Monday, 18 February 2013

Marriage, gender and my Member of Parliament

Way back on 19th December last year I got round to sending an email to my Member of Parliament (Adam Afriyie) to ask about his feelings on Same Sex Marriage.

I wrote:

I’m writing concerning the  recent resurgence of news in the press and on television regarding the proposed legislation on “Gay Marriage”.

I myself am heterosexual and am married, but I am in favour of legislation that would allow same sex marriages. I’m also in favour of allowing (though not forcing) religious organisations to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

My understanding is that the Prime Minister intends to allow a free vote on this issue at some point in the near future.

I am, therefore writing to ask you to let me know if you are able to let me know which way you would expect to vote on this?

I received a written reply through the post dated January 17th 2013.

Thank you for your email regarding equal civil marriage.

You are quite right to highlight an issue of importance to many people in Windsor, and across the United Kingdom. Judging from my postbag, this is clearly a contentious issue, with passionate arguments on both sides.

By way of background, it is the Prime Minister's view that marriage should be for everyone. He believes that society is stronger when people enter into a stable relationship, commit to each other and make binding vows to love and honour one another. In the light of this, the Government has published proposals to remove the ban on same-sex couples entering into a civil marriage.

Religious organisations play an important role in our society; and my biggest concern is that they will not be forced to conduct ceremonies but be able to do so if they choose. I will not support any changes that jeopardise religious organisations' power to choose whether they conduct same sex ceremonies.

It is important that the proposals strike the right balance and I suspect the devil will be in the detail of the legislation which arrives before parliament.

Thank you for taking the time to write to me on this important issue. You have my commitment that I will give the legislation the careful consideration it deserves when it arrives in the House of Commons.

I was a little underwhelmed in that there was no direct answer to my question. I replied by email as follows on January 23rd:

Thank you for your letter in reply to my email. I’ve attached a copy of your reply to this email.

My understanding of the law as it stands at the moment, is that religious organisations (as well as other organisations) currently have no choice in the matter since same sex marriages cannot take place at all.

Based on the content of your letter, am I correct in assuming that you will vote in favour of removing the ban on same-sex couples entering into a civil marriage providing religious organisations are given the power to choose whether or not they conduct same sex ceremonies?

If this is not the case please could you clarify what other issues would affect the way in which you will vote?

The BBC reported on the result if the Parliamentary vote on February 6th. They mentioned:

David Cameron says he is proud the love of a same-sex couple will now "count the same" as that of a heterosexual couple, despite almost half his MPs voting against gay marriage.

MPs voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill by 400 to 175, a majority of 225.

But 136 Tory MPs opposed the bill.

For many people the voting raises some awkward questions about Conservative MPs and gender equality.

The reply to my email was by post and dated February 7th:

Thank you for contacting me about the changes proposed to marriage by the Government.

Judging from my postbag in recent weeks, the issue is a contentious one, and one which has divided opinion up and down the country. I appreciate the many arguments that have been raised and I am encouraged that so many people have taken the opportunity to share their views.

You should know that I voted against the second reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

Given that MPs decided to give the Bill a second reading, my main concerns now are to ensure that the Church and other religious organisations are not coerced to hold such ceremonies through the threat of litigation, and that those who wish to form same sex civil partnerships are treated equally under the law.

Thank you once again for taking the time to write to me on this crucial matter. Please rest assured that I will take a final view on the legislation once it has been closely scrutinised and amended in Committee and returns to the House of Commons shortly.

Again I was disappointed, though not surprised, that my question was unanswered.

I’m still left not knowing what Adam’s real feelings on the matter are and if there are any circumstances in which he would really vote in favour of the Bill.

So I guess I’ll write again again and see what comes back.

No comments: