Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s House of Commons vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Peter Tatchell has said that opponents to the bill in the Conservative Party were a minority and did not represent the views of the party.
In a democratic society, everyone should be equal before the law. The Tory rebels want to maintain discrimination against same-sex couples. They make the Conservatives look bigoted and intolerant.
Conservatives who oppose gay marriage do not represent most Tory supporters. An ICM poll in December 2012 found that same-sex marriage is supported by 52% of people who voted Conservative at the last election.
The same poll found that 62% of the public agree with the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Only 31% disagreed.
The rebels seem to be suggesting that discrimination against gay people is a Conservative value. They claim to support marriage, yet they want to deny the right to marry to loving, committed same-sex couples. It’s illogical. Surely, they should welcome the fact that many gay people want to get married, especially at a time when so many heterosexuals are deserting marriage in favour of cohabitation.
This opposition to equality undermines David Cameron’s attempt to banish homophobic politics from his party and to appeal to more liberal-minded voters.
While the Prime Minister’s backing for marriage equality has made many voters more sympathetic to the Conservatives, the opposition to gay marriage by backbench rebels is likely to turn off many centre-ground swing voters. They will decide the next election, not anti-gay Conservative MPs and constituency associations
Conservative opponents of same-sex marriage are out of touch with public and religious opinion.
According to the YouGov poll published in June 2012, 71% of the public, including 58% of religious people, believe that same-sex couples should be permitted to get married in civil ceremonies register offices. 70% of the public also support religious institutions being allowed to conduct same-sex marriages if they wish to do so.
This legal case helped prompt the government to commit itself to end the ban on same-sex marriage.
Under government legislation, there will be two forms of official state recognition for lesbian and gay couples: the present system of civil partnerships and the new system of civil marriages. Heterosexual couples will have only one option: marriage. They will be subjected to legal inequality and discrimination.
This is very wrong. I support heterosexual equality.
Peter Tatchell is director of the London-based human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, and coordinator of the Equal Love campaign.
The views in this article are his own and not those of PinkNews.co.uk