David Cameron has shown leadership on equal marriage. Ed Miliband hasn’t

December 11, 2012 11:36 am

Labour’s decision to allow a “free vote” on equal marriage has caused understandable upset amongst a significant section of Labour supporters. You see quite a few of us feel a bit let down Ed, since on September 27th there was widespread coverage of your plan to whip Labour MPs in favour of equal marriage. You said it would be “wholehearted”, and even mentioned religious weddings in your Out4Marriage video. I understand why Labour’s position is different now – and outlined it here – but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Whether Ed Miliband likes it or not, he looks like he’s flip-flopping on an issue of huge importance to a big chunk of the party. And all, presumably, to stop a couple of ministers (Gavin Shuker and Stephen Timms have been mentioned) from resigning.

The sad truth is that whilst David Cameron has shown leadership on gay marriage, Ed Miliband hasn’t.

That probably sounds like a dreadfully unfair statement. After all both leaders have allowed their MPs a free vote, and a much greater number of Tory MPs will vote against their leader than their Labour counterparts. All of the shadow cabinet are voting for (have been whipped to?) support equal marriage. And yet what’s really important here is to what extent each leader has gone out on a limb to get this done. David Cameron has pushed his party to accept equal marriage as an issue, despite huge internal opposition. Even getting this on the agenda was a huge achievement for Cameron, and took bravery and no little hard work.

Ed Miliband, by contrast, was not even willing to challenge those in his party who consider gay marriage to be a conscience issue to vote with the clear party line. Saying you support something as leader is great. But unless you are willing to push for it then you’re not leading.

And anyway, what exactly makes gay marriage a “conscience issue”? And why did it only become so when discussing marriage in a religious setting? Why is marriages in church the red line? Why is equality considered a conscience issue? For the record – poverty, inequality, disability and war are all matters of conscience as far as I’m concerned. But I’d expect the party to whip votes on them. If gay marriage is where your conscience suddenly kicks in, whilst following whipped votes on all matter of other issues, you might want to take a look at your priorities. And for that matter, your conscience.

As a straight unmarried man, you might think I have little interest in altering the institution of marriage. Except on two levels that’s wrong. Firstly, I have several gay friends I’d like to see have the opportunity to get married some day, if that’s what they choose. And secondly, at some point I’d like to enter the institution of marriage myself, and I’d like to see it strengthened by it being open to many of the loving couples I know, regardless of sexuality. Having them be able to get married wouldn’t dilute the importance of marriage to me – it’d strengthen it. And I’d like to be part of a party that has equal rights for all at it’s core. Even if that sometimes means challenging socially conservative elements within society.

For those reasons, I was pleased to see the brave stance taken by David Cameron to place himself against much of his party on the right side of history. And I’m incredibly saddened by Ed Miliband’s unwillingness to show leadership, and force certain people into some tough choices on the same issue.

Because making people take tough choices is what leadership is about.

  • rekrab

    Mark, the whole issue is far bigger than you give credit to? section 28 was abolished but it did cause several issues for teachers.I think the issue is being over-played. I would certainly find it really strange to wake up one day to read that the first male was pregnant, I kind of think that is really going against natural science.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504853582 Paul Prentice

    Very good points here Mark. Spot on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    I take your point Mark but it will also show us which Mps are willing to vote for inequality and that may well affect their future progress and standing in the party.

    • Winston_from_the_Ministry

      It may. But I doubt it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

        Given that the whole shadow cabinet – chosen by Ed – is voting for equality, and this has been stressed by Ed himself – I very much suggest yes.

        • Winston_from_the_Ministry

          I was referring more to the latter part of your post.

        • Winston_from_the_Ministry

          I was referring more to the latter part of your post.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

            And there are no MP’s supporting inequality in the shadow cabinet. Those who choose to do so this time are hardly recommending themselves for future preference

  • http://twitter.com/LouMcCudden Louise McCudden

    It is kind of funny that the same people who say “gay marriage isn’t a priority! Focus on the important things!” are the same people who think it’s suddenly an issue of conscience when the economy, benefit cuts, NHS reform etc are not issues of conscience.

