Saturday, 23 February 2013

Response from Teresa Pearce MP

Further to my recent post concerning my MP's decision to vote in favour of the redefinition of marriage, I have received a response. This would appear to be a slightly different version the same 'standard letter' as Mac of Mulier Fortis received some time ago, with much of the same wording.

The text is as follows, I have added my thoughts in red:

"Thank you for contacting me about gay marriage and the second reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill that recently took place in the House of Commons.
I understand that this is a sensitive and controversial matter, and one which has many people divided. Having considered this issue at length, I decided to vote in favour of gay marriage during a free vote that took place in the House of Commons on Tuesday 5th February 2013. I made the decision for a number of reasons.
First, I appreciate that gay marriage and heterosexual marriage are different. However, I do not feel that this means gay people should be precluded from celebrating and consolidating their relationships in the same way as heterosexual people. This is a question of equality and fairness. [The old confusion of equality with identity] After all, no heterosexual marriage is the same.   Men and women are very different, and heterosexual relationships can vary considerably from one couple to the next. [So?] That a couple are of the same gender does not mean that their relationship is any less legitimate or any less worthy of public validation than those of opposite sex couples. Marriage can offer security and stability, and should not be something from which individuals should be excluded due to their sexual orientation.
People should be treated equally, both socially and legally, no matter what their age, gender, race, religion or sexuality. My initial view was that the creation of civil partnerships removed the inequalities relating to property and inheritance thet used to exist and therefore I was not convinced of the need to go that further step to gay marriage.
However, some very practical differences between civil patnerships and marriage were brought to my attention. For instance, under the current laws relating to pensions, immigration and powers of attorney, people in civil partnerships are not given the same rights as people who are married. [Surely this could be more easily addressed by amending the existing laws, rather than changing the whole definition of marriage.] Another point is that under the current rules people in civil partnerships cannot legally use terms such as 'wife', 'husband' or 'marriage'. Therefore by having to use terms associated with civil partnerships they are forced to reveal their sexual orientation, which they may not wish to or when it should be irrelevant. [I would think that a man talking about his 'husband' or a woman about her 'wife' would give the game away. Also, the people who would want to use such terms in this context tend to be those who are 'out' anyway, and if there is a question where sexual orientation is irrelevant, then surely this could be worded to avoid using any terms which relate to either marriage or civil partnership, or not asked at all]
So in my view either we have to reformthe law around civil partnerships to give equal status in law to the status of a married couple, or allow gay marriage. [surely the former option would be preferable than venturing into 'uncharted territory'] A marriage is of couse both a civil as well as a religious agreement. However, although I would support gay marriage as a civil agreement, I believe it is a matter for the Churches to decide in respect of the religious aspect of marriage, and not the Government. [As long as the European Court of Human Rights agrees with you]
Having considered all the arguements for and against gay marriage, I was of the opinion that, given the inadequacies inherent in the current laws relating to civil partnerships, the only conscionable course of action was to vote in favour of gay marriage.
However, note that following the vote the Marriage (Same Sex |Couples) Bill has not yet been enshrined in law. The Bill will now be considered by the Public Bills Committee before moving to report stage and receiving a third reading in the Commons. Only then will it pass to the House of Lords. If you wish to submit your views on the Bill to the Public Bill Committee you can do so here: [Needless to say, we will, but this does smack of 'passing the buck']
If I can be of any further assistance, please do let me know.

         Yours sincerely,
Teresa Pearce MP ,

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