A new campaign has been launched today to support the current law of marriage. The Coalition For Marriage has initiated a petition to try to persuade the Government to think again about its plans to introduce same-sex marriage.
Along with Commons colleagues such as Jim Dobbin and Joe Benton (Labour), David Burrowes and Fiona Bruce (Con), I am pleased to give my support to this petition.
Marriage has stood the test of time as the bedrock of a good society, and there is absolutely no need to redefine it. I am a staunch supporter of civil liberties for all people and constituents of every background can rely on me to help them in cases of genuine injustice. But the existence of civil partnerships today demolishes completely any claim that marriage must be redefined in the name of equality. Same-sex couples who enter into civil partnership have all the legal rights of marriage. Why should they also have the right to redefine the institution of marriage for everyone else? It is a separate legal framework which predates civil partnerships by centuries and we would do well to leave it alone.
This view is shared by people across the political, religious and philosophical spectrum. Michael White, Assistant Editor of the Guardian, has said that “Aside from all the theological, moral and cultural freight, there’s an important practical distinction which goes to the root of any society – namely that heterosexual marriage is there to produce and raise children in a more or less stable environment.” . I have spoken with homosexual people who do not support the call to redefine marriage, including people who are themselves in civil partnerships. Gay groups and their supporters within Government who want to redefine marriage cannot claim to be speaking on behalf of all gay people, let alone on behalf of the British population in general.
The change being sought would mean the law would no longer recognise marriage as it has been understood for centuries. The legal definition of all existing marriages would be altered. Many married people would think that was very unfair to them. If the change goes ahead, Britain’s oldest married couple, Robert and Susan Erskine, who married 75 years ago, will find their marriage converted into a unisex institution. The new law – retrospectively and without our permission – would deem my wife and I to have registered in 1984, not as husband and wife, but as “parties to a marriage” (so says the draft same-sex marriage Bill published by the leading gay rights group last week.)
The Government has bitten off more than it can chew by arrogating to itself the authority to re-write the marriage certificates of every married couple. Some of those couples will support this redefinition. They are entitled to that view. But most will not. If they, and other supporters of marriage, want to stop these plans, they must speak out now, before it is too late.
A good way to start is to add their names to the Coalition For Marriage petition at c4m.org.uk and to urge their family and friends to do the same.