Here’s a copy of the email I sent out to all Liberal Democrat Members today…
It’s been an amazing day for equality today as the Coalition Government announced it will introduce legislation to open marriage up to same-sex couples.
I am so proud of our Party because – don’t let anyone fool you – it’s because of Liberal Democrats that this is happening.
It all started two years ago when LGBT+ Lib Dems and Conference broke new ground. In September 2010, Liberal Democrat members voted to support equal marriage and end the separation between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. I took that vote to heart, saw an opportunity, telephoned Nick to say that I was going to go for equal marriage in my role as Equalities Minister at the Home Office. Nick gave me his support and his blessing – and quite frankly – at sticky moments during its passage his full-on powerful interventions when and as needed.
We’re two years on and it has been a hard battle. As Equalities Minister I was in charge of putting together the consultation on equal marriage. I met with LGBT groups, campaigners, lawyers, faith groups and many others. As we all know, marriage is an ancient institution, often tinkered with, but I had no idea how confusing the patchwork of legislation that governs it was. At one point the naysayers were making ominous noises about how it would lead to disestablishment of the Church if I pushed ahead with this!
Now you all know me better than these people did. It just made me more determined to show we could achieve this without the world as we know it ending. When we launched the consultation the Government was deluged by so many anti-equality voices trying to stop me (and recently Jo Swinson who took over from me in the reshuffle) pushing for this in government.
These voices were heard not least on the backbenches of our Coalition partners by those who still get somewhat hot under the collar when you talk about a modern, diverse and open Britain! Still – with Liberal Democrats firmly behind this policy, David Cameron has the votes necessary to defy them.
It became clear during the consultation that many same sex couples wanted to get married and wanted to do so in a full religious ceremony. And there were many religious organisations who wanted the freedom to conduct same-sex marriages. With Nick’s help we delivered this victory for religious freedom, at the same time protecting the rights of those religions who do not want to conduct such services.
It’s been a proud day for me and you should feel proud too. Without us – this would never have happened!