The Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, has joined the Out4Marriage campaign with a video message calling on the government to allow religious bodies to marry gay couples if they choose, inspired by his late, gay uncle.
Mr Balls, the most senior Labour politician to lend support to the movement, said he was inspired to support marriage equality efforts by his late uncle, who came out as gay in his fifties.
Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said in his Out4Marriage video: “I’m really proud of what Labour achieved on gay rights over the past 15 years: The repeal of Section 28, the equalisation of the age of consent, also the introduction of civil partnerships.
“And now we should go further and say to people regardless of their sexuality, people who want to get married should be able to do. We should support that to happen.
“Twenty years ago my uncle came out in his fifties as gay and he died, I’m afraid, before he and his long-term partner could have a civil partnership. But actually in our family we would have liked him to have gone further and to have got married. It’s what he would have wanted, I believe.”
In 2010, Mr Balls told PinkNews.co.uk: “My uncle came out in his 50s and I only wish he had lived long enough to have a civil partnership ceremony with his partner Glenn – it would have been a hell of a ‘do’”
In his Out4Marriage video, Mr Balls also called for the government to allow religious bodies to host gay wedding ceremonies if they choose to, a move not currently being proposed by the Coalition.
He said: “I also believe that somebody who is religious and a churchgoer, if the church community wants it in that church, I think people should be able to get married in church too.
“I really hope the government will look at that proposal as well. This is something whose time has come, and as somebody who is married as myself I think that people who want to get married should be able to get married. That’s why I’m Out4Marriage.”
In her own video, Mr Balls’ wife, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, said: “People who love each other and who want to make a long term commitment to each other should be able to get married the state and society should value that long term commitment and celebrate it for same sex couples too, that’s why I support equal marriage. But I also hope the government goes further, religious marriages is of course a matter for individual religious institutions and churches and no one is proposing that they should be obliged to hold same sex marriage ceremonies because religious freedom is important.
“But equally, we should support those religious institutions and churches that want to hold same sex marriage ceremonies. At the moment they’re not able to. I think that churches like the Unitarians and Quakers should be able to if they want to. That’s why I’m coming Out4Marriage”
Supporters of the Out4Marriage campaign so far include the Home Secretary Theresa May, Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin founder; The Saturdays girl group; Jack Straw, the former Foreign Secretary; David Walliams, the Britain’s Got Talent judge; Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green party; Lynne Featherstone, the Lib Dem Equalities Minister; Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner; Lord (Chris) Smith), the Advertising Standards Authority chairman and Rabbi Ariel Friedlander.