Often when I am giving a speech or attending an event, a young man or woman will sidle up to me and thank me shyly for having got equal marriage legislation put before Parliament, telling me just how much it means to him or her. The stories of how much it matters to them, their loved ones and their families often makes me cry.
The symbolism of marriage for them is so important – and changing the rules to let people of the same gender who love each other get married is also an important way of showing that as a society we wish to treat people equally, regardless of their sexuality.
That is why this is so important. Equal marriage is totemic in its meaning and in its reality. It’s no wonder that the polls this weekend show people backing same-sex marriage by nearly 2-to-1.
With the legislation coming back to Parliament this coming week, I’ve been reading through some of the many amendments which will be debated. Many of them are fundamentally from those who disagree with same sex marriage and I trust and hope they will fail.
However, there are two that I would normally not hesitate to support. I am in favour of humanist weddings and opposite-sex Civil Partnerships. However, in the case of the opposite sex Civil Partnership proposals it’s a matter of beware opponents bearing gifts – for the people pushing this change are not those with records of supporting equality and marriage rules that accommodate a diversity of couples.
No, instead the proposals are coming from the likes of Tim Loughton and others who are avowed and determined opponents of equal marriage.
Have Tim and his colleagues suddenly become converts to the cause of equality? Given their public statements I fear what is at work here is rather darker and more cynical – a deliberate attempt to wreck the legislation by introducing extra issues to it that will make it easier for opponents of equal marriage in Parliament to then filibuster, delay and block the legislation.
I have just got back from a ministerial trip Nigeria and so will find out more tomorrow. If this is simply a cynical trap by opponents of equal marriage to block it, then we need to be careful not to fall into it – no matter how temptingly attractive the amendments are that are being used to lay the trap.