The Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes, has said that he will vote against the timetabling motion for the equal marriage bill in today’s vote, because he thought the timetable was “rushed”.
Speaking on ITV’s This Morning, Mr Hughes said that he supported equal marriage, but said that he thought the legislation to legalise it was brought forward too quickly, and that a clearer distinction between state and religious marriages needed to be defined.
The openly-bisexual Deputy Leader said that he would vote “yes” on the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill, but that he would vote against the timetabling motion for it.
“They don’t feel the same and I can understand people saying ‘actually, we want an equality’. But that should be what the state does, and we’ve got to be very careful – I’m a member of a church – not to start to say ‘actually what we’re doing is redefining what the Church or other people of faith believe is marriage’, because many people have very strong views that marriage can only be between one woman and one man.
“That’s what we’ve understood for years, for centuries, that’s what the Church has taught and in a way that’s what society has taught.
“I don’t think that’s outdated as a belief and we shouldn’t expect people to suddenly change that belief and so my view is the Government is perfectly entitled to bring forward a bill.
He went on to say that he thought the bill had been brought through too quickly, and that it had been too divisive as a result. He said: “I think they’re rushing it more quickly than they should and my two messages today are: proceed carefully, seek to build maximise support rather than divide; and try to make sure that the bill at the end is changed so it separates what the state does and religious marriage.”
He said he would vote yes for the bill, but no to the timetabling motion for it. He continued: “I will vote ‘yes’ today. There’s then a vote about what the timetable should be and I shall vote against any rushed timetable because I think we need time to get it right…
Critical of the wording of the bill, and saying that it was not clear, Mr Hughes said that the aim should be to avoid offending people. He said that the bill should go ahead, but warned that time should be taken.
“Actually there are things in the bill that I don’t think are very well-drafted, that are not very clear. I don’t think it yet separates as clearly as it could civil marriage and faith understanding. And I’ve talked to people in the church and other faiths, and friends, gay friends, and straight friends, family and other people, and I think there’s a general view that we need to try and get it right, not to rush at it and end up with something that actually offends with more people than it supports. So let’s go forward, but let’s then take our time to get it right. “
Allowing equal marriage was a Liberal Democrat party policy, and in an exclusive interview with PinkNews.co.uk in December, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg signalled that his MPs would be given a conscience vote by saying: “I’m not going to be illiberal in pushing through a liberal measure”.