Sir Paul Coleridge’s intervention in today’s Times (£) on gay marriage has ensured the debate won’t go quiet after various angry Christmas Day sermons. The High Court Judge tells the paper that introducing weddings for same-sex couples is the ‘wrong policy’, adding:
‘So much energy and time has been put into this debate for 0.1 per cent of the population, when we have a crisis of family breakdown.
‘It’s gratifying that marriage in any context is centre stage… but it [gay marriage] is a minority issue. We need a much more focused position by the Government on the importance of marriage.’
Coleridge does have a point that while the government can’t introduce a law to make relationships stronger, it can help make it easier to access counselling and advice before a marriage reaches crisis point. But those in favour of the legislation introducing same-sex marriage will argue that permitting gay marriage doesn’t stop the government from also trying to strengthen all marriages. Former Tory minister Nick Herbert also believes interventions of this kind compromise judicial independence. He has tweeted the following this morning:
‘Since when in the eyes of the judiciary did a proposed law become unnecessary because it only affects a minority of the population?’
‘And a judge who intervenes in political debate damages judicial independence – whether you agree with him or not.’
Some in the Tory party who oppose the legislation believe Cameron could cheer his party up a little by introducing a tax break for married couples, and this intervention could well encourage them to make their case with greater force in the New Year.