The passing of equal marriage for England and Wales cements the UK’s position “as the best place in Europe for LGBT equality”, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.
Writing exclusively for PinkNews.co.uk and the London Evening Standard, Mr Cameron thanked PinkNews’ Out4Marriage campaign “who worked to deliver” marriage equality along with other campaigners, the civil service and Parliament.
Indicating why he personally felt it was important to introduce the reform, despite opposition from Conservative MPs and grassroots members, Mr Cameron said: “I have backed this reform because I believe in commitment, responsibility and family. I don’t want to see people’s love divided by law.”
He continued: “Making marriage available to everyone says so much about the society that we are and the society that we want to live in – one which respects individuals regardless of their sexuality. If a group is told again and again that they are less valuable, over time they may start to believe it. In addition to the personal damage that this can cause, it inhibits the potential of a nation. For this reason too, I am pleased that we have had the courage to change.”
A Downing Street source told PinkNews.co.uk that Mr Cameron had never doubted it was the right thing to do, and that even gay rights campaigners had been surprised by the powerful and poignant speeches made by peers such as Lord Black, Baroness Stowell and Lord Jenkin of Roding who spoke of “the character of love which marriage reflects – faithful, stable, tough, unselfish and unconditional”.
Writing for PinkNews.co.uk in June, Lord Jenkin, a former health secretary in the Thatcher government, said the passing of equal marriage at second reading in the Lords “was a victory for common decency”.
The Prime Minister also praised the Liberal Democrat peer and former Northern Ireland Alliance Party leader Lord Alderdice.
“As Lord Alderdice put it when arguing for civil partnerships in 2004: ‘One of the most fundamental rights of all is the right to have close, confiding, lasting, intimate relationships. Without them, no place, no money, no property, no ambition – nothing – amounts to any value.. It seems to me a fundamental human right to be able to choose the person with whom you wish to spend your life and with whom you wish to have a real bond.’”
Unlike in England, Wales and Scotland, efforts to legalise marriage equality continue to stall in the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Alliance Party, Sinn Féin and the Green Party support the measure, but the Democratic Unionist Party does not.
Mr Cameron said yesterday’s Royal Assent of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill would send out a powerful message to the rest of the world, but stressed it was important to continue the country’s journey towards equality.
“The UK is rated as the best place in Europe for LGBT equality – but we cannot be complacent. There are subjects we must continue to tackle: not least taking a zero tolerance approach to homophobic bullying, and caring for elderly members of the LGBT community. Rest assured, this Government will work tirelessly to make sure this happens.”
Mr Cameron’s sentiments were echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg earlier this week.
The Liberal Democrat leader told PinkNews.co.uk that enshrining equal marriage into law “is a very significant step, but I think it’s only one of many steps that we need to take to make sure that particularly young gay men and women feel that they are a rightful part of society.”
Writing for PinkNews.co.uk on Monday, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “We must also remember that the fight for equality is not over. People across the world continue to face discrimination and hatred because of their sexuality. And closer to home too many people suffer bullying and hate crimes because of their sexuality.”
He said: “I want to do everything I can to support commitment and I’m open to changing things further to guarantee equality.”