14 June 2012

Equal marriage, maybe

Recently I wrote to my MP - first on Twitter, then at his request, by email - to ask his position on equal marriage. Below is the text of my original email, and then his response – which was, to say the very least, disappointing in its lack of conviction.

Richard Harrington, MP for Watford 

My email:

Dear Mr Harrington

Further to our brief conversation on Twitter I am writing as one of your constituents to find out more about your position on the subject of equal marriage.

It is my firm belief that all should be allowed to marry whom they choose regardless of sexuality or gender. This is a matter of equal treatment of citizens before the law.

Around the world same-sex marriage has already legalised in many countries and states, including Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Iceland, Mexico City, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and six US States including New York.

Successive polls have demonstrated widespread support for same-sex marriage in the UK as well, both from the LGBT community and society more generally.

‘Marriage’ has been redefined many times in history. The concept of ‘divorce’, for example, was introduced as comparatively recently as the formation of the Church of England. Clearly, the institution of ‘marriage’ has evolved alongside our society. As such, legislating for same-sex civil marriage would not only reflect our tolerant and open society, but actually serve to enhance it.

The arguments I have heard in opposition to equal marriage do not, in my view, stand up to scrutiny. If marriage is (as some would have it) for the purposes of procreation, where does that leave heterosexual couples who do not have children, either through choice or through circumstance? What about people who meet and marry later in life, or are infertile?

Allowing every citizen the right to marry whom they choose would not undermine the ceremony's sanctity; I would argue that it's quite the opposite as it allows all people to celebrate their love and commitment. It enhances marriage. I would question how the actions of any other couple could undermine a heterosexual couple's marriage. The only people that can undermine marriage are the individuals in that marriage.

I hope that as a Member of Parliament you support the Coalition Government's position on equal marriage being legal by 2015 and would be very interested in hearing your views.

Kind regards


His response:

Dear [name]

Many thanks for getting in touch by email, I do appreciate your time and often find it much easier to explain my position when not limited to 160 characters!

In short, I have absolutely nothing against same-sex marriage, and I think it is both right and brave of the party to have pushed forward with this issue, and that is shows principle. The plans to allow same sex marriage however are contentious, and I have seen this in my correspondence with constituents. I feel very much that whichever side I was to support in this argument, an awful lot of people would be unsatisfied. Therefore, I have to vote on principle, on which I have no qualms with this.

I do think it is right that we have bought this to the forefront and are delivering on the commitment made in our ‘Contact for Equalities’ published before the election. That said, following correspondence from many of my constituents, many of them are keen to see adequate protections for religious marriage so that no vicar would compelled or obliged to conduct a ceremony against their fundamental beliefs. I can appreciate that argument, though at current however I do not think this would be a problem in any way.

The Prime Minister has consistently argued that society is made stronger by people’s commitment to one another, marriage is a pillar in our society so what wrong could come of its extension. We are made stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. That is true whether the couple making the commitment is a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and a man, and that basic fundamental is something which I entirely support.

The Government is rightly consulting widely on this issue before making any changes to the current position. The consultation will end today, and has been running via the Home Office website through which many of my constituents have contributed. I will be confirming my voting intentions when the details of the proposals have been released, as the consultation is likely to have a great influence and I would be keen to see the end result and know all of the facts before committing to one side of the argument. I would of course be more than happy to discuss this further when they are announced.

If you have any other questions please feel free to get back in touch at any time, by email or twitter! I hope this explains my current position more widely, but am more than happy to discuss in detail if you would like to. Thank you once again for your time.

Kind regards,


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