    • Hugh

      I’m not sure I see the contradiction. Just because something is not a priority does not make it less important. There is no contradiction, for example, in holding that reform of marriage could wait, while cutting the deficit cannot (whether one agrees or not), and at the same time arguing that an MP holding to religious teaching established over centuries should be free to vote in accordance with it, while not being free to do so over NHS reform (on which most religious texts tend to be fairly silent), for example.

      Mark’s piece seems to deny that there should be issues of conscience at all, frankly, which I think is a mistake.

      • http://twitter.com/LouMcCudden Louise McCudden

        There is a contradiction.

        It’s either an important issue or it’s not. If it’s a massive “issue of conscience!” to a person who won’t even be effected by it, think how important it is to the people whose lives are actually determined by it. And then understand why it’s offensive and stupid to trivialise it as a silly distraction etc etc

        • Hugh

          Since you appear to be simply repeating your original point, I can only repeat mine. We have two words – “priority” and “important”– because they have two distinct meanings. The first suggests a requirement to act quickly (because, for instance, the situation will worsen if one does not); the other does not, but that doesn’t make other important issues trivial.

          Clearly not only the Conservatives, but also Labour and the Liberal Democrats considered other issues a higher priority over gay marriage in the run up to the last election, since none included it in their manifestos, nor as far as I’m aware had plans to introduce it. Whether that means Labour don’t think it’s important, I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

  • Amber_Star

    “That probably sounds like a dreadfully unfair statement.”
    Yes, it does sound dreadfully unfair to Ed, actually.
    And Cameron is not showing leadership. Tory MPs will vote with their conscience regardless of the whip; there will be no resignations & it will have zero affect on their promotion prospects. They can go back to their constituencies & make great play of having ‘rebelled’ on this issue. It is calculated politicking by Cameron & you’ve fallen for it, Mark.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=715486331 Alex Otley

      I think his point is that it is harder for Cameron to propose equal marriage at all with the sort of nutters he has on the backbenches and in the Conservative Associations. The message really is that Ed Miliband looks weak for not whipping – it’s not difficult and it’s what a lot of people expected.

      • Amber_Star

        Ed doesn’t need to whip. There’s scarcely a Labour MP who will vote against. It will show how pro-equality Labour is at heart. A whipped vote is a sop for bigots; they can say: “The vote in favour was forced through.” When it’s passed by a free vote, they can’t!

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=715486331 Alex Otley

          I can see that. It’s not like I think there’s much of a risk of it not being passed. The problem is that votes on ‘issues of conscience’ are very rarely about allowing plurality – it has more to do with avoiding bitter infighting over controversial issues (read: religious dogma). I don’t think they decided to allow a free vote because a whipped vote is a ‘sop for bigots’, but because it means they won’t have to reprimand anybody. Political expediency rather than principle, but it seems to be backfiring a bit.

  • teigitur

    A free vote! Is’nt democracy a terrible thing?
    Miliband has just gone up in my estimation.

  • NT86

    I totally agree that David Cameron deserves a lot of credit for trying to change his party in this way, pledging support for equal marriage. Other heavyweights of the party like John Major and Boris Johnson have come out in support too. I suppose the feeling is that he’s got far more to prove than Ed Miliband, as Labour (and the Liberal Democrats) have consistently better records on LGBT rights than the Conservatives. The party had to swallow some very hard pills while they were in opposition for 13 years about their image with the general public. Its current line on equal marriage is remarkable, given how different it was just a decade ago.

    Labour has dithered on a number of issues this year and that is where they’ve been met with criticism: For not spelling out a coherent set of policies. It would be a shame to hesitate about this after the achievements of the last government on introducing civil partnerships and repealing Section 28, amongst other things.

    On a side note, according to the C4EM website only 8 Labour MP’s have indicated that
    they’re opposed to equal marriage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Smith/516168738 Daniel Smith

    I’m not sure you’re really grasping the nettle here, Mark. Ed’s been forced/shifted further to the right as the Tories inhabit the middleground – Gay Marriage will be a vote winner and the tories are making as much political capital out of it as they can inanticipation of 2015 when the Liberals will probably be eased out of the backdoor.

  • kb32904

    I don’t understand how whipping the shadow cabinet is better than allowing a free vote ? We ALL complain of MPs hypocrisy in saying one thing in opposition yet another in government so surely allowing a free vote is by far the best way forward.

