Disregarding nationwide protests, the House of Lords voted for the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill on 4 June. The Lords’ majority decision (390 to 148) was preceded by a Commons majority in favour (366 to 161), on 21 May.
During the Lords’ two-day debate, the Bill came in for harsh cross-party criticism. Lord Dear, who has led the campaign against, said, ‘An ill-considered Bill seeks to overturn centuries of tradition, heedless of public opinion and the views of religious leaders, and blind to the laws of unintended consequences.
‘It seeks to alter totally the concept of marriage as we have always known it; it seeks to divide a nation with an argument that hides behind the concept of equality, when in reality it is about sameness; and it stands on its head all considerations of electoral mandate’.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said, ‘The new marriage of the Bill is an awkward shape, with same-gender and different-gender categories scrunched into it, neither fitting well.
‘The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost. The idea of marriage as a covenant is diminished. The family in its normal sense, predating the state and as our base community of society, as we have already heard, is weakened’.
He added: ‘This is not a faith issue, although we are deeply grateful for the attention that the government and the Other Place have paid to issues of religious freedom. However, it is not at heart a faith issue. It is about the general social good. Therefore, with much regret, but entire conviction, I cannot support the Bill as it stands’.
Abuse of democracy
Lord Dannatt, former head of the British army, said that the way the Bill had been pushed through was an abuse of democracy: ‘Following due process and procedure is a principle that I spent the 40 years of my professional life upholding. We fought for the ballot box for 38 years in Northern Ireland.
‘We stood for democracy against communism for 44 years in Europe. We stood for the democratic rights of self-determination in the Falklands in 1982, and we still do. And now as a parliamentarian, I am asked to accept an abuse of the democratic process and I will not do it’.
A Christian who attended the two-day Lords’ debate said many peers boasted of their Christian credentials while claiming that God supported gay marriage and openly mocking Lord Dear as he made his closing case.
She also decried the media’s biased reporting of the debate. She added: ‘Equally, it was encouraging to hear people with clarity and courage making the case for real marriage. It was good to hear peers quoting many of the arguments that have been put forward by the Coalition for Marriage.
‘Peers observed that they had been inundated with correspondence on the subject, the great majority of it deeply hostile to the Bill. It was good to know that so many did take the opportunity to write to peers.
‘Some peers did draw the conclusion that if this legislation is pushed through, there will be a price to pay in terms of social cohesion (a large section of the population will be marginalised for their sincere beliefs)’.
In a statement, CARE said that while the result of the vote was disappointing, a large number of peers who voted for the Bill also highlighted their concerns about it and said they would continue to pursue these concerns during the next two stages. During later scrutiny of the Bill, many amendments will be tabled.
Evangelical Alliance director of advocacy, Dr Dave Landrum, said, ‘Opposition to these proposals will not diminish in the approach to the general election in 2015, where marriage is sure to feature as a prominent issue.
‘Marriage as we know it, and as God intended it, must be protected. Our commitment to future generations compels us speak and act to support it. So that’s what we will continue to do’.