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Maria Miller on defensive against gay marriage ‘wrecking amendment’

20 May 2013

The final stages of the Same Sex marriage bill in the House of Commons were never going to be easy, but it is still an odd situation when the minister guiding the legislation through Parliament is pleading with the opposition party to reject an amendment which ostensibly makes things a lot fairer.

Maria Miller thinks that an amendment tabled by the most unlikely group of MPs could significantly delay the introduction of gay marriage itself. This proposal, signed by Tim Loughton, Caroline Lucas, Craig Whittaker, Stewart Jackson, Mark Durkan, Greg Mulholland, Charlotte Leslie, Christopher Chope, Steve Baker, John Hemming and Simon Hughes, removes the phrase ‘of the same sex’ from Part 1 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. This would mean heterosexual couples could also have civil partnerships.

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Sounds simple. But ministers fear this could lump the government with another £4bn in pension liabilities. So when Miller appeared on the Today programme this morning, she said:

‘It introduces complexity which would not only, I believe, delay the passage of the bill through Parliament, but it would also put forward a number of quite fundamental policy issues which need considerable thought and consultation, let alone any delays around implementation.

‘Look, I want to be seeing marriages being undertaken under this new bill as early as next summer and to actually put in at this stage such a fundamental change I believe risks that and it risks significant delay and I think those that are supporting it need to be very aware of that.’

Helen Grant also tried to dismiss the amendment by saying ‘we find that there is not strong evidence at all that there is demand for this from heterosexual couples’. Which is interesting, because that’s the same argument used by opponents of same sex marriage.

There appear to be two things going on this morning. The first is that ministers had wanted the first gay weddings to take place before 2015 because of the image boost this would give the government (although perhaps not with socially conservative Tories), and the civil partnerships amendment would delay that. But the second is that Labour MPs are starting to suspect that this public pleading from Miller marks the start of the government preparing to ditch the bill and blame the other parties for supporting a ‘wrecking amendment’.

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  • Russell

    It is not just gay marriage and one Minister Maria Miller!

    It is about wind farms and green energy costs and the increased individuals bill to pay for them!

    It is about the refusal to understand that membership of the EU impacts on immigration, justice, fishing, farming, UK law, business regulation, even down to the ridiculous example of the latest ban on restaurants ‘oil in a jug’.

    It is primarily the desire to return to an Independent self governing Nation that none of the three parties seem to able to grasp.

    Councillors Suzanne Evans and Richard Hilton are Merton councillors who have defected to UkIP sum it up best, and Hilton said:-

    “It’s not so much that I’m no longer a Conservative, but that the party is no longer Conservative”

    Simply brilliant.

    • Daniel Maris

      Wind energy is popular with the public. Gay marriage is not.

      • Russell

        Until someone wants to build one at the bottom of their garden or slap bang in front of their view, or if they are made aware of how much of their energy bills are a subsidy for wind farms.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    I’ve searched in vain to find an explanation why this issue has simultaneously appeared out of nowhere around the world. New Zealand, France, the UK and the US all of a sudden have discovered that something accepted by our ancestors for thousands of years is suddenly ‘socially conservative’ or bigoted, or homophobic.

    I remember during the campaign for civil partnerships being assured that they were not trojan horses for ‘marriage’. If marriage is not one man one woman it is nothing and that, I believe, is the point. It’s meaning is being taken away from the people and is now the property of the likes of davednick and their successors. It will be added to the list of state enforced beliefs, deviation from which, makes one liable to sanction and/or withdrawal from public funding or employment.

    • Daniel Maris

      Yes, this is the problem with all such proposals. Civil partnership was eminently sensible but one new it was only a short hop to undermining the concept of marriage.

      I don’t in fact oppose gay marriage on principle but I think marriage is such a fundamental institution it is madness to just take a wrecking ball to it without thinking about what is involved.

      The arguments FOR gay marriage are nearly all couched in terms of personal fulfillment which begs the question of why polygamy won’t also be allowed as a matter of personal fulfilment…

      I think I might accept gay marriage if it was part of a process of accepting that marriage is monogamous and primarily about the raising of children.

      I could accept for instance a legal framework where one of two partners had to be aged under 50 (whether hetero or homosexual) and where marriage was clearly and constitutionally defined as monogamous and if we had legal penalties for polygamy put in place.

      However that is not where we are. We are being herded to market like sheep required to bleat “equality is good, tradition is bad – baahh”.

