Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg has celebrated equal marriage for England and Wales during his speech to close the Lib Dem annual party conference.
Speaking at the conference in Glasgow today, Mr Clegg noted equal marriage, alongside pensions, and tax policies, as things he said the party had achieved during three years in office.
“Three years ago, I walked into the Cabinet Office for my first day as Deputy Prime Minister”, he opened, mentioning the formation of the Coalition Government. Continuing, he celebrated that England and Wales has “equal marriage at last.”
He went on to say that he was “proud”, of what the Liberal Democrats had achieved as part of the coalition, and that “Britain is finally a place where we celebrate love equally”.
Many took to Twitter to observe that, on Mr Clegg’s mention of equal marriage, the camera panned out to Simon Hughes, the Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems, who abstained from the equal marriage bill’s Third Reading to heavy criticism.
In his speech, Mr Clegg added: “There was this wonderful moment on the day of the last vote on Equal Marriage. Some of us put pink carnations in our button holes and Alistair Carmichael [the Lib Dem Chief Whip] and I were invited to go outside to meet some of the campaigners. Little did we know that they had set up an impromptu wedding ceremony – cake and dancing ‘n’ all – outside the Palace of Westminster.
“And we found ourselves standing side by side – if not quite hand in hand – in front of the exuberant London Gay Men’s Chorus, singing Abba’s Dancing Queen for us at the top of their voices.
“Meanwhile, inside the House of Lords, dinosaur opponents of the Bill were having a final go at killing it – declaring that gay marriage would be the end of civilisation as we know it. And, awkward though I think Alistair and I must have appeared as we lamely clapped along to Abba, at that moment we were exactly where we belonged: on the outside, welcoming in reform.”
Baroness Shirley Williams, one of the most senior figures in the Liberal Democrats, said during the passage of the equal marriage bill, that she would support an amendment by equal marriage opponent Lord Hylton to redefine marriage between same-sex couples as “unions”.
Mr Clegg noted that Conservative MPs drew up an ‘alternative Queen’s Speech’, including policies to hold a referendum on equal marriage, bring back the death penalty, ban the wearing of burkas in public and to rename a public holiday after Margaret Thatcher.
He said it would be “the first bank holiday people would actually want to go to work”.
Speaking at an LGBT event in Parliament last Wednesday evening, Mr Clegg, gave an impassioned speech, and said now that England and Wales has equal marriage, the focus should move to the treatment of LGBT people in Russia.
At the event in Admiralty House on London’s Whitehall, which was in celebration of LGBT campaigners and celebrities in support of LGBT rights, Mr Clegg spoke of the “powerful message” sent to the rest of the world by the Royal Assent of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.