Comments: Reactions to the passage of the Marriage Bill by the House of Lords

TBTG! Hallelujah! :-D

Posted by JCF at Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 9:26pm BST

And of course the Queen will rubber stamp it, as she did in Canada and Aotearoa/NZ

All this of course began when the Lambeth Conference approved contraception in 1930. Not many people see the link...

Posted by Robert ian williams at Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 10:09pm BST

Wonderful-grace filled news !

Typically misrepresented by some of these religious groups as steam-rollered etc when in truth all votes were free votes !

And so on ............

'Let right be done.'

Posted by Laurence at Tuesday, 16 July 2013 at 10:29pm BST

If the Campaign For Marriage genuinely thinks that party machines have much to do with voting in the House of Lords, it may go some way to explaining why their campaign was so unsuccessful.

To wit, there has been little comment on why, exactly, the House of Lords produced that remarkable strong vote in favour of equal marriage. While a greater than 2 to 1 majority in the Commons was no surprise to many of us, few predicted an even greater majority in the Lords.

One explanation may lie in the rather nasty 'green ink' lobbying campaign conducted by many of the groups linked to in this article. It had been directly referenced by a number of MPs in the Commons debate, notably Conor Burns, the openly gay but trenchantly right-wing MP for Bournemouth West, who specifically referenced it as the main reason why he overcame his earlier reservations and voted for the Bill.

There were other surprising votes in favour from the Tory right, and doubtless the lobbying campaign had some influence in the direction opposite to that intended. On the other hand, some of his Tory colleagues were doubtless as perturbed by the depth of prejudice revealed by this campaign, but thought to themselves, “well, they’re dreadful people but they’re our people and if I vote for this, they’ll defect to UKIP, and my majority is thin.”

What is more disturbing is the reaction of the Bishops to this dreadful campaign. From Alan Wilson’s writings, it is clear that they were recipients of e-mails from the same sources, every bit as poisonous. Why did they not at least make some effort to distance themselves from the prejudice expressed? Were they worried about big Evangelical parishes withholding quota? If so, surely Matthew 6:24 applies. Were they worried about people leaving the Church? They seem considerably less worried about the people who left the Church of England because they no longer wished to be associated with homophobia.

The Lords non-Spiritual, accountable neither to voters or chequebooks, reacted as most people would – with disgust. Hence, as Archbishop Welby noted, the largest attendance in the House and participation in the debate, and majority, since 1945.

I’d genuinely love an explanation as to what the Bishops were thinking. I doubt I’ll get one, as my parish pays its share in time and on full, regardless of the current political currents and without whingeing.

Posted by The Rev'd Mervyn Noote at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 12:32am BST

Who ever said that democracy was dead. This result, from the house of peers - no less - gives hope to those in the country who are looking for social justice and equity. This ha obviously been allowed to happen - despite the strong opposition from bishops in the House of Lords!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 9:03am BST

Apparently or so I hear from a reliable source the retired bishops in the HofL all voted in favor of equal marriage. Now that is interesting. They don't have to 'toe the line' according to whoever it is that decides where the line stands. Can anyone verify this? Thanks.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 9:32am BST

Interestingly, Anglican Mainstream are rowing back on their posting of "First they came...". Somewhat dishonestly they have edited it without stating that they've edited it, and left the date alone, but have added a somewhat incomprehensible "no, it's not relevant, but in fact it's very relevant" coda.

"Of course what happened under the Third Reich is on a completely different scale! In terms of horror, brutality, unadulterated evil; we acknowledge that there is no comparison to what we face here in the UK now."

Phew! I was worried Kristallnacht was just a day away, to be honest.

Posted by Interested Observer at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 9:53am BST

I hope the new pope won't follow the horrible homophobic remarks of his theological adviser:

Posted by Spirit of Vatican II at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 9:57am BST

I of course criticise the opposition for their approach to the bill and the whole proposal.

However I don't have a sense 'if only they did this or that differently' the result would be any different.

The vehemence of the response early on - here I'm thinking Carey, Sentamu and the CofE press operation led almost overnight to a disappearance of the 'gays against gay marriage' grouping. Under the anti-gay onslaught (section 28 redux) that was always going to be the case and, knowing our opponents, the opposition were always going to let the mask slip and allow us to see 'what's really always been there'.

The outcome was more or less fore ordained. We'd got to the point that Labour and Lib Dem MPs and front benches supported the measure as well as around half the Tories.

