Speaking this afternoon, Labour’s shadow equalities minister Yvette Cooper made the following attack on the Tories over equal marriage:
“Why is the Government now rowing backwards on equal marriage? Having said that churches would be able to hold same sex marriages if they wanted to, they now say it will be illegal for the Church of England to do so even if it wants to in future. How can that be freedom of religion?
“These plans are now deeply confused – Ministers must not get defensive or give in to the intolerant and inflammatory speeches from Tory backbenchers.
“The Government is right to say that no church should be required to hold same sex marriages. But freedom of religion goes both ways. Churches that want to show they treat all loving couples equally should be able to do so.
“Although the Church of England has said it does not support same sex marriage right now I hope it will change its position in time. But Parliament should not make it harder for them to do so by ruling that out. And the Government should not be giving in to opponents on their own backbenches.
“Backbench Tories who oppose same sex marriage should think again about their intolerant language. Linking same sex marriage to polygamy, suggesting it is an affront to so called “normal marriages,” or blaming same sex marriage for fewer marriages abroad are all ridiculous and shameful.
“No one group, organisation or faith owns marriage. Changing the law would still respect the freedom of religion of those who oppose same sex marriage. But opponents should also respect the values and freedom of those of us who want to support equal marriage too.”