Baroness BarkerMarriage (Same Sex Couples) BillHouse of Lords, June 3, 2013
My Lords, I declare an interest. Many years ago I had the great good fortune to meet someone. Sheand I have loved one another ever since
apart, that is, from the occasional spectacular argument,usually about driving or DIY. As the slogan on T-shirts in the 1980s said
it happens in the best of families.Whilst marriage is robust and enduring, what is meant by marriage has developed and changedsignificantly. Marriage was redefined in 1986, otherwise there would not now by any civil marriagesin this country. Marriage laws were redefined in 1949, otherwise under-16-year-olds would still beable to get married.The Bill that we are considering today does not undermine any existing or future marriages. What isdoes is extend the status of marriage to gay men and to lesbians who want to make a publiccommitment in the presence of their families and friends
and in some cases co-religionists, themajority of whom want to celebrate the marriage of lesbians and gay men.Some noble Lords say that allowing gay people to get married is unfair as it leaves other sorts of relationships, such as those of siblings, without the same legal rights as those who choose a maritalstatus.If enabling gay marriage will be unfair to a relationship, for example between two sisters, thenexisting marriage laws are equally wrong and unfair. Opponents of gay marriage never make thatargument.But, my Lords, relationships which adults enter into voluntarily are wholly distinct from relationshipsdetermined by consanguinity. If family members could become civil partners, it would be easy for abullying parent or sibling to place members of their family into a partnership, or prevent themforming a partnership of their choice, simply in order to protect property. Nobody should want tolegislate for that.A great deal has been made of the issue of a conscience clause for registrars and other publicservants. My Lords, I grew up in a time and a place when discrimination in public services on the
basis of a person’s religion was not uncommon. It caused resentment and divided communities.
The idea that individual public servants should decide according to their personal beliefs who doesand does not receive a public service is quite wrong. Taxes are levied on a non-discriminatory basis
and services should be provided on a non-discriminatory basis.Some opponents of this Bill say that we should not be addressing this issue when we face economicdifficulties. I disagree. That is because discrimination always comes at a cost.