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06 June 2013

Reaction to House of Lords and same-sex marriage

Reaction to House of Lords and same-sex marriage

On Tuesday evening, the House of Lords decisively voted to allow the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill to move forward to its next stage. This has come as a surprise to many and as a disappointment to millions of Christians and members of other faith groups who supported Lord Dear's motion to oppose giving the Bill a Second Reading. That motion was defeated by 390 votes to 148.

The significant margin of defeat was largely due to unofficial whipping of Labour peers (although the Bill was supposed to have been a freedom of conscience matter), while many peers felt it was inappropriate to defy established convention not to oppose government bills at second reading stage, preferring to subject the Bill to close scrutiny during its remaining stages.

There were many excellent speeches during the debate, including from Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who warned that redefining marriage would bring "confusion" rather than "equality".

He stated that: "Marriage is abolished, redefined and recreated, being different and unequal for different categories. 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 covenant is diminished. The family in its normal sense, predating the state and as our base community of society … is weakened."

The Bill will now progress to its Committee Stage in the Lords where it will be examined in detail and amendments proposed. There will be strong pressure for necessary protections in the Bill to be strengthened. Minister Baroness Stowell promised the government would continue to listen, though her offer of guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission would be a poor substitute for statutory clarification.

Evangelical Alliance director of advocacy Dr Dave Landrum said: "Millions of people have deep ongoing concerns about this Bill. Sadly, these concerns have been largely ignored. The government is seeking to railroad this Bill through by abusing and bypassing democratic processes.

"However, 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."

The Alliance will shortly be producing detailed briefing material on this issue for each nation of the UK.