My Lords Spiritual and Temporal,
In a few days, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will receive its second reading in the House of Lords, signalling the bill's progression through the parliamentary process. With that in mind, I have a favour to ask of you.
Give it your approval.
There are many of you, I know, who, for various reasons, oppose the bill and wish to see it fail. It is likely that you, like me, are steadfast your opinion, but I'd like you to think of the bill from another perspective for a moment.
Let's imagine a boy called John, a fourteen year old who has come to the realisation that he is different from his peers; he is gay. Homophobia is still rife in our schools, so we can presume that he gets bullied, that he feels ostracised. Though we've come leaps and bounds in the past years, there are still too few positive role models for this young boy. He feels alone; he feels abandoned and isolated; he feels as though he doesn't belong.
Would not he like to grow up knowing that his country cherishes people like him, just as it does his straight peers? Would not he like to know that the society around him values the sort of love that he hopes one day to share with someone, just as it does the love that his straight peers will share?
If this bill fails, that will send a message to him that he is not valued, that he, somehow, is not worthy. Tragically, it will reinforce his belief that he is not equal, that he is inferior. No matter what your opinion, no matter what your beliefs, that cannot be right.
Like in the House of Commons, there will be many of you who use your faith as justification for your opinions. You may say that God intends for marriage to be between one man and woman, and no one else. I respect your views, but I do not agree with them. This bill will give protection to religious communities; those that do not wish to conduct same-sex marriages will not have to, but those that do will be able to.
Your responsibility, like that of your colleagues in the Commons, is to judge this bill by what it will mean for people like John. Your responsibility is to judge this bill not as Christians, but as human beings, for that, I believe, is your first and foremost duty as legislators.
Opinion polls indicate that there is growing public support for same-sex marriage. I cautiously and respectfully remind you that as an unelected House, there is even more impetus on you than on your elected colleagues to act judiciously and prudently in making your judgements. I press upon you to remember this when you come to vote on this most important bill, even if it is your belief that this bill is a distraction from more important issues.
You may ask why I care so much. I, like John, want to know that society values me and the sort of love that I hope one day to share.
Some say that civil partnerships are equality enough. I disagree. I put it to you that there cannot be equality unless the legal unions of same-sex couples are given the same name and status as those of opposite-sex couples. If we are truly equal, then why must we have a different name? How can it be that we are equal, we are the same, but we still insist on reinforcing that we are different, and that we are not worthy of what straight people enjoy?
Despite opposition from a number of honourable Members in all the three British parties, this bill has come before you. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to extend unto gay or bisexual people the same privilege as straight people: that of having their love acknowledged and respected by the State, and of having their commitment to each other revered by society.
Like many millions of people across our planet, I'm sure, you will find it difficult to put your beliefs aside, but I cannot express enough how crucial it is that you try. I said earlier that we have come leaps and bounds in recent years, but this bill will out-do all other successes, for it will give us true equality, and will do wonders for men and women, boys and girls, all over this country. Indeed, what this bill symbolises could very well save lives.
You are privileged to have an opportunity to be part of and to shape history. I appeal to you to stand up for what is right, to look at this bill through the eyes of John, and to declare that no matter what, love is love, and that deserves our respect; approve this bill.
A hopeful citizenSuggest a correction