard labour in prison; through discrimination, social ostracism, victimisation and, most recently, ridicule; to a point today where—I think the noble Earl, Lord Shrewsbury, put his finger on it—to the next generation homosexuals are not branded as “queers” but are seen as people who simply have one natural variant of the human condition. It is not surprising that many of those who have lived through such rapid change are a little “off the pace”, as they say in horseracing. Bringing up the rear at present, I am sorry to say, is the Church of England.

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Attitudes to marriage, too, have changed rapidly, and not always with consequences for the worst. Like it or not, today many people choose to live together and have children without it. Yet when did we last hear a child described as “illegitimate”, as always used to be the case in my mother’s generation? That must be a good thing. Like other noble Lords, I have had many e-mails urging me not to support this Bill, as it will change or even destroy marriage as we know it. However, it has changed and is changing, even in the Church of England. Indeed, it has to change to meet the needs of a changing society or it will simply become an irrelevance to more and more people.

Surely what is important is that our society is strengthened by more stable and loving relationships and the children brought up in them, who have the best start in life. Almost every relationship, unless you are incredibly fortunate, will hit choppy water or even the odd rock at some point. Marriage provides the strongest glue there is to hold two people together when that happens. Surely those couples who care enough to want to marry should be allowed to do so whatever their sex. Why should they not be permitted to use the strongest glue there is—the superglue—rather than being told to make do with the paste and water of a civil partnership? As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, said, marriage is in effect regarded as the gold standard and at the moment we deny it to a section of our people.

To those who say that it was not properly scrutinised in the other place, my answer is: so what is new? If we rejected every Bill in that category almost no legislation would pass through this House. It will get proper scrutiny here. If there are concerns, for example, about people who may lose their jobs, they will be explored and, I hope, corrected if that worry is correct. Some of the letters I have had say that it is not fair on the children. I seem to remember the same argument was once applied to mixed-race marriages and to Catholics marrying Protestants and Jews marrying outside their faith—but no longer. The next generation has adapted to change and to variations on the traditional two married parents of opposite sex model.

I have had people say in letters, e-mails and, indeed, in this House that homosexuals cannot consummate a marriage; marriage is meant for the creation of children; homosexuals cannot commit adultery. Those are the strains of objections voiced by a number of your Lordships, including the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. We do not stop women over childbearing age or some disabled people from marrying, or those who cannot have or do not want children—of course not. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester conceded, such people are no less married—so why not homosexuals?

It is said that there is no demand for the Bill. It is true that its provisions will affect a relatively small number of our total population, but it corrects an unfairness for those people and rights a wrong that has gone on for too long. Frankly, whether it is two or 2 million who are involved, it matters not if it is the right thing to do. I believe that this Bill reflects a change in social attitudes whose time has come. I pay tribute to our much criticised Prime Minister, who has stuck to his guns on the Bill when it must have been very politically difficult for him. I am particularly

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sorry to have to oppose the noble Lord, Lord Dear, who has led us to some famous victories in the House. I regret that on this one, I believe that he is wrong.

Nobody is going to be forced by the Bill to contract, conduct or argue the case for a same-sex marriage. If an invitation should come through the door, any of your Lordships is free to reply, “Thank you but no thank you”. It is time to give homosexuals the same choices as heterosexuals and the same benefits in relation to civil marriage. It is time for us to stop putting them in a separate category and tolerating them. They deserve equality because they are equal. In five years’ time, I believe we will look back on this debate with incredulity at the objections that were raised and regard the time when homosexuals were not permitted to marry in the same way as today we view that long-gone time when—no doubt well meaning—teachers used a ruler to slap the left wrist of the left-handed child learning to write.

9.53 pm

Lord Cobbold: My Lords, marriage between a man and a woman has been the bedrock of society over the centuries and has proved to be a tried and trusted way of living and rearing children. The Bill that we are debating threatens the sanctity of marriage by the forced acceptance of same-sex couples. There are basically two levels to the traditional definition of marriage: the secular civil partnership and the religious commitment. The civil partnership is the practical relationship between two individuals who have decided that they wish to live together. The religious and spiritual part of the marriage contract is defined by the particular religion that is involved.

The civil partnership element of marriage rights is readily available to same-sex couples. The question underlying this debate is whether the state has the right to require religions to accept same-sex couples. The Bill before us, in its 52 pages, argues that it does—but I am one of the many speakers in this debate who do not accept that the Government have the automatic right, and who therefore believe that the Bill should be rejected. I therefore will be supporting the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Dear.

9.55 pm

Baroness Berridge: My Lords, this legislation brings into sharp focus the role of another important institution in our society—the state. It is an actor on this stage, promoting a view of marriage, so it has a high duty to get the statutory framework correct so that it preserves or actually encourages dissenting views in the national and local public square. For many years, the public square did not allow debate on immigration; any dissenters were racists and shut out. Such silence brings, at best, outward conformity, and led, I think, to more people walking past my flat on Saturday for the EDL than would have done if there had been a free debate. Any Member’s inbox will show how divisive this issue has become, and how strongly held the views are, but the public square is again in danger of being shut down. Dissenters are often automatically bigots or homophobic—or like the state of Alabama making

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Rosa Parks give up her seat on the bus. That is a false analogy—and that racism label again, but in a way that it would take more than a soundbite to distinguish.

Many gay people do not support same sex marriage. Are they homophobic? It is interesting to look at the exchanges in the other place between two highly respected Members of Parliament, Mr Burrowes and Mr Lammy, with Mr Lammy using a slave owner analogy and the ultimately mild-mannered Mr Burrowes saying that this argument was pernicious, offensive and playing the race card. Clearly, we cannot leave the average bobby to police this on our streets without further guidance, so this House will need to consider carefully amendments on free speech that the Government conceded were needed in the other place. Until these concessions, the Government argued that this Bill merely concerns the conduct of the ceremony itself. But legislation affects culture, debate and even atmosphere. Section 28 of the Local Government Act reflected a state view on marriage, and the gay community complained that the effect went much further than the words of the statute—and so it could be with this statute.

The state should have a view, but not a required orthodoxy. Healthy societies have pluralistic public spaces, and I have yet to come across a gay person who disagrees with this. We need to disagree without being disagreeable. Whether this statute adequately protects religious freedoms brings up some of the interesting legal questions at the cutting edge of jurisprudence, and lawyers are lining up on either side of this debate. The protections must work, because religious people are not going away. I hope that I have been wrong in detecting something of an attitude that soon the Church of England and other religious groups will get with the programme and soon just join in with all the Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, so eloquently stated, we cannot often predict the winds of change. This may well prove to be a moment when we look back and see that the Anglican Church put its stake in the sand in relation to marriage, and we do not know where the views will end up in 40 years’ time. I want to put on public record that I appreciate the stance that the Church of England has taken.

It is interesting to note that western Europe has been out of step over the past 50 years with the rest of the globe. The rest of the globe got seriously more religious. If South Korea can go from about 0% Christians to more than 50% Christians in 100 years, and I look at the renewed leadership of the Anglican Church, I am optimistic. But even if the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, is correct that the Strasbourg court will not compel a religious organisation to conduct a same-sex marriage, is that all religious groups can hope for—mere non-compulsion? If a small temple is denied local authority grants for its youth group due to its views on same-sex marriage, it should switch money from the food bank to legal fees to sue for direct or indirect discrimination. No, my Lords. This House should put in the Bill the onus on the state not to treat people detrimentally or less favourably and not leave it to the citizen or charities to have to go to court.

Finally, I will speak about my role here today. The complaint that this Bill was not in a manifesto has caused me to remember that the public did not vote

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for me; and at this moment I am actually grateful, standing as a Conservative, for that fact. I cannot be held to account by those who support the Bill. The people’s representatives in the other place had a free vote and voted overwhelmingly for this Bill. It badly needs amending. It needs this Chamber to do what it does best and improve and scrutinise legislation. The religious groups are not, I am afraid, generally content with this Bill, as my noble friend the Minister stated. The Catholics, black-led churches and other faiths, who believe that now they could be in an even more vulnerable position than the Anglican Church, need us to do our job. If this vote defeats the Bill, it will probably return next year, and we risk the Commons using the Parliament Act. In those circumstances this flawed Bill, as it stands now, would become law. Do I want to vote against this Bill? Yes. Should I? No.

10.01 pm

The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, observed that, from a Christian perspective, God can be present in every true love. I absolutely agree. But marriage is about more than love. Then we are told that the issues at stake here are equal rights, justice and social inclusion. Certainly, these are things about which Governments may legislate. Indeed, if they wish to support particular kinds of relationship by according them tax and pension benefits, that must be a matter for normal political debate. However, in this Bill the Government have chosen to proceed not by addressing real, material or legal inequalities but by redefining the key concept of marriage and its meaning.

When Parliament legislated for civil partnerships, society gave legal and institutional expression to what many hold to be true—that gay and lesbian people should have the same rights to formalise their commitment to each other and enjoy the social and legal benefits that opposite-sex couples have. If there are matters in that legal provision that are inadequate or missing, rights that have not been conferred or legitimate aspirations not recognised, then that Act should be amended, and that would have my general support. However, the battleground that the Government have chosen is not material but conceptual. The argument is driven by emotional rather than logical considerations, which is why it is so difficult to debate. No matter how loud the protestations to the contrary, at stake is a shared and common understanding of the concept of marriage, together with the consequences—intended and unintended—to which they may lead.

We are told that the scope of marriage has evolved. It has, but “scope”, my Lords, not fundamental nature. The scope, as shown by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has been varied through history with regard to age of consent, number of permitted spouses, termination, what is allowed or prohibited and restrictions on members of the same family group. What has remained constant in all times and all cultures until very recently is an understanding of marriage founded on the premise of sexual differentiation and the resulting generic potential for procreation. It is with this unchanging basis that marriage has taken otherwise different forms.

The Christian tradition, in an understanding that has hitherto also informed English law, speaks of

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sexual union, the sharing of worldly goods, the help and comfort of one for the other, and the procreation and nurture of children. On their own, none has been understood to constitute marriage. Indeed, each of these worthy objectives may be found embodied in other legal arrangements. An agreement to share goods may be a valid contract, but it is not marriage; nor does sexual union of itself constitute marriage. Family units with children exist and have always existed outside the bonds that are recognised as marriage. There are many forms of human relationship for the support and encouragement of mutual love and comfort that are not marriage. Yet now, a commitment to love and be loved, arbitrarily confined to just two non-related human beings, is to be the sole basis for the married state.

Many of those advocating this development have sought to portray any opposition to it as a faith issue. It is not; it is a societal one. Shorn of the element of complementarity of genders, all marriage will be redefined, with consequences for all. Until now, common to the definition of marriage accepted by church and state has been an understanding that a marriage is not completed in the marriage ceremony, wherever that may take place. Marriage must also be consummated—completed—in the sexual union of male and female, and is voidable if it has not been consummated. However, with the marriage of two people of the same sex, the proposed law says that these provisions do not apply. Where is the equality in that?

Similarly, the current definition of adultery will remain unchanged—sexual intercourse outside marriage with a person of another sex—which, again, does not apply to marriages between those of the same sex. Where is the equality in that? Therefore, a Bill predicated on the claim that marriage should be equal and gender is irrelevant has to recognise that this logic breaks down when confronted by the reality of marriage as hitherto universally understood. However, the proposals contain their own logic, which is that over time the historic understanding of marriage must in law cease to exist. Despite this huge difficulty, I have still tried to understand the motivation for this radical reform. Why was civil partnership insufficient? Such partnerships already allow couples to share the legal benefits of marriage and, if there are remaining differences, it is easy to amend the law. I struggle to hear what is missing. I do not underestimate the power of law to change attitudes, but the question is, which law, and what is missing that would make such a difference? A civil partnership is an act of registration, simply recording in law what is already deemed to exist, whereas marriage, in law, is seen as a “performative act”. It brings something new into being, something that until the exchange of vows and consummation did not exist. A desire for such a performative act, a ritual, and an opportunity publicly to commit to mutual love seemed to be aspirations which I could appreciate, and so the law on civil partnership could be changed without depriving marriage of its single, central meaning.

However, Clause 9 of the Bill provides for an existing civil partnership to be transformed into a “marriage” simply by signing a register. If one marriage is simply a matter of civil registration without vows, performative acts or criteria for consummation, no provision concerning

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adultery, or presumption of parenthood, and if the word “marriage” is to have a single coherent meaning, then for every other marriage it must be the same. Marriage is now civil partnership by another name. A basic understanding of marriage, in law, will have irrevocably changed, and with one reality now bearing two different labels; or we will have legislated into being two very different realities, but confusingly bearing the same name. If that happens, it raises huge issues about social cohesion, and a move away from common shared values. I remain profoundly uncertain about the legal position not just as regards the personal views of teachers but as regards what may be taught in church schools. Are they to be allowed to teach a traditional understanding of marriage, one which until now church and state have shared, while in non-church schools a different understanding is to be taught? If so, what will be the implications for social cohesion as a result? Or will church schools be forced by law to conform to a new understanding which has no roots in the doctrines of any of the major faith communities, which then sets an extraordinary precedent for the state’s power to determine articles of faith, unparalleled outside the experience in history of repressive ideological states of the extreme right and left?

Further, what is to prevent other multiple understandings, including recognition of polyamorous, polygamous and polyandrous relationships, being legislated for in due course? That is the internal logic of tackling a legitimate issue of inclusion through the redefinition of concepts rather than addressing any real inequalities that may exist.

There is a quotation from Margaret Thatcher in Charles Moore’s biography:

“Equity is a very much better principle than equality”.

In conformity with that principle, my hope is that the Government will withdraw the Bill, full of so many seen and unforeseen consequences for the fabric of our society, and start again to produce something which truly does address the really important issues that have been raised in this debate.

10.10 pm

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, 60 years ago, when I was 12 years old, I was prepared for confirmation. In those days, confirmation was taken very seriously. We had to learn the whole catechism by heart and be able to answer the questions in it correctly, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, not just in our own words. We learnt about the sacraments and what a sacrament was: an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. We learned that the two most important sacraments necessary for salvation, ordained by Christ himself, were baptism and holy communion. However, there were five other sacraments, not mentioned in the catechism but listed in article 25 of the 39 articles of religion, of which the church seems to have forgotten the existence. They are: confirmation, penance, holy orders, holy matrimony and unction. All these five visible ceremonies have a spiritual dimension.

I contend that it is not within the remit of government or of the European Union to interfere with the spiritual concerns of the church. I bounced these beliefs off my

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friendly local bishop and he agreed with me, but I am not sure whether the right reverend Prelates in your Lordships’ House do or not.

10.12 pm

The Earl of Courtown: As many noble Lords have pointed out, the marriage Bill is highly emotive and induces strong feelings. I make no attempt to synthesize the varying views of this House; I rise to make one simple point. By voting in favour of the Bill we would be gaining something while losing nothing. That is to say, it would be a net gain.

What would we be losing? I urge noble Lords to consider, for a moment, the proposition that some who oppose the Bill have put forward. They say that the institution of marriage would be undermined. They say that by allowing two gay people to marry marriage would somehow no longer be sacrosanct. They infer that their marriage would no longer mean what it once did. I ask noble Lords to consider how their marriage would be undermined, subverted or devalued simply by allowing two members of the same sex the privilege that they themselves enjoy. I have come to the conclusion that my marriage would be just as special the day before this Bill is passed as it would be on the day after it was passed. I suggest that as I was married in the eyes of the Lord, I would remain thus. To reiterate the point, those of us married in traditional marriages would not lose anything at all.

I would like to consider what the country would gain by passing the Bill. As a Conservative, I believe passionately in the institution of marriage. Would we not want to encourage as many people as possible to enter into such a stable institution? Bruce Anderson, on Conservative Home, describes the family as “social penicillin” and an establishment that can,

“cure so many social diseases”.

In a crude comparison of married people and their single counterparts, we can see lower levels of disease, morbidity and mortality, healthier lifestyle choices and lower levels of crime and anti-social behaviour. The more people who seek to take this social penicillin, straight or gay, the better. Put simply, gay people would gain something that was previously denied them, and society would lose nothing.

I will conclude on a point made by my friend Daniel Hannan. He reminds us of the issues that have come before this House over the past 20 years: Section 28, lowering the age of consent, gay adoption and civil partnerships, among others. These issues, bitterly opposed by some at the time, have become widely accepted today. At those difficult moments, we as a House recognised the need for change. We accepted that our understandings of tradition no longer resonated with the modern world. We therefore voted to change those understandings to better reflect the generations growing up beneath us. As we did so, the new settlement became the new tradition. That is to say, the necessities of one generation became the traditions of the next.

It is right that we pay particular attention to what is being said outside this Chamber. We should listen especially to the young, the next generation. We should listen to their opinions and views about same-sex marriage. The young support the Bill in overwhelming

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numbers. I urge noble Lords to bear this in mind in the Division Lobbies tomorrow and allow the next generation not to reject the traditions of yesteryear but to build the traditions of the future. In doing so, we would be voting to allow the gay community—here I echo the Prime Minister—to walk that little bit taller in the world.

10.17 pm

Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, I support noble Lords who have spoken in favour of the Bill, but I wish to speak about the small section of it that affects trans people, which has not been covered sufficiently this evening. I should declare an interest as chair of the parliamentary group on transgender issues.

Transgender people suffer not homophobia but transphobia, which in many ways is more insidious and difficult to deal with than homophobia. I will give a devastating example: the case of Lucy Meadows, a trans primary school teacher who committed suicide after being pilloried and told by some of the parents and the press in particular that because she had transed she was not fit to be a teacher. The coroner told the gathered reporters, “And to you the press, I say, ‘Shame, shame on all of you’”. He was absolutely right.

However, that is only one example of the discrimination that many trans people experience because of the fear of supposed difference and the bigotry expressed against a person who should be recognised and treated respectfully and equally. Two aspects of the Bill correct some of the current anomalies and accept that recognition. It is welcome that the legislation provides for married trans people who wish to apply for gender recognition. It removes the requirement for them to be single at the point of gender recognition and thereby removes the obligation to dissolve their existing marriage or civil partnership. Equally welcome is the Government’s concession on spouse’s survivor pensions, which will ensure that no ongoing financial penalty will be incurred should a trans person in an existing marriage gain gender recognition.

There are, however, other fundamental issues that continue to present major concerns for trans people in existing marriages. Schedule 5 to the Bill is designed to amend the Gender Recognition Act 2004, so that the requirement for an applicant to have dissolved any existing marriage is removed. The effect is that that the trans person’s spouse must grant consent for the trans person’s gender recognition. If that spouse refuses to give that consent or cannot be contacted, the trans person cannot gain gender recognition without ending the marriage. That seems unfair and surely a discrimination that has to be removed. It has been said that that is not a veto. One might not use that word but, to me, it is a way of saying no. I am not quite sure what the difference between “veto” and “no” is. It has also been said that it only happens very rarely, but if it only happens to one person, it is wrong.

Many events can fundamentally alter a marriage, including domestic arrangements such as buying a new home, having children, applying for distant jobs or medical issues. None of these requires formal spousal consent before they can commence. The Government argue that it would be unfair to remove the right of

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every non-trans spouse to have a say in the future of their marriage before gender recognition takes place. However, as Mike Freer, a Conservative MP, said in the Commons,

“it is bizarre that a man or woman who is transitioning can have surgery and change their name but cannot have a gender realignment certificate without spousal approval”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 21/5/13; col. 1127.]

A Bill designed to allow same-sex marriages and to treat them in the same way as other marriages is, in these cases, maintaining a difference between opposite-sex and same-sex marriages. This anomaly will, I am sure, be discussed in more detail in Committee.

Another anomaly which we should discuss further relates to Section 12(h) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which allows for the annulment of a marriage if someone discovers that their spouse has a gender recognition certificate but did not tell them beforehand. The response to the suggestion that this should be removed is, “Get out of the marriage quickly and at low cost”. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. The courts would have to rely on one person’s word against another’s and, as the section applies only to those who already have a gender recognition certificate, the outcome could be that someone could decide not to apply for one, with the consequences that follow from not doing so. These are two anomalies which we need to sort out when we come to Committee.