    You mention the free vote is to accomodate Stephen Timms views then go on to say that the shadow cabinet has been whipped to vote in favour of the bill. You have surely made an error since whipping would prevent Timms voting with his conscience ?

  • PaulHalsall

    I am thinking of bailing out of membership over this. Of course I will vote Labour always, but this really pisses me off.

    • http://twitter.com/doktordunc Duncan Hall

      I agree that EM has taken the wrong decision by not whipping, but it would seem an odd one to resign over. After all, EM is firmly in favour of gay marriage, and the vast majority of Labour MPs will vote for it. This is a million miles from an Iraq War moment (and most of us managed not to burn our membership cards over that…)

  • RobW

    I’m very dissapointed about this. As the party that decriminalised homosexuality, equalised the age of consent and introduced civil partnerships, we should be
    standing up for full equal rights between gay and straight couples,
    including letting them get married wherever the hell they want. You know
    what? I don’t care if that upsets religious people. Freedom can only be
    truly called freedom if it doesn’t infringe on someone elses, and a
    form of religious freedom that won’t let two Anglicans or Catholics (or
    indeed members of any other faith) in a loving relationship get married
    in the sight of their God, is not truly freedom at all.

    We are a party built around the ideas of social justice and equality; a “moral
    crusade” as Wilson so eloquently put it. If you’re a Labour member or
    MP who opposes gay marriage because you don’t think your God approves
    (ie that he values a couple’s ability to procreate over whether they
    actually love each other): first of all, I would point out that Jesus
    never actually says anything about marriage except that it should be a
    covenant based on love (which I think everyone can agree on), but more
    importantly, why would you even want to worship a deity that is such a
    reactionary prick? One that punishes faithful Christians for being gay,
    when he created them so, by denying them the chance to enter a loving
    covenant in his sight?

    I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in equality, humanity, justice and freedom. If you don’t, for whatever reason and however you try to justify it, then what the hell
    are you doing in the Labour Party?

    • http://www.facebook.com/redangelas Angela Sullivan

      RobW, You say freedom can only be called freedom if it doesn’t infringe on someone else, but you seem perfectly willing to trample all over the freedom of priests and vicars to exercise choice about how they do their job, and interpret scriptures. If you truly believe in equality, justice and freedom, you have to respect the right of other people to hold and act on opinions which differ from yours. Even if you consider their opinions to be not only wrong but idiotic.

      Maybe you don’t care if you upset religious people: but how would you feel if some preacher thunderered from his pulpit that “You know what? He didn’t care if he upset gay people!”. Would you think he sounded compassionate and humane? Religion is not all nonsense. Jesus once asked why some people went around offering to remove splinters from their brother’s eyes when they had planks in their own. I’d be interested to know your answer to that one.

  • markfergusonuk

    Timms is not a member of the shadow cabinet. he is a shadow minister.

    • kb32904

      Oops, my apologies.

  • rekrab

    Is it wise to cast stones at those who differ?
    Where does it end? a bi-sexual person having 2 marriages?

    • Jeremy_Preece

      You are correct rekrab. Part of being democratic, believing in diversity and tolerance is exactly that you don’t go around trying to make other people violate their conscience because they disagree with you.
      Ed M has in this instance shown great wisdom.

      • http://www.facebook.com/samuel.rushworth Samuel Rushworth

        Excellently put Jeremy. Thanks.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

        However, if their ‘conscience’ tells them to vote for discrimination, then my ‘conscience’ tells me they should be deselected

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          That is your inner Stalinist speaking though Mike, even if you call it a “conscience”. Deselected for voting in a way that you do not like, on a free vote? You could arrange for a few other illiberal left wing friends to “pack” a meeting and your deselection meeting would look like a show trial. The old ways are always brutally efficient, are they not? Perhaps you could send around his deselection notice in a black cab, as the Liverpool left like to do when getting rid of people.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

            Yes, Jaime. I don’t think that people who reject such a basic principle of equal rights should be Labour MP’s. Simple as. Their ‘conscience’ should guide them towards parties favouring discrimination.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000230533335 Alex Hall

      This, in my opinion, shows a misunderstanding of what it is to be bisexual; they’re not inherently polygamous – they just have the ability to find both males and females attractive.

    • RobW

      In the outside world, no, I wouldn’t dictate what someone should believe. But in a political party which does itself have specific ideological beliefs, a choice must be made. Either you believe in equality and social justice or you don’t, it’s that simple. If you are opposed to gay marriage on religious grounds, that’s fair enough, but when it comes to actually deciding the law of the land and being an agent of an organization that believes in equality and equal rights, you have to be consistent. All I’m saying is that there is an obvious doublethink occurring here, a kind of cognitive dissonance between reactionary religious beliefs and liberal political ones.

      As for a bi-sexual person having two marriages, if all three people in the relationship deeply loved each other, consented to it and truly desired it, I don’t see why not. They aren’t harming anybody, are they?

  • Jeremy_Preece

    I totally agree.
    Ed has in fact done exactly the right thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    Agreed. I don’t think we have anything to fear – but it will smoke out the bigots in our midst

  • Pingback: Whips, Marriage and the irrelevance of consensuality? | Hopi Sen

  • Jeremy_Preece

    So to sum up Rob:
    You don’t believe in God, but feel you have a much better handle on the life and teachings of Jesus than either the RC, Anglican and presumably the Orthodox Churches. Therefore you are well placed to issue your own edicts on how Christians and Muslims and presumably all Jews but Liberal Jews, should shape their theological views on marriage.

    So because you are an athiest, you actually have a much better grasp of social justice and compassion etc. than for example Mother Thersa of Calcuta had.
    I see that you also have advice for the diety (including what He must and must not be in order to avoid the label of “reactionary prick”). So you are a judge of not only mankind.

    I am just glad that you are not at all arrogant!

    I would certainly not usually use LabourList as the forum to talk about the content of the New Testament, but your statement “I would point out that Jesus
    never actually says anything about marriage except that it should be a
    covenant based on love..” is wrong. You would have done better to have checked this out before making such a sweeping statement.

    So to the issue of a free vote. As for the position that this puts Labour MPs, well… they have to weigh up the arguments and decide which way to vote. I was trying to think of the best word to use for this, and I think that it is freedom. By the way, freedom is about poeple being able to make a choice for themselves, and those options between which they may choose not necessarily the options that fit in with what you would like.

    • RobW

      Jeremy, you seem to give a pretty good attack on me, as being arrogant
      and judgmental. Labeling me so sounds pretty judgmental in itself to me,
      but I’m probably guilty of both of those things in this instance,
      though I don’t see how being an atheist means I can’t have an
      understanding of social justice; I try to be good because I want to be
      to make the world a better place, not because a mythological figure
      threatens to burn me if I’m not.

      Just because I’m judgmental doesn’t
      make me wrong and, as far as I can tell, you haven’t actually offered a
      critique of my central points; that what you refer to as freedom is
      merely a smokescreen for bigotry unless that same freedom is extended to
      all, that a loving and just God wouldn’t condemn anyone’s natural
      feelings and that reactionary beliefs of any kind are fundamentally
      incompatible with the core principles of progressivism and socialism.

      This
      to me is a moral issue and I just don’t see how you can morally justify
      preventing two people in a loving relationship getting married solely
      on the basis of one particular interpretation of something written and
      rewritten by many hands in many countries over the last 2 millennia. As
      for Mother Teresa, if that that embezzling, suffering fetishising
      charlatan is the paragon of social justice and morality, I’m glad we
      differ in opinion. Give me Plato, Kant or Rawls any day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Trant/1105641645 David Trant

    I have no problem with Gay Marriage as an atheist it hardly concerns me whether people marry in church or not. However I believe that Ed. has done the right thing, for some people who may have no problem with people being Gay but may feel that their religious beliefs may be compromised if they voted for, it’ll allow them a get out, as its going to be passed anyway, what’s the problem?

  • http://twitter.com/LoveHoundUK Adam

    I think a free vote is the best vote we can have on this issue. It will certainly help others believe it was through a real wish to have equality rather than being whipped in to it.
    I also believe that Member of Parliament are ONLY representatives of their constituents, nothing else. They do not have the right to play their religious beliefs above the wishes of their constituents. Maybe this should be the role to take to MPs showing opposition. 53% (govt figures) more for IPSOS of British voters agree to equal marriage.

