Today was definitely a day to remember! Equal Marriage came to the Commons for 2nd Reading and passed with a majority of 400 to 175 – a huge leap forward on the journey to full equality. Equal Marriage will become a reality.
A real hurrah for the happiness that this will bring to those who have been discriminated against and prevented from expressing their love for each other in the way that everyone else can.
As the originator of this change to legislate for full equal marriage I have fought for its safe passage throughout. On this journey I have been helped by many, many people who believe in equality and fairness – and I want to thank them profoundly for their support. There are too many to mention – but here are just a few.
So – thank you to the superb team of civil servants who worked tirelessly to ensure that a very challenging and difficult proposal was executed to the highest of standards including handling the biggest response to any consultation in history.
Of course – above all – a massive thank you to the Liberal Democrats who have always been staunch campaigners and believers in equality and have the stand out record on LGBT rights. Special thanks obviously to Nick Clegg who when I first ‘phoned him to say I was going to embark on this endeavour said I had his full support and who has been there every step of the way. Also thanks to Ed Fordham, Brian Paddick, Adrian Trett, Stephen Gilbert, Stephen Williams, Caron Lindsay and many others in the LibDems for continually pushing and pushing to get the messages out there. And congratulations to Stephen G and Stephen W for great speeches in the chamber today.
Less obviously in terms of public perception as having a major role in this – but a big thank you to Theresa May. She was my Secretary of State and without her support – genuine support – this would not have got out of the stables. David Cameron, very helpfully and also genuinely – at the Conservative Conference made it a key commitment himself – and he has been steadfast throughout – despite the angst of some of his backbenchers. Thanks to my colleague during my time at the Home Office, Nick Herbert, who went out to bat for this whenever necessary?
Thanks too to Labour’s Angela Eagle, Chris Bryant and Ed Miliband for making sure that cross party support helped see this through. And thanks to Labour for taking so many of those earlier steps up to and including Civil Partnerships.
Then there are the LGBT groups who have at every trial and tribulation – and there have been many – kept pushing forward and kept responding with reason to the appalling things that have been said during the passage of equal marriage. It was whilst listening to these campaigning groups as Equalities Minister when I was working on Civil Partnerships in Religious Premises that I realised that only equal marriage would answer the call for equality. And I am very glad that the legislation is permissive and will allow those religions who wish to perform marriages to do so.
Huge thanks also go to the LGBT media and LGBT people who work in the media – who have worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the campaign. And special mention for the Out4Marriage campaign – a fantastic effort.
Huge thanks also go to those brave individuals from religious groups who put their heads above the parapet and have stood up for equality against some of the most depressing and terrible things that have been said. I respect and have respected all the way through the opinions and views of those who do not support this change. I can understand that for some people it seems strange and for some it is against their religious beliefs – but nothing really excuses some of the awful things that have been said and written in this regard.
And thanks too to all the countless individuals who have had to endure the sort of attacks and foul comments on websites and who with endless patience have responded and tried to explain what equality actually means. And to all those others who simply believe in equality.
So heartfelt thanks to all who sped this very important Bill on its way. Apologies to anyone I have omitted. No doubt there will be amendments and many arguments as the Bill wends its way through its legislative journey – but change will come.
Good wishes to the team who will now take this through – Maria Miller, Hugh Robertson, Helen Grant and Jo Swinson.
And one very happy LibDem going to have a glass of wine to celebrate a great day in politics.