      • Russell

        If men could make other men pregnant and have bables, no problem, get married if you want to, but they can’t. Same for women couples.
        Many like myself regard them as unnatural pairings and not to be used to confuse what the term marriage has meant for many centuries.

        • rosie

          How about abolishing inheritance tax, as recompense to those who think homosexuals are being treated favourably? Then maiden sisters for example, living together, will no longer be discriminated against.

    • Noa
    • Randy McDonald

      Actually, it hasn’t appeared out of nowhere around the world. It’s been a very long time coming. You’ve just not noticed it.

      “If marriage is not one man one woman it is nothing”

      Of course it’s something! By definition it’s something. It’s just not the one particular thing that you want.

      • Hexhamgeezer

        I think you also haven’t noticed something and are somewhat unaware of what marriage is now and has been for a very very long time (even older than the Stonewall riots – can you imagine anything as ancient Randy?).
        It’s not a question of what I want. It is a matter of what is and an Orwellian project to dismantle something for no good reason at all.

        • Randy McDonald

          Marriage has already changed substantially. Women enter it as equals and marital rape is criminalized, for instance.

          Nothing is being dismantled. Straight people still can get married, right?

  • anneallan

    Apparently it would take two years to frame this one amendment. So how long did it take to draw up the current bill?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Well, judging from the Leveson overnight travesty, it took from sundown to sunup, less than one day.

  • R2-D2

    Why not abolish civil partnerships completely?

    • Fergus Pickering

      Yes. I wondered about that.

    • Mark Bailey

      Because they already exist.

      • R2-D2

        Of course the existing civil partnerships could continue, but there will be no need for new ones.

      • Russell

        So does polio, but that is no reason not to want to abolish it.

  • Fergus Pickering

    But Isabel, if the wrecking amendment is passed with Labour support then it will be the fault of the other parties. But of course Labour could never be so cynical now could they?

    • Russell

      Remember when the press headlined the boundary bill getting wrecked by the coalition partners, the LibDems, when actually the truth is that it was Labour who wrecked it. The LibDems couln’t have wrecked it with their tiny amount of MP’s.
      The press (and TV) is rotten with its misreporting to suit their own political needs or desires.

  • Noa

    The logic is impeccable.
    If civil partnerships are not open to all then they discriminate against hetrosexual couples.
    If the government wishes to open one institution to gays it must accept the quid pro quo in civil partnerships, or stand accused of the discrimination in alleges in opponents of gay marriage.
    If it does not then I suspect it will find the Civil Partnerships Act being challenged in the ECHR in due course.

    • Portendorfer

      You miss the point.
      Nobody actually wants heterosexual civil partnerships.
      Everybody supporting this wants to wreck the bill(the Tories) or at least delay it until after the election(the rest).

      • Noa

        No, I don’t. Regardless of the Amendment’s purpose, the underlying logic is correct.

  • DavidL

    I support the principle of equality. But the fact that the Govt failed to address the issue of civil partnerships shows that, yet again, it’s been trying to make laws on the hoof.

    • Russell

      Simply Incompetence.

  • NiceTeaParty

    This isn’t about fairness and equality at all.

    A sense of fairness and equality lead to Civil Partnerships. Civil Partners have exactly the same rights (if not more) as Married Couples.

    What this Bill is is a Bill to amend the Dictionary and a bill that will deny gay people the right to get married in their local parish church.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Nobody has a “right” to get married in their local parish church.

  • Robert_Eve

    If ever a Bill needed wrecking this is it.

  • kyalami

    Oh, for heaven’s sake. This is a simple matter of fairness. Vote the bill through and get back to the critical matter of fixing the economy.

    • Mynydd

      How is this is a simple matter of fairness when it does not give equal rights under the law to unmarried heterosexual couples, bring children in a stable and loving relationship. Equality under the law should not be a matter of cost (ministers fear this could lump the government with another £4bn in pension liabilities) but a matter of one’s rights. The bill as it stands must be voted out and the government to start fixing pension rights and the critical matter of the economy.

      • kyalami

        By all means, put in the amendment. Then get on with running the country.

  • Frank Fisher

    Hard for this wretched woman to denounce supporters of the amendment as bigots, when Peter Tatchell is one of them…

    • Fergus Pickering

      Tatchell is a bigot of a left wing kind. Nobody who disagres with him about anything is really a full human being. He is admirable in some ways but also detestable.

    • Russell

      Tatchell is one of the group lobbying for reducing the age of consent! No coincidence about the ties between these groups.

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