Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott made an impassioned speech in the lead up to the vote on the equal marriage bill for England and Wales, following its third reading today, in which she described it as “a momentous piece of legislation”.
MPs voted 366 to 161 overwhelmingly in favour of passing the bill, giving it a majority of 205. It will now travel to the House of Lords for further scrutiny, debate and voting.
In her speech, Ms Abbott referred to the bill as a “momentous piece of legislation”, and noted how important it could prove for many in day-to-day life, unlike some legislation passed in the Commons.
She went on to thank the “ordinary people” who have contributed to the bill, and its passage so far, and observed why the bill matters, saying “If this debate and this legislation makes the lives of so many hundreds of thousands of young people just a little better, we will have done great work in the House tonight.”
Ms Abbott’s full speech is available to read below.
I simply wanted to say what a momentous piece of legislation this is. Some things we do in the House of Commons do not affect ordinary people at all; some things we do in the House of Commons are best ignored; but this Bill will make a lot of people’s lives much better. I have supported this cause all my political life, long before it was fashionable on the Labour Benches, and I never thought I would live to see the day when the Bill would approach its Third Reading.
Members have talked about their constituents. I remind the House that I represent some people who are troubled by the Bill. Some of them come from countries where homosexuality is illegal. Some of them come from countries where homosexuality is punishable by death. I have had to say to them, “I respect your views, but I have stood for human rights all my life and I stand for human rights on this issue too.”
We could not let this debate pass without mentioning all the ordinary people, all the grass-roots campaigners, who made it possible for us to reach this point. I think not just of people involved in their local or national campaign, but of the ordinary people who have showed kindness and decency and who accepted a child when that child was not expecting acceptance. They all played their part. We could not have this debate without mentioning Peter Tatchell, not always the easiest of comrades, but someone who has devoted his life to human rights. We could not have this debate without mentioning Ken Livingstone, who was the first local authority leader to bring in civil partnerships and show the wider political world that we could have civil partnerships without the end of the world as we knew it. And of course there is Tony Blair, who brought in civil partnerships in the last Parliament.
Some people listening to this debate will be thinking, “This is all very well, but there is war in Syria, climate change and a huge economic crisis, so why does this matter?” Let me tell the House why it matters. When this legislation finally goes through, there will be adolescents going to bed that night who are struggling with their sexuality and who, knowing that the law has gone through, will think as they go to sleep, “Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe my life isn’t ruined. Maybe I can find some acceptance. Maybe I can come out to my friends, and maybe even to my mother and father.” If this debate and this legislation makes the lives of so many hundreds of thousands of young people just a little better, we will have done great work in the House tonight.