This is an issue which has generated a lot of correspondence with me as your Member of Parliament, with firmly-held views on both sides of the debate.
I met a large number of constituents in advance of the debate, including three delegations of constituents opposed to the proposal, and a number of individual constituents supporting the measure.
My stated intention before the debate on the Bill’s Second Reading on Tuesday (5th February) was to keep an open mind and to hear all of the arguments for and against the proposal. I was in the Commons Chamber for almost all of the six and a half hours of debate on the proposal. 70 MPs were able to speak in the debate, and a very broad range of opinion was voiced on the matter.
Having heard the arguments, I decided to support the proposal, in other words to vote to allow same sex marriages. I was particularly concerned to see that the guarantees to maintain religious freedom were robust and sustainable, and that the much talked about “unintended consequences” of the proposal were properly taken into account. On balance, I thought that those assurances from the Secretary of State were strong enough. I was also concerned that nothing should be done that called into question in any way the status or strength of existing marriages, or had any significant implications for children and family life in this country.
My conclusion was that there was no threat in this legislation to either existing marriages, or to family life. I could see no strong argument against allowing same sex couples to marry. Indeed, I note the words of the Prime Minister when he told the Commons this week “Frankly, I am a marriage man. I am a great supporter of marriage. I want to promote marriage, defend marriage, encourage marriage.” I agree. I am married myself, with children, and it is a wonderful institution that brings great strength to civil society. If same sex couples wish to enjoy marriage, I could see no reasonable grounds to stop them from doing so.
The Bill will now be debated in committee and then sent to the House of Lords. I will continue to watch the passage of this legislation with interest.
If constituents have a view on the proposals, they can contact me by responding to this newsletter.
Greg Hands M.P.
Member of Parliament for Chelsea & Fulham