  • Andy Peacock

    Labour has been showing leadership for same sex marriage because they been Campaigning for it. Even Nick Clegg announced he is allowing his mps for a free vote.
    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2012/12/11/exclusive-nick-clegg-signals-a-free-vote-for-lib-dem-mps-on-same-sex-marriage/

  • Open_Palm

    Personally, I find Cameron’s “leadership” on the issue more an act of opportunistic positioning than anything. George Osborne has made it very clear he is supporting this because it appeals to female voters. Ed taking a backseat of sorts comes across as someone who refuses to make this issue political and as such should be commended.

  • rekrab

    Eek! reversing the natural structure of society is a poor excuse to lower birth rates. are you sure those bush jumping spices aren’t guilty of rape?

  • rekrab

    Eek! reversing the natural structure of society is a poor excuse to lower birth rates. are you sure those bush jumping species aren’t guilty of rape?

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      I would not worry too much Derek. It is a woman in that article, despite what you have been told above. No change to the chromosomes, no change to the genitalia. All she is doing is taking testosterone supplements.

      Society sometimes runs into the unyielding wall of science. You cannot alter gender if gender is adequately defined at fertilisation and successfully developed through to birth (which it clearly is, in this case – clinical intersexuals do not reproduce). So no matter what people may say, calling a woman a man or vice versa is a social matter, not one that is a truth.

  • rekrab

    But where am I being inconsistent? I’ve simply said where does it all end on the equality of marriage and children.For two thousand years Churches have celebrated the union of men and women, are they now expected to change that policy and maybe even re-write the bible?

    Look, I support gay people, I have nothing against them as individuals, to each your own and all that but my equality of thought would far rather be pressing for more equality in the pay market, better housing and education for those in the lower brackets of life styles.

    I guess in the end I value myself as a traditionalist, I have a wife and twin boys, whom I love very much, should my values be subjected to ridicule?

  • rekrab

    But where am I being inconsistent? I’ve simply said where does it all end on the equality of marriage and children.For two thousand years Churches have celebrated the union of men and women, are they now expected to change that policy and maybe even re-write the bible?

    Look, I support gay people, I have nothing against them as individuals, to each your own and all that but my equality of thought would far rather be pressing for more equality in the pay market, better housing and education for those in the lower brackets of life styles.

    I guess in the end I value myself as a traditionalist, I have a wife and twin boys, whom I love very much, should my values be subjected to ridicule?

  • rekrab

    But where am I being inconsistent? I’ve simply said where does it all end on the equality of marriage and children.For two thousand years Churches have celebrated the union of men and women, are they now expected to change that policy and maybe even re-write the bible?

    Look, I support gay people, I have nothing against them as individuals, to each your own and all that but my equality of thought would far rather be pressing for more equality in the pay market, better housing and education for those in the lower brackets of life styles.

    I guess in the end I value myself as a traditionalist, I have a wife and twin boys, whom I love very much, should my values be subjected to ridicule?

  • rekrab

    But where am I being inconsistent? I’ve simply said where does it all end on the equality of marriage and children.For two thousand years Churches have celebrated the union of men and women, are they now expected to change that policy and maybe even re-write the bible?

    Look, I support gay people, I have nothing against them as individuals, to each your own and all that but my equality of thought would far rather be pressing for more equality in the pay market, better housing and education for those in the lower brackets of life styles.

    I guess in the end I value myself as a traditionalist, I have a wife and twin boys, whom I love very much, should my values be subjected to ridicule?

  • rekrab

    But where am I being inconsistent? I’ve simply said where does it all end on the equality of marriage and children.For two thousand years Churches have celebrated the union of men and women, are they now expected to change that policy and maybe even re-write the bible?

    Look, I support gay people, I have nothing against them as individuals, to each your own and all that but my equality of thought would far rather be pressing for more equality in the pay market, better housing and education for those in the lower brackets of life styles.

    I guess in the end I value myself as a traditionalist, I have a wife and twin boys, whom I love very much, should my values be subjected to ridicule?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

      No, the Church is being given the option to do as it wishes. No expectation of change. But rewriting the bible would make a lot of sense

      • rekrab

        LoL! Mike, another spectacular debate that didn’t deliver anything of significant change.Sorry Mike but 1.5% of the population wont shift much. I hope we can remain friends Mike and you don’t read to much into my posts.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

          I’m not really sure what you mean. The position on gay rights has changed out of all recognition, thankfully. religions choose to lag behind or reject change. That’s entirely up to them. I think on balance we are better off with religion purely in the private sphere and the more detached they are from the reality of everyday life, the more that happens by default.

