Comment: We must continue to lobby the Lords on equal marriage as the bill still faces hurdles
Editorial note: Matthew Sephton wrote this piece in his position as Chair of LGBTory. He was not, and never has been, employed by or paid in any way by PinkNews. PinkNews has no association with Mr Sephton.
Writing for PinkNews.co.uk, chairman of LGBTory Matthew Sephton says it’s important to remember the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill still faces hurdles in the House of Lords, despite the success of Tuesday’s vote.
This week we saw an historic vote, one that was decisive and which I wholeheartedly welcome. The House of Lords voted 148 to 390 in favour of allowing the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill to continue its passage through Parliament.
This sounds like a tremendous victory and one to be celebrated. Who would have thought that peers in the Upper House would support same-sex marriage in such resoundingly clear numbers? Many didn’t expect this. However, it is now that the main battles begin and I will attempt to explain why.
Without wanting to sound negative, Tuesday night’s vote was irregular in many ways. The House of Commons had voted last month, on a cross-party free vote, to pass the bill by a huge margin (366 to 161). For the Lords to then vote 148 in favour of a motion to stop the bill proceeding any further is therefore rather worrying. Yes, it was worrying because those 148 peers wanted to deliberately defy the elected House but also worrying for a perhaps more significant reason. There is every likelihood that, of those Lords who voted against the Dear motion, there will have been a number who did it simply because they felt that supporting the motion “wasn’t quite cricket” because of the numbers and majority in the Commons free vote.
In other words, it is possible that some of those peers who voted against the amendment could actually oppose the bill itself. It is as a result of this sobering thought, along with the fact that 148 peers thought it acceptable to try to scupper the bill at second reading, that makes me suggest that the major battles lie ahead. Once committee and report stages take place in the Upper House, any number of amendments could potentially be tabled – some helpful and constructive, but some designed solely to try to at least undermine or at most derail this bill, which we know has the support of a consistent majority of the public in most opinion polls, quite apart from the elected House of Commons.
So, what can we do to ensure this bill succeeds through the rest of its House of Lords passage? Firstly, we need to continue to lobby as many peers as possible. Those opposed to the freedom to choose who to marry will be doing that (as they did in their thousands before second reading) so we must do the same, and with what could be fewer than two weeks until the bill is back in the Lords, it is pretty urgent. The Lobby a Lord website is a good, quick and easy way to do this, and another way is to email those peers who have their own email addresses listed on Parliament’s website. When using Lobby a Lord if the peer you choose doesn’t have a personal email your message will go through to the central House of Lords system, which limits your emails to 6 in any one day, so please be aware of this and spread out your campaign over a number of days or write to a mixture of peers with their own address along with those without.
Even more effective than this would be to write a letter in hard copy, and, although long-winded, it WILL be noticed. Despite the fact that opinion polls are far more representative of what people really think, as they are scientifically designed to have a small margin of error, this week’s debate has yet again shown how much credence parliamentarians give to letters delivered to them, even though they are not necessarily representative of public opinion as a whole.
So, to conclude, this is the first chance ever that the possibility of marriage for all is a real one. It will not matter what gender identity, sex or sexuality individuals in a couple happen to be. This bill CAN succeed and MUST succeed. In this week’s debate, some peers tried to suggest that no one particularly wants equal marriage. Let’s show them just how wrong they are.
Matthew Sephton is the chairman of LGBTory
More: commons, England, equal marriage, gay equality, gay marriage, Gay rights, gay wedding, gay weddings, House of Commons, house of lords, LGBT rights, lobby a lord, Lord Dear, lords, Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, marriage equality, MPs, Peers, same sex weddings, Same-sex wedding, UK Marriage Bill