The extremer voices in the Tories (and other benches in the Lords) no doubt reinforced the majorities.

The Church of England was always going to be led astray by its own overvaluation of its role and failure to understand the English people (pulling on levers that weren't connected to anything).

The only way the bill could be stopped was if the losses to UKIP were so great that the bill had to have been withdrawn. Had that happened the bill would have come back in some other form (private member's bill or under a Labour Government).

My advice to the C4Mers is 'Do what you want, it's a free country'. The bill (soon an Act) will be forever as marriage equality becomes thoroughly non-controversial (so much so the bill is now getting more foreign news coverage than in Britain where this momentous event is just ignored by press and TV news). You might hurt the Tories and produce a Labour government (an outcome I would welcome). Instead of hurting pro-marriage equality MPs they might consider supporting anti-equality MPs in marginal seats (just a thought). But it's their money and time to do as they please. If really entering the electoral fray they'll need either their own candidates or to support UKIP or some other political entity. UKIP will do very well in 2014 (euro-elections) so maybe C4M will claim the credit but even UKIP will soften its stance at some point and where does C4M turn then?

Posted by Craig Nelson at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 10:10am BST

Dear Craig, Thanks for you thoughtful analysis. I particularly like the idea of levers not connected to anything - it conjured up the image of a bishop in all his flowing parliamentary robes in some rusting signal box on a branch line where no train had passed since the 19th century straining at the signal lever connected to points at a rural railway halt celebrated by John Betjeman that had long since been taken up by Beeching.

As far as the amendment to the Lords' Amendments produced by David Burrowes, it seems to have sunk without trace. Did the Speaker not select it? Was it not moved or withdrawn or was it simply timed out? I can imagine the Speaker saying to Burrowes "Who are you kidding? They are not going to let this last attempt to lure the Commons into a pointless game of Ping Pong with the Lords at this hour! Have you seen all those pink carnations in the chamber?" At least Lord Cormac in his speech of resignation and disappointment was gracious, unlike Ld Framlingham or Sir Gerald Howarth, who showed themselves up in a not very favourable light. I don't suppose either on reflection will be very proud of the Hansard record of their final speeches.

Posted by Tom at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 11:58am BST

Indeed, one of the most extraordinary things about the whole saga is that now it is over the press are no longer interested. There was nothing in The Guardian, nothing on the main BBC news and only a brief mention on the main news on Radio 4. It's been a nine day wonder, the press has moved on to other jucier news. There will be a flurry of interest when the first marriages are celebrated and that will be it. How are C4M and all the other associated groups going to keep up the pressure, year after year, when this becomes an unremarked issue by the vast majority of the population. What effective new initiatives can they possibly devise, what stategies have they? They may well call upon their God in prayer, but one has to say that the powerful deity they appeal to doesn't seem to have been listening recently. Perhaps he, too, regards other things as rather more important?

Posted by Richard Ashby at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 12:55pm BST

Dear Tom, I agree with everything you said. I think the last minute wrecking amendment must have just dropped out due to time. In any case the Lords amendments were all government amendments not just anything the Lords happened to just throw in and although we have two chambers it's the same government in both!

Usual practice is to accept all Lords amendments that the government supports. It's not meant to be a free for all or another go at Report stage. I think it's more about self publicity than anything else plus a desire to make a nuisance of himself.

I agree with what you said about Lord Cormack who was warm and measured in his comments and entirely appropriate to the situation and a wise attempt to build civility as there was - rather belatedly - from the bishops' benches.

C4M and Anglican Mainstream are just committed to social discord. They must just be left to it and be allowed to develop their own paranoid sub-culture (and at the same time pointing out ways in which allowing same sex couples to marry isn't quite on the same scale as the III Reich).

Posted by Craig Nelson at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 1:31pm BST

Three cheers for the Quakers and the Unitarians

Posted by Jean Mayland at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 1:41pm BST

Indeed, I think Craig's "pulling on levers that weren't connected to anything" is an excellent summary of the whole opposition position. C4M and their friends assumed that same-sex marriage mattered as much to everyone else as it did to them, and confused middle-aged small-c conservatives saying things like "well, I wouldn't myself" or "well, what do" with committed, obsessive, irreconcilables. This is why smart political parties don't just ask people where they stand on issues, but how much they care.