    • http://twitter.com/ElliotBidgood Elliot Bidgood

      The question is, how does it negatively impact upon you, your marriage or your children if gay couples are can also get married in select churches that have chosen to let them? You mentioned “each to your own”, but that pretty much means letting other people get on with things unrestricted by law unless can come up with specific reasons why their activities are harming you, someone else or society at large in some identifiable way. No one is trying to attack your marriage or family, instead we’re simply arguing that if marriage is great tradition (and it is), then the expansion of it to group currently shut out of it can only be good and fair.

      • rekrab

        No. The question is? How do you change two thousand years of history without reconstructing the Church and it’s practices? And why do you believe my traditional values are a threat?

        • http://twitter.com/ElliotBidgood Elliot Bidgood

          It’s not going to change the tradition of marriage or the practices of the church in any real way, is my answer. The churches that don’t want to perform them are being left alone and protected by the law, as it should be in a society where we have religious freedom. If those provisions still aren’t strong enough as some people are concerned they might not be, I’m all for strengthening them. Opposite sex couples will continue getting married as they always have, and the vast majority will have children as they always have (though a handful won’t, as they always have). Meanwhile, the handful of churches that see equal marriage as part of their belief system are being allowed to perform them, as it should also be in a society where we have religious freedom, and gay couples that want to get married in those churches can do so, as it should be in a free society. I simply don’t understand how legal protection for opposed churches isn’t a valid compromise that everyone can accept. Iceland, Belgium, Argentina, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Spain, Canada, South Africa and a half dozen US states have already legalised same-sex marriage, and there’s been no problems in their societies as a result. Time for us to follow suit.

          • rekrab

            You make a very human case with some strong points but are we in danger of an undervaluing concern? by that I mean, are you suggesting the promotion and growth of gay individuals? I thought it was something that was a choice. Some might say that the world and it’s litany of different religions is a cause for concern, adding another part to that may well result in social breakdown and divisions, like gay churches for gay people only and vice versa.

          • http://twitter.com/ElliotBidgood Elliot Bidgood

            Like you said, being gay isn’t a choice. 90+% of the population aren’t, some are, and the actions of government and society has no effect on how many there are precisely because it is not a choice. However, if we’re a society that recognises that there’s nothing wrong with being gay our actions do effect whether we are being fair, compassionate and accepting to those that are. Same-sex marriage doesn’t promote or grow homosexuality, it just accepts it as reality and as an equal and valid way of living, rather than seeking to suppress it.

            And we’ve always lived in a religiously pluralistic world, and only more so today. I don’t see that as a bad thing overall though, in spite of inevitable tensions it causes, but even if I did there’s nothing we can do about it and can only make the best of it. Avoiding one-size-fits-all national laws that only represent one religious viewpoint is one way to deal with it though, and like I said, I believe letting different churches and individuals follow their own beliefs on this achieves that balance in this case. Denominational differences aren’t that much of a problem, in practice. For example, Anglican church has long allowed female priests, the Catholic church believes that is wrong and chooses not to within their own institution, as remains their right. If Quaker, Unitarian and liberal Jewish institutions perform gay marriages that’s fine to, so long as Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox institutions retain their right to refuse to. As to whether that means gay people will gravitate to those churches, who knows, but that’s how freedom to worship works, and it only seems fair that gay people would be more comfortable with those dominations that are more accepting of them. I can’t see that doing harm to society though.

          • rekrab

            Will that cradle of comfort result in gay people setting up free schools for their adopted children?

            If we allow different churches to preach indifferently in terms of the life and times of Christ, then Christianity becomes misconstrued and devalued.

          • http://twitter.com/ElliotBidgood Elliot Bidgood

            That’s a bit speculative, but the point of accepting equality and diversity is to prevent divisions like that from emerging, in any case. Why would the children of same-sex couples need to go to different schools if we are a society that respects their way of life? Moreover, equalising marriage status can only further that, by breaking down the remaining legal distinction we maintain between the legitimacy of same and opposite sex relationships in our society and preventing same-sex couples from feeling like they are being excluded from mainstream society.

