Editorial: Same-sex marriage is a passport to real equality

Share
Related Topics

The House of Commons will vote this evening on legalising gay marriage. But that bald statement of parliamentary timetabling masks the full import of what is happening. The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill is a historic piece of legislation that, once passed into law, will change the social landscape. It will change it for ever – no future government will be able to reverse it – and for the better. This is a modernising, reformist piece of legislation that recognises the right of everyone to be treated equally by the law, regardless of their sexual orientation.

The Bill, which will be subject to a free vote, is confidently expected to pass, and the Prime Minister, who has made much of the running on the issue since the day he was elected leader of his party, will take his MPs into the Aye lobby. But nothing like all of them. More than 100 are expected to vote against, or abstain, in one of the biggest rebellions of this parliament.

While David Cameron's position on gay marriage has been clearer, more consistent and more obviously impassioned than on almost any other issue since he was elected leader of his party – admirably so – many Conservatives disagree with him. What for Mr Cameron, for a majority in Britain, and for this newspaper, is a matter of elementary equality is seen by self-styled traditionalists in the Conservative Party as morally wrong. Opposition comes from many religious groups too, especially Roman Catholic leaders, but also the established Church in the person of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby – although Anglicans are divided on this, as on so much else.

Mr Cameron's neat affirmation of his position – "I don't support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I'm a Conservative" – does not wash in these circles. Nor is it just the principle that opponents cite; they are also concerned about the practical and political implications. When more than 20 past and present constituency chairmen delivered a letter to Downing Street on Sunday, calling for any decision on gay marriage to be postponed until after the next election, their objections included their fear that Mr Cameron was jeopardising the party's hoped-for majority at the next election and their view that, at a time when there were so many other pressing issues, starting with the economy, the legalisation of gay marriage was a diversion, and a damaging one at that.

But Mr Cameron and his ministers have stuck to their guns – and their timetable – with the support of the other two main leaders, which is to their credit. The one regrettable concession that emerged only when the Bill was published – a big retreat, but not a completely fatal one – was that the Church of England would not be allowed to conduct same-sex marriages. Whatever else may have lain behind this ban, which came as an unpleasant surprise, it served to underline that the legalisation of gay marriage constitutes a reform of the civil law – no less, but no more either. That the term marriage encompasses both civil and religious ceremonies has surely been a complicating factor.

We hope, as many gay couples will do, too, that this limitation will prove temporary, and that gay weddings will be legally conducted in church, including the Church of England. But the central force of the Bill being voted on today is to give same-sex relationships the same status in law as heterosexual marriage. Where civil partnerships may be seen, with hindsight, as a progressive, if inadequate, staging post, today's vote offers the passport to full equality before the law. It is a victory that has been a long time in coming; there should be no further delay.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory