The chief executive of Stonewall says his charity’s support for equal marriage stems from the failure of civil partnership legalisation to reduce homophobia in British society.
Mr Summerskill made the remarks on Tuesday in front of a committee of MPs that are studying the government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales.
When asked by the Labour MP and shadow equalities minister Kate Green of the importance of gay couples being able to marry, and what difference the government’s legislation would make, Mr Summerskill said: “An increasing number of young people want their family structures to be described in the same way as everyone else is.”
He continued: “Many people hoped at the time of civil partnerships […] that it would lead to lesbian, gay and bisexual people being treated in the same way as everyone else”.
Mr Summerskill then expressed his disappointment that eight years on from the introduction of civil partnerships, homophobia remains endemic in British society.
He cited the charity’s research on work based homophobic discrimination and Stonewall’s School Report of 2012, which showed 55% of lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils in Britain’s secondary schools have experienced homophobic bullying, while 99% have heard the word ‘gay’ used disparagingly.
These, Mr Summerskill argued, were key reasons why it was necessary to allow gay couples to marry.
Mr Summerskill said he was “pleased the government has moved to allowing religious organisations to perform same-sex marriages” – although Stonewall previously was only in favour of extending marriage to gay couples in a civil setting.
In October 2010, Stonewall announced its support for civil marriage equality, having come under pressure from several of its co-founders and other LGBT campaigners to widen its remit on the issue.
The charity said at the time on its website: “We seek to secure marriage for gay people as a civil vehicle on the same basis as heterosexual marriage, available in a registry office but without a mandate on religious organisations to celebrate it.”