Following the statement made by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport yesterday in the House of Commons about same sex marriage, I want to make my position clear.
I want to start, first and foremost, by making very clear that I and the government see religious freedom as a right held by every citizen and organisation in the United Kingdom. The government will not introduce any law that forces religious institutions to perform same sex marriages should they not wish to. Nor will the government introduce a law that leaves religious institutions at risk of being overruled by the European Court of Human Rights, or any other body. Religious institutions across Europe have not been overruled in countries that have introduced same sex marriage. Nor have religious institutions in the UK been forced to marry divorcees or perform civil partnership ceremonies.
Religious freedom, however, goes both ways. There are a number of religious institutions – Quakers for example – who do wish to perform same sex marriages. It would be, in my view, an attack on the principle of religious freedom for the state to prevent such institutions from following their wish to marry same sex couples.
This issue is not a case of tinkering with legislation – this, in my view, is a case of right and wrong. Homosexuality is part of an individual’s genetic makeup. It is a part of who a person is. Sexuality is as much a part of us as the colour of our skin. By extension, then, not allowing a same sex couple the same rights to marriage as an opposing sex couple, it is much the same as not allowing an inter-racial couple to marry. I cannot imagine that the British public would ever allow two classes of marriage to be created on racial grounds and it is good that sexuality is being treated in the same way.
I believe that marriage is an important asset to society. It helps bind families and communities together. What better way to encourage marriage than through the expansion of the pool of people who can marry? Marriage is an expression of love and commitment between two people. I do not see any reason why the state should prevent people from making such a commitment and expression of love, whatever their sexuality.