In support of Equal Marriage

Yesterday, at the Harlow Council meeting, Councillor Emma Toal proposed a motion supporting the Marriages (Same Sex Couples) Bill that is going through Parliament, and urging our local MP to support its passage.

My speech in support of the motion is below

Thank You Chair


I want to start by saying that for me this isn’t a political issue and I approach this issue simply from a question of Equality and of Tolerance.


So, I am not going to cover all the issues, about the definition of marriage, procreation being a necessary pre-condition, and the conditions for the break up of marriage, about the equalisation of civil partnerships, the commitment the Tory Party made to look at it prior to the 2010 election, and so on, but I do want to address two very specific points in relation to Equality.


Robert Halfon justified his decision to vote against the bill in Parliament on Tuesday, on the grounds of Equality – hinting darkly at unspecified “profound and possibly unintended implications for faith institutions”


Whilst not someone of faith myself, I fully recognise the vital role that faith plays in the life of individuals, of families, and of the Harlow Community – a role I am happy to celebrate and support – and I do.


I fully understand that people have different views on this subject, that they are sincerely held, and many of these are based on their religious beliefs.

So, when Robert Halfon says ‘Religious Faiths have rights too’, I can fully support the sentiment.


So Firstly, that’s why it is right that the draft Bill that went though its second reading, has specific protections for all faiths.

Religious institutions will not be compelled to perform Same Sex Marriages – and with specific protection for the Churches of England and of Wales because of their current obligations under law.

It should be noted that in Catholic Spain, which has allowed same sex marriage for many years, there has not been a single referral to the European courts to force religious institutions to perform same sex marriages.

There is ample time for scrutiny and to ensure these protections are robust, both in its passage through the Commons in the Committee and Report stages and in its passage though the Lords – including scrutiny by Lords Spiritual.


But the second, and equally important element of Faiths having rights, are the rights of those Religious faiths who do wish to marry those of the same sex

The rights of Liberal Jews, of the United Reform Church, of the Society of Friends.

Those religions who, in the words of the Quakers “see God in everyone” and say that all committed relationships are of equal worth.

For them, as it is for many of faith, ‘this is an issue of religious freedom’ and equality too.


So I will finish where I started – for me – and for many of every faith and none, this is a question of equality. Of Equality for individuals, Equality for couples, and of Equality for religious faiths.

It is also about sending a strong message to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community of Harlow, that their love, and their committed relationships, are as important as everyone else’s – they are equal,

It is about sending the message that we want to take another step on the road to being a modern, tolerant, and Equal society.

It is right that the Council sends that message.

I will be supporting this motion.


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