DAY OF SHAME
The Commons vote on 5 February made Prime Minister David Cameron a happy man. By 400 to 175 — a majority of 225 — the House voted in favour of same-sex marriage. But Mr Cameron’s day of joy was surely a day of shame for our nation.
The Prime Minister said, ‘I would pay tribute to all those people who have actually made this case, saying they want their love to count the same way that a man and a woman’s love for each other counts.
‘That is what we have opened now in this country and that is why I’m proud it is this Government that has brought it forward’.
But while the second reading of the Bill had revealed political drive to push this bizarre piece of legislation through, the Conservative party is now in turmoil. The number of Tory MPs that voted against the party leadership reached 136.
Out of a total of 303 Conservative MPs, 45 per cent defied the party line and braved public vilification across the social media. Some 127 were in favour, 35 did not vote, and five registered an abstention by voting both in favour and against.
Only 22 Labour and four LibDem MPs voted against, despite all parties being given a free vote of conscience.
ET checked the record of three Christian MPs who, in April 2010, provided ET with their testimonies ahead of the general election. Only one voted no: David Burrowes MP (Conservative).
East Ham’s MP, Steve Timms (Labour), was absent from the vote, despite being active during debates questioning whether a ‘marriage’ can be called such if there are no children born as a result of marital procreation.
The third MP was prominent front-bencher and Pensions Minister Steve Webb MP (LibDem). He voted ‘yes’. What lay behind the absence and pro-vote is unclear.
Mr Burrowes has already attracted public opprobrium. One commentator on his web site said, ‘The issue isn’t marriage here; it’s the fact he’s so anti-gay he can’t see he has no place in this debate at all — he shouldn’t even be in Parliament’.
The number of naysayers among the Tories has led to speculation that the Tory party could split or find itself a minority party come the 2015 election.
The no voters certainly reflected sentiment among many Tory party members. In October 2012, a ComRes poll found that 71 per cent of Conservative chairmen sensed that party members in their constituency opposed proposals to legalise same-sex marriage.
Quoted on the Coalition 4 Marriage (C4M) web site was Ed Costelloe, who last month resigned as chairman of Somerton and Frome Conservative Association over the gay marriage proposals.
Speaking as a group of Tory chairmen delivered a letter to Cameron ahead of the Commons vote, he said, ‘Many of us feel a huge sense of personal betrayal over these plans. We worked hard locally to convince people to support Conservatives, but this was not part of the platform.
‘There was no mention of this in the manifesto. We don’t know where this has come from or why it has become such a priority, given so many other pressing issues. We are also shocked by the way in which it is being pushed through with so little regard for proper scrutiny’.
Some anti-Bill spokesmen argued that faith institutions could find themselves at the wrong end of legal challenges if they refuse, on biblical grounds, to allow gay marriages on their premises. According to Hansard, these comments received short shrift, helped in part by the actions of those churches prepared to tear whole chapters out of the Bible.
According to the Department for Education, no guarantees of protection will be given to teachers or learning support assistants who support the traditional definition of marriage (see p.3 of this ET issue).
Colin Hart, campaign director of the Coalition for Marriage (C4M), said, ‘This is the third time the Government has been forced to admit it does not know the effects their plans would have on schools’.
This Bill will become an Act if approved by a majority in the Commons and Lords, and agreed to by the reigning monarch (the Royal Assent).
Now, there will be a consultation period, and the relevant committee will report and suggest amendments. The Bill will then progress to a third reading in the House of Commons; and then through the Lords. Traditionally, the Lords has provided some opposition to bills of moral questionability.
After this, the Queen must give the Royal Assent. It would be interesting to know what would happen if she refuses. Her Majesty is head of the Church of England and a professing believer, and could actually veto the Bill under her reserve powers. Yet such a move has not been conducted since the reign of George III.
Could this be HM the Queen’s boldest move as protector of the faith?
Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, said, ‘There is still time and that’s why we’re asking you to keep on praying because the issue is far from settled’.
If you have a special interest in this area, the Public Bill Committee can receive your written evidence. The sooner you send in your submission, the more time the committee will have to take it into consideration, before the end of the Committee stage, on Tuesday 12 March.
While 5 February was a day of shame, Christians must remember that the sovereign God has given his Son all authority in heaven and earth.
‘I urge that all supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for … kings and all in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way’ (1 Timothy 2:1-2).