UK Politics

In quotes: Gay marriage debate

Men exchange wedding rings

MPs have been debating whether to allow same-sex couples to get married. Here are some key quotes from the debate:

Minister for Women and Equalities Maria Miller

"Marriage is one of the most important institutions we have, it binds society and families together, it is a building block that promotes stability. This bill supports and cultivates marriage."

Shadow minister for women and equalities Yvette Cooper

"Call us hopeless romantics, call it the triumph of hope over experience - most of us think when people love each other and want to make that long-term commitment, that is a wonderful thing. So why would we stop a loving couple getting married just because they are gay?"

Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat

"We have come a long way in a short space of time but it is absolutely right we take the next step and delivers full legal equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in our country. This view is one that is borne of a hatred of discrimination and prejudice of all types, whether it's about gender or skin colour or religion."

Robert Flello, Labour

"True Christians are not bigoted and this is actually not a matter of equality, no matter how often it is referred to as equal marriage. Civil partnerships are equal to marriage - they might not have the same name but they are equal."

Tim Loughton, Conservative

"Who are we, this government or this country, to redefine the term marriage that has meant one man and one woman across cultures, across ages, across geographical barriers since before state and religion themselves? Is not the problem a lack of equality in the law that we need to address, but a lack of equality in some people's eyes in society, and just changing the name of a ceremony will not address that."

Roger Gale, Conservative

"It is not possible to redefine marriage. Marriage is the union between a man and a woman, has been historically, remains so. It is Alice in Wonderland territory, Orwellian almost, for any Government of any political persuasion to seek to come along and try to re-write the lexicon. It will not do.

"There is a way forward. It's been suggested, but it's been ignored. I don't subscribe to it myself, but I recognise the merit in the argument, and that is this: if the government is serious about this, take it away, abolish the civil partnerships bill, abolish civil marriage, and create a civil union bill that applies to all people regardless of the sexuality, or their relationships, and that means brothers and brothers, and sisters and sisters, and brothers and sisters as well. That would be a way forward. This is not."

Sarah Wollaston, Conservative

"Our sexuality is fundamental to who we are, surely the crux of this debate is whether or not we accord equal right and respect and esteem to people regardless of their sexuality."

Jim Dobbin, Labour

"Having a traditional view of marriage should not be seen as discriminatory, unfortunately the bill has promoted this notion. It has not created tolerance and has highlighted division."

Gerald Howarth, Conservative

"I am not a Tory moderniser for I believe marriage can only be between a man and a woman. I shall not surrender my principles. I believe this bill is wrong. The consultation process was a complete sham. It is opposed by the established church. It has caused deep and needless divisions within the Conservative Party. There is no mandate for it. There are huge potential consequences... and the nation faces much more serious challenges which the government needs to address"

Edward Leigh, Conservative

"Marriage I believe, and many millions of our fellow citizens believe, is by its nature a heterosexual union. It is the bringing together of one man and one woman. It is not just a romantic attachment, which can exist between any two people. It is not just a sexual relationship. It is the act of marriage which, by its very definition, requires two people of opposite sexes. If you take that basic requirement away, what you are left with is not marriage.

"We should be in the business of protecting cherished institutions and our cultural heritage otherwise what, I ask, is a Conservative Party for? Indeed we are alienating people who have voted for us for all their lives, leaving them with no one to vote for."

Steve Reed, Labour

"This measure strengthens rather than weakens marriage by extending it to more people. If you don't like gay marriage, then don't marry someone who is gay, but please don't deny that right to loving and committed gay and lesbian couples."

Margot James, Conservative

"We may have gone two steps forward, but I fear we may have gone one step backwards. The modernisation of the Conservative Party is not yet complete. Having been different for most of my life, I can assure you that being treated equal is very welcome indeed and we still have some way to go, not just in the area of gay people but in other areas. I believe my party should never flinch from the requirement that we must continue this progression."

Nick Herbert, Conservative

"If marriage hadn't been re-defined in 1836, there wouldn't be any civil marriages; if it hadn't been re-defined in 1949, under 16-year-olds would still be able to get married; if it hadn't been re-defined in 1969, we wouldn't have today's divorce laws - and all of these changes were opposed. I know that the signal we send today about whether the law fully recognises the place of gay people in our society will really matter. Above all, I think of two people, faithful and loving, who simply want their commitment to be recognised, as it is for straight couples, and that in the end is what this bill is about."

Mike Freer, Conservative

"I am a member of this Parliament. I sit alongside you in committees, in the bars and in the tea rooms. I queue alongside you in the division lobbies. But when it comes to marriage, why are you asking me to stand apart and to join a separate queue? I ask my colleagues: if I am equal in this House, give me every opportunity to be equal.

"I ask my married colleagues - did you get married for legal protections? Did you go down on one knee and say 'Darling, please give me the protections marriage affords us?' Of course you didn't. My civil partnership was our way of saying to my friends and my family this is who I love, this is who I am, this is who I wish to spend the rest of my life with. I am not asking for special treatment. I am simply asking for equal treatment."

Michael McCann, Labour

"Whilst civil partnership legislation unequivocally broke the back of unlawful discrimination this bill doesn't end any discrimination whatsoever and has the potential to open up a can of worms of Olympian magnitude."

David Lammy, Labour

"It is the end of an organic journey from criminality to equality for the gay community that began over a half century ago. This change is right, this change is necessary and the time is now.

"There are still those who say this is all unnecessary. Why do we need gay marriage when we already have civil partnership, they say. They are the same - separate but equal - they claim. Let me speak frankly - separate but equal is a fraud. Separate but equal is the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus. Separate but equal is the motif that determined that black and white people could not possibly drink from the same water fountain, eat at the same table or use the same toilets. It is an excerpt from the phrasebook of the segregationist and the racists. This is not separate but equal it is separate and discriminated, separate and oppressed, separate and brow beaten, separate and subjugated. Separate is not equal so let us be rid of it."

Stewart Jackson, Conservative

"This is a Pandora's box, for endless litigation, for division in society setting one group against another, and we must for that reason, for community cohesion, resist this bill."

Stewart Andrew, Conservative

"For me the points that have been raised have reflected the many personal battles in my life. Some of the most troubling and dark times in my life. Many have spoken and written about deeply held religious beliefs. From an early age I developed those beliefs, going to church without the support of my family. This faith was something that grew over time, but in my adolescence I began to realise that I was gay, and being gay in a small Welsh village really was like being the only gay in the village.

"I believe in personal freedom and equality but I also hold dear the principle of religious freedom."

Ian Paisley, DUP

"Whether members care to admit it or not, there is a natural, a biological, and indeed a scriptural order to life. Marriage begat children, by and large, children begat family, by and large, and families are the root of society; they form society. It's a simple observation of life, a timeline, but it goes right to the root of what we are discussing today in debating in this House.

"This Parliament can tweak all it wants with laws and legislation but it cannot pretend that marriage of same-sex couples is even close to being on a par with marriage of mixed-sex couples, because of nature itself. It is a fraud for the frontbench, it is a deceit for this House to pretend that it has embarked upon something for the most pathetic of reasons."

Bob Blackman, Conservative

"I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and I stand by that commitment. For saying that publicly, I have been subjected to vilification, abuse, threats to my physical well being, and threats to my office.

"I have received about five letters of support for a change to the arrangements of marriage, and 1,000 supporting my stance."

Guy Opperman, Conservative

"This is one of the finest debates that I have ever had the privilege of listening to, with outstanding contributions on both sides. This House, I suggest, is on a journey, and it is a journey that can be traced back many years. A hundred years ago there were the suffragettes and the opportunity for women to have the vote. In 1922 women were entitled to be MPs. Fifty years ago we had the civil rights movement and in 1967 homosexuality was made legal. Approximately 10 years ago civil partnerships were made legal.

"We are all changing. The House must change with it, and so must the country. That is why I will support the bill tonight.

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