|At Reading Pride 2012|
Amazingly the two Reading MPs have yet to confirm how they plan to vote. I am personally very much in favour of this bill - I believe in marriage (being married myself!) and I see it as a commitment that should be available to people to make with their partners.
I agree it is redefining marriage, but not in a particularly radical way. We have seen marriage redefined many many times over the centuries - and around the world. We have defined marriage as not involving a woman marrying two brothers, or a man marrying 5 women or indeed contract/temporary marriage as seen in some parts of medieval Europe: marriage in this country, despite different historical or current practice elsewhere is I believe based mostly on two principles: exclusivity and - the intention of - a lifelong commitment. That's why I find civil partnerships so unsatisfactory, it's a kind of 'marriage-lite' as if being gay means that you can't be allowed to call your relationship marriage. It's clearly largely symbolic, but after all that's basically what a wedding is - a symbol of how you plan to live.
Anyway there are plenty of philosophers and theologians out there who can make the argument one way or the other. What I do think is that MPs should be prepared to state their position so that people on both sides of the fence know where they stand. As for Reading's MPs I wonder whether they were hoping the vote would be cancelled so they wouldn't have to actually state their position. The weasel words they have used so far suggest that they are concerned about losing votes from both the pros and the antis. Now I'm not saying that politicians shouldn't consider public views of course but there comes a point where you have to say "This is what I believe, and if you don't agree then don't vote for me".
So Rob Wilson, Alok Sharma - are you out for marriage or not?
Reading Labour by they way has put the following on record:
Reading Labour are calling on Conservative MP’s Alok Sharma and Rob Wilson to vote in favour of the Equal Marriage Bill coming before Parliament this Tuesday (5th February), which allows same sex couples the right to get married.
“This Bill is about letting couples who want to make a long term commitment to each other get married regardless of sexuality or gender.” comments Richard Wood, Reading Labour LGBT Officer. “This is something that the LGBT community has long campaigned for, and it’s something that Reading Labour has been proud to support, in the press and with petitions on our stall at Reading Pride”.
The Bill expands on the Civil Partnerships legislation introduced by Labour in 2004 by providing for same sex couples to get married, while protecting religions and faith groups who may not wish to conduct a same sex marriage. Thanks to Labour lobbying, the Bill also allows churches and groups that do wish to conduct same sex marriages (such as Quakers, Unitarians and Reform Judaism) to do so.
Ben Zielinski, Chair of Reading & District Labour Party, adds “Labour has always had a proud history of supporting LGBT rights, whether it’s Civil Partnerships, ending the ban on LGBT people serving in the armed forces, giving LGBT couples the right to adopt children, or scrapping the homophobic Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act – we believe firmly that if a same sex couple wishes to get married they should have the right to do so”.
Victoria Groulef, Labour candidate for Reading West, says: "My support for marriage equality is clear. The right to marry is an issue of equal rights and that’s why if I was MP for Reading West, I would be voting yes".
Matt Rodda, Labour candidate for Reading East, said: “I would vote in favour of the Bill, I think it is very important people are treated equally and I hope there will be all party support for this legislation.”
The Bill is due to be voted upon on Tuesday, with over 200 Labour MPs confirming via the website Campaign For Equal Marriage (www.c4em.org.uk) that they will be voting in favour - including the Ed Miliband and the entire Shadow Cabinet.