Overall, however, allowing same-sex couples to marry will remove yet another distinction between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and those who are straight. This will reduce stigma and take another step forward on the road towards LGBT people receiving their full rights. I am proud that I have been able to play some part in this in the past and I shall certainly vote for the Bill.

10.23 pm

Lord Elton: My Lords, like all noble Lords, I have received a vast amount of mail on this Bill and, because I sit on this side of the House, it is heavily skewed against the Bill. I suspect that the other side of the House has been fed vast numbers of letters in favour of the Bill. Why should it be that people preach to those whom they believe are already converted? Surely we ought to swap our mail to get a proper view of what public opinion is. I have had some mail and some e-mails in favour of the Bill. I would say to my noble friend Lord Dobbs that I recognise the age distinction, but the number of e-mails that I received for and against was very nearly even, so I think that there are some at least middle-aged people who share my views.

I am wasting time; what I want to come to is this. I was convinced by those letters and e-mails of the genuineness of the hurt felt by the homosexual minority in our society—a hurt which I understand is real. Of course, being a minority always generates tensions between the minority and the surrounding majority in both directions. The Government have a policy of social cohesion. Despite that, they went to their unsuspected ivory tower, looked out of the window, saw the great misty plain of social, political and religious affairs and said, “There is trouble there”. They then went back in again and disappeared from our view,

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and we imagined that they were making a strategic plan to solve the problem. Very soon afterwards, they emerged from the door at the bottom of the tower and said, “We’re going to do something about this”, and hope sprang in our breasts. The task before them was to reconcile the minority and the majority so that there should be equal and mutual trust, confidence and respect between the majority and the minority—between homosexuals and heterosexuals.

However, every single thing that the leaders have done since then seems to have been very cleverly calculated to stoke up the anxieties and mistrust on both sides. From that misty view from which they deduced that there was a problem to solve, did they then go out and inquire or have committees inquire into the situation as it really was and produce reports before they started to legislate? No; they came out with a Bill. There was predictable uproar because there was no consultation. My noble friend Lord Mawhinney dealt very ably with that, so I need not repeat it, but I should like to add one grace note to it. In the consultation that they have had, they have studiously avoided certain groups, as I understand from the director of the One People Commission of minority churches. He says:

“We note with sadness that not a single black or Asian representative was invited to give evidence to the Commons Committee that looked at the Bill”.

Even at that late stage, they had not woken up to the need to allay the fears of the people whose fears it is their business to allay. As a result, having started with one offended and anxious minority, they finished up with several dozen simply by ignoring the others.

Your Lordships have had plenty of theology this evening and do not need any more. We have heard it from real theologians and I have to say that I am carried and persuaded by them, but what really infuriates me is that the Bill has been brought forward in a way that has almost certainly doomed it to failure. The legislation may go into place but suspicions and anxieties have been stoked up and increased by the way in which all this has been done. There is a way in which we can go back to the beginning, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter suggested we should, and look for another route, and that is to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dear, into the Content Lobby on his amendment. That may well trigger the Parliament Act but the result would be that in the next Session the Bill would come back to us and it would be open to us either to reject it or to pass it and take it through Committee. We would thus give the Government the time in between to do some real research and real diplomacy. They could make some real progress towards a harmonious solution and perhaps give the Church of England and other churches time to move a little as well. I am with the noble Lord.

10.29 pm

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am pathetically open-minded about many aspects of this Bill. I have studied with great care the arguments put forward on both sides of the debate, although you cannot really talk in terms of a single debate with such a complex measure. I have been immensely impressed, as I am sure we all have, by the quality of today’s debate, and

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the sincerity of the contributions made by all who have spoken. I have been particularly touched and moved, intellectually and emotionally, by the personal testimonies of my noble friend Lady Barker and the noble Lords, Lord Smith of Finsbury, Lord Browne of Madingley and Lord Black of Brentwood. I confess that my contribution tonight is not going to be sharp-edged and decisive, although I do have one proposal to make. I am going to speak very much in the hope that there may be reactions from your Lordships to it.

