These equal marriage reforms are historic, because in 21st century Britain the meaning of family goes beyond man, woman and child

The Deputy Prime Minister hails the historic social reform announced today

Share
Related Topics

This week the Coalition confirmed that we will make marriage equal for everyone. Same sex couples will be able to get married. And religious organisations who want to conduct those ceremonies will be able to do so.

This has sparked considerable controversy. It’s an issue that always does. Gay couples already have virtually the same legal entitlements through civil partnerships that heterosexual couples have through marriage. But the label is the sticking point – marriage means different things to different people.

For some, marriage has a specific religious meaning. Their convictions prevent them from extending its definition to include same sex couples. And, throughout this debate, it’s become increasingly clear to me that lots of people think of marriage in terms of family – and family in its most traditional, biological sense, where husbands and wives have sons and daughters.

But, while I can understand those views, I don’t share them. My starting point is different. For me, what defines marriage, very simply, is love and commitment.

And, in 21st Century Britain, families come in every shape and size. Across the nation today you will find all manner of relationships: gay couples; straight couples; adopted sons; fostered daughters; married couples; divorced couples; cohabiting couples; surrogate parents; single parents; step parents, godparents, grandparents.

Yes, many homes contain a man and a woman who have children – but that isn’t the only hallmark of a family. There are many heterosexual couples who get married but who cannot, or do not, have children. Yet they constitute a family just as much as everyone else. Procreation isn’t the only thing that counts. What makes a happy family – and happy marriage – is love and commitment. And the more of that, the better.

So it’s high time we recognise, and celebrate, loving, caring relationships – whether they are between men and women, women and women, men and men. If that couple want to get married, it will be their choice.

No church or religious organisation will be forced to conduct equal marriages. I want to be crystal clear about that. But religious freedom has another side too: it’s also about ensuring that, where a faith organisation wants to marry same-sex couples, such as the Quakers, they can.

So, we’ve consulted, we’ve debated, and we’re now within a whisker of equal marriage rights for all couples – gay or straight. That’s a big shift, totemic and profound. And I’m proud to be part of the government that will deliver it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Oracle DBA (Database Administrator, 10g, 11g, PL/SQL)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + £5k shift allowance, 12% bonus, benefits: Clearwat...

Oracle DBA (Database Administrator, 10g, 11g, PL/SQL)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + £5k shift allowance, 12% bonus, benefits: Clearwat...

Cover Supervisor

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunities for Cover Sup...

IT Teacher September strt with view to permanent post

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: IT...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Members of the community farming group at work in their community fields near the town of Masi Manimba, Bandundu Province, DRC.  

The five biggest myths surrounding overseas aid

Billy Hill
 

Colour changing nail varnish isn't going to prevent rape, or the vicious culture of victim blaming

Chloe Hamilton
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis