The debate lasting over six hours concentrated on the government's justifications for introducing the bill - equality and justice, and the issue of forcing churches to undertake same sex 'marriages'. MPs promoting same-sex marriage said that civil partnerships were not now a sufficient provision for same-sex couples, despite assurances given during legislation, they now wanted same-sex couples to have the legal status and terminology of 'marriage'. They argued that this was part of a long-term historical move. However, they also reacted against suggestions that there would be future moves to redefine marriage to include three or more people (polygamy).
Commenting on the debate, Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary told the media:
"We are indebted to the pro-family MPs who fought back to defend marriage in this evening's debate. This was a dark day for marriage and the family, which will suffer severe and long-term effects if this legislation is eventually passed. Future generations of children would suffer as a result. So the fight to defend real marriage will and must go on. We call upon the millions of people who value marriage to continue to lobby parliamentarians to resist the bill.SPUC's position paper on why it campaigns against same-sex marriage can be read at http://www.spuc.org.uk/documents/papers/ssm201201
Several MPs, notably Sir Roger Gale MP, pointed to the broken assurances given during the passage of the Civil Partnerships Bill in 2004. Parliament was assured that civil partnership legislation was not a precursor to gay 'marriage.' MPs who had given those assurances are now saying that civil partnerships were part of a long-term shift in social views. However, those MPs rejected with vitriol any suggestion - before it was even mentioned in the debate - that redefining marriage might lead to further changes such as legal polygamy.
MPs opposed to redefining marriage on this basis were compared to supporters of segregation and apartheid, and reference was even made to the concentration camps.
The critics of same-sex marriage were measured and effective in the debate. SPUC is encouraged that the relevance of marriage to the welfare of children was raised by a number of pro-marriage MPs. These included Robert Flello, Edward Leigh, Stephen Timms, Cheryl Gillan and John Glen. They pointed to the unique capacity of a marriage of man and woman to generate children, and the advantage of children being raised by their natural parents. This was the first time that these issues have become prominent in the parliamentary debate, and it is important that MPs increase the attention paid to children in future stages of the bill.
Edward Leigh MP noted in the debate that the possibility of children was the rationale for the state supporting marriage. If children are left out of the picture, there is no longer any compelling reasons for the state to support marriage. That is the reason why the bill threatens to damage, not strengthen, marriage as an institution."
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