First, however, I have to join others in saying that although the Prime Minister has shown real courage in bringing forward this Bill, the way in which it has been brought forward and the conduct so far have been woefully inadequate. If there was ever a measure in which the general public should have felt part of our debates and our deliberations, this is it. This is not our issue. This is pre-eminently an issue for all the people of this country, whatever their views, whatever their background, wherever they live, whatever they do. There has been a lamentable failure to engage them. As the noble Lord, Lord Dear, said in his opening speech, the way in which responses have been measured, with petitions, however large—he mentioned one of half a million signatories—being treated as a single contribution really beggars belief, and one wonders why it was done.

In the same way, the gauging of public opinion by opinion polls is not sufficient. We have not had a deliberative document, a Green Paper—call it what you will—that can be distributed far and wide in order to elicit the mature views of our fellow citizens. I am a little suspicious of the figures that have emerged through the opinion polls, although I accept—and indeed it is my point—that most young people tend to think that this is a no-brainer, that of course those of the same sex should be able to marry; but it is possible to say that young people are not so much tolerant as indifferent to some of these issues. The sexual mores of our very young adults and late teenagers are staggeringly different from those which prevailed when most of us were their age. I suspect that many of those young people would say off the top of their heads, “Of course, marriage for everybody”. When they actually become married themselves they will mature into a different mindset, but that is by the bye.

I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Dear, that I cannot accept his proposal, particularly in terms of the constitutional arrangements with the other place. I do not think it would be right for us to seek to jettison this Bill at this stage. However, if we proceed as we are presently doing, there is the risk of a backlash. My noble friend Lord Alderdice has referred to this. There is a real risk that of the very many—I would say millions—of our fellow citizens who feel strongly about this measure, most of them feel strongly against the change. One cannot judge this by one’s own mailbag, but from the comments made in the debate, it seems that most noble Lords have received a disproportionately large number of letters and e-mails from those who are very concerned about what we are up to.

I do not want that. I would rather we emerge at the end of this process with an Act of Parliament that has general consent and does not risk a backlash in the

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manner seen in France or anywhere else. It should heal and reconcile the differences of opinion and, in particular, the extremes of opinion. There is some homophobia in our society, although thank goodness it is vastly less than we experienced in our youth. At the other end there is, I fear, a sort of phobia against those who do not take a totally liberal view of the homosexual position.

I put forward my proposal tentatively and in a genuine spirit of reconciliation. We should think of using a different word or title for a homosexual union from that of a heterosexual union; in effect, not to call the union of a same-sex couple a marriage but, I suggest—it is only a suggestion—an espousal. The noun that derives from that word is spouse, which is gender-neutral. I think that it would lance a boil in the public mind as to what we are seeking to do, bearing in mind that everything else in the Bill will remain unchanged. All the rights will be the same.

I am tempted to say that those who talk about equality of esteem, as I do—my goodness, if there is one thing that I live by in my politics, it is the equal worth of every human being and the equal esteem in which they have the right to be held—that to some extent it is a misnomer to talk about a same-sex union in exactly the same way as that of a different-sex union. That is because of two fundamental, factual, inescapable and ineluctable differences which have been referred to by other noble Lords. The first is the nature of the union and the second is the procreative potential. It is no good saying that lots of people who get married are too old to have children, do not want children or whatever. The fact of the matter is that most people who marry seek to have children and do so. Same-sex couples in their civil marriages cannot have children except, of course, through adoption, surrogacy or whatever. That is fundamentally different. It is not better or worse but it is fundamentally different. I do not see why we should not face that. It is a form of honesty that would inure to the benefit of same-sex couples in the long run.

That is my late-night thought. I hope that noble Lords will give me some of theirs before Committee so that I can decide whether or not to table an amendment.

10.38 pm

Lord Flight: My Lords, I feel honoured to have drawn the short straw of being the last speaker this evening, and I thank all noble Lords who are still here for being still here. I did not intend to speak because it seemed that virtually everything there is to be said was being said or was going to be said by someone else. However, I was faced with an enormous volume of letters and e-mails, which I spent a good part of the weekend reading through. I picked up from them some thoughts about the territory which I had not focused on before, and some rather important points were raised.

If there is one single point on which I think this Bill should not proceed, it is that the nation is absolutely divided. I do not know whether it is 70% one way or the other or if it is 50/50, but it is clear that, in the main, the senior part of the country believes in the traditional role of marriage and wishes to keep it,

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while a lot of younger people think that it is all a load of hooey and ask, basically, why anyone should get married. There is an absolute divide, and in this sort of territory I believe that it is a mistake to push through legislation until there is some form of consensus.

My noble friend Lord Deben referred amusingly to the Gilbert and Sullivan line:

“He shall prick that annual blister,Marriage with deceased wife’s sister”.

I am not suggesting that it should take 50 years, but it has been a sensible British tradition in social matters to legislate and change gradually, and so keep up with public opinion. In 20 years’ time, when many of us are dead and gone, there may be some form of consensus in the majority of the country—or even before then. It is a great mistake to railroad this extremely unsatisfactory legislation through. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter brilliantly pointed out a lot of what is wrong with it. There are other issues that are profoundly wrong and the consultation process was also clearly less than satisfactory.

This is classic territory where it is not unreasonable for the House of Lords to exercise its reserve powers in delaying such legislation. Our job is to scrutinise and occasionally, when necessary, to be the upholder of public opinion. Public opinion is not at all happy with this legislation as it presently stands. Many have made the point that there was no electoral mandate, but it was rather the reverse: the Prime Minister actually stated in a pre-election television interview that he would not be introducing same-sex marriage, and so gave a commitment to the contrary.

As others have pointed out, I regret this issue of a 500,000-name petition being treated as a single vote. It was telling that there was not a single black or Asian representative invited to give evidence to the Commons committee, and their communities are often among the most religious in the country. Many may have noticed over the weekend that all the faiths came together—not just the Anglican church, but the Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist faiths sent a letter with 53 signatures to the Prime Minister urging caution and that he should think again before he pushed through this legislation to rewrite the meaning of marriage. In the world of faith, this is not just an Anglican issue; it is fundamental for all faiths, going back into the mists of history, that whether one likes it or not marriage is essentially about a man and woman getting together to have children and to bring them up as securely as possible. Just redefining, like that, what marriage means will understandably upset a large number of people.

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The knock-on effects of the Bill have also not been adequately considered. If the Bill proceeds, the legal status of gay marriage will be different from that of heterosexual marriage, as the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter have pointed out. It is also extraordinary that the proposed legislation will not give equality to heterosexual couples wanting a civil partnership, as many others have pointed out.

Today’s debate has made it clear that the Bill needs more robust protection of religious liberty. The Adrian Smith Trafford Housing Trust case was a disgrace, but it illustrated what could happen if the Bill becomes law, particularly for those in the public sector and the area of teaching. John Bowers QC has opined that the Bill, combined with the existing law on sex and relationships and the public sector duty, would create a duty to promote and endorse such a new definition of marriage, and that those who expressed their religious views to the contrary would be put on the wrong side of the law. Moreover, a teacher declining to teach same-sex marriage could be disciplined. This is entirely unsatisfactory and not an adequate protection of religious liberty.

Where has all this come from? The impetus for redefining the meaning of marriage is not largely from the gay community, many of whom are perfectly happy with civil partnership as crafted a few years ago. It does not come from those with great social concerns either. I think it is the political agenda to abolish all legal differences between the sexes. I challenge the desirability of this agenda, as a point of principle.

Many in this House may remember that back in 2004, when civil partnerships were introduced, the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, as spokesman for the Labour Government’s then Department of Constitutional Affairs, summarised that Government’s position. He said that the “concept” of homosexual marriage,

“is a contradiction in terms, which is why our position is utterly clear: we are against it, and do not intend to promote it or allow it to take place”.—[

Official Report

, 11/2/04; col. 1094-95.]

I believe that that remains the view of at least half the country and, as I have said, to railroad through the legislation as it stands, with its legal imperfections, would be exceedingly unwise. For that reason, I will be supporting the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Dear.

Debate adjourned until tomorrow.

House adjourned at 10.46 pm.