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Liberal Democrat peers will support equality as Same Sex Marriage Bill returns to Lords

July 9, 2013 12:37 PM
By Baroness Liz Barker in Liberal Democrat Voice
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

The Government has responded positively to a number of issues raised during Committee Stage, such as the need to review legislation which prohibits Humanist marriages in England and Wales.

The opposition have tabled amendments on all the issues which they had already raised at Committee Stage. You can follow them on Twitter under the hashtag #hearditallbeforeDear (Lord Dear was, of course, the crossbench peer who attempted to wreck the legislation from the off).

First up was an attempt to create two definitions of marriage - one for straight people and one for same-sex couples. This goes right to the heart of the objective of the Bill, which is to create one equal definition of marriage. The whole purpose of this Bill is to treat all marriages with equal respect. Separate but equal is not good enough, so the majority of colleagues opposed this amendment.

Second issue today is the proposal that registrars should be able to exercise freedom of conscience by refusing to conduct same-sex marriages and not lose their job as a result. Civil marriage is a public service which, under this legislation, will be available to heterosexual and same-sex couples. Implementation of the law should not be determined by individual public servants acting according to their personal beliefs. There are no conscience clauses in other equalities legislation - and rightly so. Registrars, whose professional body has held consultations, do not want this. They want to serve the public and do a good job for everyone. So again, the majority of colleagues strongly support of full equality.

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