Tomorrow in London, MPs will hear the second reading of the proposed legislation for equal marriage in England and Wales and then they will vote on it.
I don’t view this as a flawless bill. It could have benefited from a longer period (or any period) of public consultation after the draft legislation was released. Specifically, I take issue with the restrictive provisions that have been written into it for the Church of England, and, unless I’m missing something vital, I think that those restrictions demonstrate a tragic misunderstanding of the relationship between secular law and Canon Law of the established church. (If the Church of England had been forced to change its Canons because of government legislation, women in England would have been standing for election as Bishop since 1975. I’m still waiting.) I was saddened and disappointed by the things that Archbishop of Canterbury-Elect Justin Welby said today about equal marriage, reaffirming the ridiculous and untrue notion that we should expect the Church of England to be a hive mind. These are things that Holyrood seems to be taking rather more of a considered approach to than Westminster, and I find that I don’t mind too much if it takes Scotland a little longer if that means that Scotland does this right.
So then, a law that will come not without scope for it to be improved upon. But a law that I think everyone expects now will come to pass. The signs are that the government in Westminister is going to do something tomorrow that I didn’t dare to believe might happen — ten years ago when Section 28 was being repealed and eight years ago when the Civil Partnership Act passed and even five years ago when I started campaigning for this very change, I didn’t think I’d see the day come. And in spite of its flaws, it will be something done for the better.
It all kicks off sometime after 11.30am in the House of Commons — the Marriage Bill is third on the agenda, straight after questions about building regulations for load-bearing walls. It’s live on BBC Parliament and I will be live Tweeting from soon before it starts.
Ed Note: The debate will start at about 12.40pm and we are told to expect a vote at 7pm.
In the UK, February marks LGBT History Month. It’s time to make some history.