            As for the second point, different churches have always and will always teach different things about the exact nature of Christianity and what its correct doctrine should be – Catholicism, Anglicanism, Methodism, Baptism, Mormonism, Unitarianism, Quakers and so on. Beyond that, we have the non-Christian religions, and their respective sub-denominations as well. It’s not the duty of the state to adjudicate on which interpretations are correct and impose the interpretations of some churches on others, or really even to intervene at all in the internal practices of religious institutions except in certain extreme cases when those practices are overwhelmingly judged to pose a clear danger to society (for example, to deal with the hate speech seen in mosques that are sympathetic to the more extremist interpretations/distortions of Islam). Hence the need for the conscience exemptions, on the one hand, and the opt-in, on the other, for different churches on same-sex weddings.

          • http://twitter.com/ElliotBidgood Elliot Bidgood

            That’s a bit speculative, but the point of accepting equality and diversity is to prevent divisions like that from emerging, in any case. Why would the children of same-sex couples need to go to different schools if we are a society that respects their way of life? Moreover, equalising marriage status can only further that, by breaking down the remaining legal distinction we maintain between the legitimacy of same and opposite sex relationships in our society and preventing same-sex couples from feeling like they are being excluded from mainstream society.

            As for the second point, different churches have always and will always teach different things about the exact nature of Christianity and what its correct doctrine should be – Catholicism, Anglicanism, Methodism, Baptism, Mormonism, Unitarianism, Quakers and so on. Beyond that, we have the non-Christian religions, and their respective sub-denominations as well. It’s not the duty of the state to adjudicate on which interpretations are correct and impose the interpretations of some churches on others, or really even to intervene at all in the internal practices of religious institutions except in certain extreme cases when those practices are overwhelmingly judged to pose a clear danger to society (for example, to deal with the hate speech seen in mosques that are sympathetic to the more extremist interpretations/distortions of Islam). Hence the need for the conscience exemptions, on the one hand, and the opt-in, on the other, for different churches on same-sex weddings.

          • http://twitter.com/ElliotBidgood Elliot Bidgood

            That’s a bit speculative, but the point of accepting equality and diversity is to prevent divisions like that from emerging, in any case. Why would the children of same-sex couples need to go to different schools if we are a society that respects their way of life? Moreover, equalising marriage status can only further that, by breaking down the remaining legal distinction we maintain between the legitimacy of same and opposite sex relationships in our society and preventing same-sex couples from feeling like they are being excluded from mainstream society.

            As for the second point, different churches have always and will always teach different things about the exact nature of Christianity and what its correct doctrine should be – Catholicism, Anglicanism, Methodism, Baptism, Mormonism, Unitarianism, Quakers and so on. Beyond that, we have the non-Christian religions, and their respective sub-denominations as well. It’s not the duty of the state to adjudicate on which interpretations are correct and impose the interpretations of some churches on others, or really even to intervene at all in the internal practices of religious institutions except in certain extreme cases when those practices are overwhelmingly judged to pose a clear danger to society (for example, to deal with the hate speech seen in mosques that are sympathetic to the more extremist interpretations/distortions of Islam). Hence the need for the conscience exemptions, on the one hand, and the opt-in, on the other, for different churches on same-sex weddings.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

            I honestly don’t think Christianity could be any more devalued than it already is. And the church itself has done all the devaluing. Don;t you realise how much contempt young people have for the church as an institution? How out of touch and prejudiced it appears?

    • RobW

      I don’t mean to ridicule your values, but I just find it intriguing that you are happy to push for progress and radical reform in the political and social spheres but not the religious one. So, for 2000 years churches have only married a man and a woman (and even that used to be restricted in terms of those who were divorced etc), but we also had no democracy for the majority of those 2000 years, no workers rights, no legally recognized freedoms, no freedom of thought or discovery or criticism that went against the church’s line. I mean, we’ve been at war with France for about 800 years of the last 1000, but I don’t see anyone arguing that we should have stuck with all that. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is not a great, rational reason to carry on doing something.