A lot of (largely younger) voters are actively in favour of same-sex marriage, as an equality and decency issue. They have gay friends, and don't want to be part of institutions that exclude those friends. The church has done itself a lot of harm in this demographic with its initial noisy opposition, as Craig points out. A few (largely older) voters are obsessively convinced that same-sex marriage marks some massive social shift. They think it necessary to oppose it with all their social and political capital, at almost any cost. And the rest of the population really couldn't care less. They'll express an opinion if asked. But no more than that.

SSM is not going to be repealed in 2015, whoever wins. Labour won't. The Conservatives won't, and even if that policy changed (following Cameron's defenestration, presumably) they wouldn't be able to even get a majority of their own MPs. The Lib Dems won't. By 2020, there will be so many same-sex couples, and so little sign of the end times, and 7 years' more younger voters and 7 years' fewer older voters, that the issue will have disappeared off the political radar.

So C4M will in fact get no political support, other than irrelevant fringe Tories like Dorries. Even UKIP will keep their distance. No one is going to shout "¡ No pasarán!" once the wedding invitations start to arrive in the post. It will become part of everyday life, and a political party that tried to overturn that would just look mad. C4M might be able to stand candidates, and might regard the lost deposit as a cheap way to get a free mailing to all voters. It's a free country, but they'd be lucky to out-poll the BNP.

Posted by Interested Observer at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 2:03pm BST

One more point for the CofE to consider. The notable thing about the passage of the same-sex marriage legislation is that the opposing churches had precisely zero impact on the passage of the bill. No amendments they had put down or supported were accepted. None of the lengthy and feverish reports they commissioned, or the dubious academic research they championed, had the slightest impact. The demands for protections for registrars and teachers, whether demanded in good or bad faith, were ignored. The "Quadruple Lock" appeared drafted as much to provide an irrefutable "you're protected, so shut up" as out of any concern for the church itself. The Lords Spiritual may as well have been talking to the wind, and there was no pretence that the churches could speak on national morality, rather than their own sectarian interests.

Whether CofE, Catholic, whatever the DUP represent: the churches were completely ignored. MPs were told that if they did not oppose the bill, they would be punished at the polls. They appeared perfectly willing to take that risk.

PhDs will be written over the coming years to explain this, and debate whether the irrelevance of the churches in this debate is because of the churches' behaviour on this issue, the churches' behaviour more generally, or more wide-ranging social changes. But it is quite clear that, if the churches are not listened to on the topic of marriage, they will be listened to on very little else. If the CofE and other major churches want to have a place in our national discourse --- and I believe that they do, and should have it --- then they need to consider very carefully what has happened over recent months. Because if their response to being ignored is to think that the solution is to become yet more strident and yet more polarising, then the consequences could be very, very serious indeed.

The CofE published lengthy reports, in pseudo-academic language, describing why same-sex marriage, should not, could not and would not happen. It made lengthy speeches in the Lords. Its priests in some cases spoke at length to their congregations. The legislation got royal assent this afternoon. That should be food for thought.

Posted by Interested Observer at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 4:43pm BST




Posted by Laurence at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 4:52pm BST

It is remarkable how much the CofE (and other religious groupings) have shown how they have misread the signs of the times. Of course they have every right to state a contrary view, but it has to be cogent and sensitive. And after the debacle over women bishops I suspect many people have finally dismissed the relevance of the CofE to public discourse and now just close their ears or ignore what it says. Sympathy for local clergy who have to struggle even harder to make themselves heard against this background.

And may I add that, as a retired person, there are many older people - I am one - who have supported gay marriage and are extremely uncomfortable with what has been said and its tone in opposition. Not all older people are reactionary Col Blimps!

Posted by Roger Antell at Wednesday, 17 July 2013 at 11:24pm BST

Roger is right, this is supported by many retired people -look at the Lords'.

I too, am retired and have not suddenly lost my liberal convictions, or taken leave of my senses.

Posted by Laurence at Thursday, 18 July 2013 at 9:25pm BST

Among the refreshing aspects of attending Quaker meetings are the quality of discussion and the respect paid to everyone's contribution. Elders genuinely want to know what everyone thinks, and as a result Quakers have been able to move forward to embrace SSM. The hierarchies of the Church of England and the Church in Wales have not the slightest interest in what ordinary churchpeople think, and I don't suppose they've bothered to read Linda Woodhead's research either. They hand down policies from on high, and have never made themselves look more ridiculous than in the matter of SSM.

Posted by Helen at Thursday, 18 July 2013 at 10:58pm BST

Helen speaks my mind. Very much so.

Posted by Laurence at Friday, 19 July 2013 at 12:16am BST
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