      I understand that the Bible is special but surely any text has to be a living document constantly interpreted in a way that illuminates rather than simply shines on modern times. The key to interpreting a work of religion or philosophy, whether the Bible or Plato or Kant or Marx or whatever else is to both understand not only the context that it was written in, but also to relate its message to the present in a way that is relevant. Inquiry and not dogma, is the way to truth, or as St Thomas Aquinas put it “The human mind perceives truth only through thinking”. I guess what I’m saying is that theology should be scholastic, pluralistic and progressive, not simply dogmatic, conservative and increasingly irrelevant to the world we live in.

      Finally, I think all the things you mention, equality, a better standard of education, a decent wage and a guarantee of a decent job are incredibly important too, but see them as part of a greater whole of which issues such as gay marriage and human rights also play a part. A unity of purpose to bring reason and progress to all areas of lives and lift people up so they can achieve more than they would have been able to do alone.

  • http://www.facebook.com/samuel.rushworth Samuel Rushworth

    Mark, I think your headline here is more an attempt to sting Ed than a serious position. Surely you know that Cameron’s position on gay marriage is yet another attempt to detoxify the nasty party on an area of policy that leaves alone the entrenched privileges of his type of people? (Or a sop to the Lib Dems in exchange for cuts for millionaires, and tax credit cuts for low and middle income families). You also employ an unusual definition of leadership. You seem to be confusing it with dictatorship. Leaders listen to those beneath them and are considerate of their points of view. They then set an example, speak with conviction and inspire people to follow them. Isn’t that exactly what Ed is doing on equal marriage? I understand your point that this should be no different to other fundamental Labour values. But I think it is dangerous road to try to define Labour so narrowly that you would deny a place to anyone who doesn’t perfectly match your views.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    To be fair – George Osborne has always been liberal on gay rights issues, as much as it pains me to say so!

    • Open_Palm

      Being liberal to the point he would go against the grassroots and backbenchers and push this through would take alot of conviction. Personally, Osborne does not strike me as someone who has any conviction on any political issues.

  • Hugh

    I think you missed the memo: suggesting the logic of gay marriage might legitimise polygamous marriages is utterly disgusting and not classy.

    • RobW

      That’s not what I was suggesting at all. Really, I was slightly mocking the obvious lack of understanding of what bisexuality is (ie thinking that it means you’re in love with two people simultaneously!). That said, I personally have no moral issue with the idea of polyamorous relationships.

  • robertcp

    All of the parties are making this a free vote, so I cannot see the problem. Nearly all Labour MPs will vote in favour.

  • Brumanuensis

    [Late comment, I know]

    This reminds me of how uneasy I was at how long it took for Ed to endorse marriage equality during the leadership race. He was about fourth, as I recall, behind Andy Burnham, who as a Catholic should have found it trickier.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

      There was a reason. Stonewall, at the time, were lukewarm, and Ed initially asked them what they thought – wanting to reflect the views of gay people. If you look at his voting record or stated views he is totally in favour of gay equality

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Your comments about Mother Theresa are wrong, offensive and tell me far more about you than anything else. To be able to make such a judgement shows an arogance that I wonder what you think that you hjave done in your life that is so much more worthy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

      I think she was an exploitative, corrupt witch – read what Chris Hitchens found out about this supposed paragon of virtue.

  • Robert_Crosby

    Rubbish! It’s the next stage on from Cameron’s and Hunt’s shameless posing as “defenders of the NHS”. They want to look modern and more centrist while pushing a whole raft of vile and disgusting policies through across the board. Civil partnership was the big breakthrough. Let’s not overplay the Cameronistas’ “conversion”, eh?

  • 2stcenturytruth

    Read the rightwing bile on gay marriage on http://www.conservativehome.com. There is a vicious campaign against Cameron in operation. According to the ComRes poll a majority in the country supports gay marriage. But it is probably wise from Ed to hold his fire at this stage and let the conservatives fight amongst themselves. This is what Labour will gain from; the country seeing a divided party. At some stage, maybe, Ed has to show his hand more openly. But at this stage allowing a free vote is probably enough. Silence, can be, an important weapon in winning a war.

  • 2stcenturytruth

    Do not be surprised if Cameron backs out of this. He has not shown leadership in other areas. And if ConservativeHome is anthing to go by his rightwing are vicious
    in their attack on this policy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    He always has so far. Look at his voting record

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