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Gay marriage: The Lords strike back

Gay marriage: The Lords strike back

From a lord who wants to marry his own son and fancies his brother, to an ex archbishop who says marriage equality will lead to polygamy and Nazi persecution, the opponents of gay marriage in Britain’s House of Lords are numerous and vocal.

So it will be a stormy debate today and tomorrow (3 and 4 June) when the Lords, the unelected upper chamber of the British parliament, get to debate and vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales.

The vote is on a knife-edge with only a handful of votes in it.

The House of Commons, the UK’s elected chamber, has already passed the bill with a clear majority.

Here Gay Star News profiles four of the key opponents and four leading supporters of the bill, along with some of their arguments.

Opposers

Norman Tebbit

Lord Tebbit is a British Conservative politician who served in the Cabinet during the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher. He is a former Chairman of the Conservative party.

‘The gay marriage bill will lead to lesbian queens, fathers marrying sons,’ he has said.

Tebbit warned gays marrying will lead to a lesbian queen giving birth to a future monarch by artificial insemination.

He also said the legislation in England and Wales could also allow him to marry his son to escape inheritance tax. He has also, presumably rhetorically, said he fancies his own brother.

George Carey

Lord Carey is a former Archbishop of Canterbury, the ex leader of the Church of England and the Anglican Church worldwide, who served during the 1990s.

Carey warned legalizing gay marriage will pave the way for polygamy and even siblings getting wed.

He argued the marriage equality bill will lead to demands for multiple-spouse marriages and weddings between cohabiting sisters.

Lord Carey insists ‘not all relationships are the same’ and without the possibility of procreation the institution of marriage will be ‘diminished’ and ‘emptied of its meaning’ with ‘grave implications’ for the family unit.

Carey claimed plans to legalise gay marriage risked fuelling ‘Nazi’ persecution of groups who disagree over the reforms. He said Cameron has ‘done more than any leader to make Christians feel they’re persecuted’.

Geoffrey Dear

Lord Dear is the former Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, one of the biggest police forces in England and Wales.

Dear told the House of Lords introducing same-sex marriage could ‘create such opposition to homosexuals in general that the climate of tolerance and acceptance in this country that we have all championed and supported and seen flourish over recent years could well be set back by decades.’

It is his amendment – to stop the bill in its tracks – that will form the focus of the debate and vote today and tomorrow.

Sayeeda Warsi

Baroness Warsi is a British politician who was made a life peer in 2007. She is a former Chairman of the Conservative Party and the first female Muslim to serve as a minister in the UK. She is the Minister for Faith and Communities. She refused to lead the bill through the House of Lords.

She warned the legislation could have a string of ‘unintended consequences’. She feared schools would be required to teach about same-sex unions, and individual priests and churches refusing to conduct same-sex marriages would be sued.

Warsi wanted to know what legal support would be afforded to churches and other places of worship if they were challenged individually or as an organisation.

Supporters

Waheed Alli

Lord Alli is a British multimillionaire media entrepreneur and politician. He co-founded and was the managing director of Planet 24, a TV production company, and was managing director at Carlton Television Productions.

Alli was the first peer to speak openly about being gay in the Lords. He was the first member of the Lords to come out openly. Alli is spearheading the equal marriage debate in the Lords and has even arranged for the London Gay Men’s Chorus to seranade lords and ladies outside the house as they come and go for the debate.

Nick Holtam

The current Bishop of Salisbury, Nick Holtham told opponents of gay marriage they are like supporters of the apartheid in South Africa. He urged Christians to ‘rethink’ their attitude to homosexuality and change their interpretations of the Bible.

He explained allowing gay marriage would be a very strong move for the institution of marriage. Gay marriage will not effect heterosexual marriage rights saying: ‘Indeed the development of marriage for same-sex couples is a very strong endorsement of the institution of marriage.’

He distanced himself from the church’s attitude to same-sex marriage saying: ‘Sometimes Christians have had to rethink the priorities of the gospel in light of experience.’

John Browne

Lord Browne is a former chief of international oil giant BP, who quit after his gay relationship was revealed. He is supporting the gay marriage bill on business and personal grounds.

‘Gay marriage is good for business. An inclusive environment makes good business sense,’ he said.

‘During my years in business, I came to realise that anything that fosters an inclusive environment makes good business sense.

‘People are happier and more productive and make more money for their company when they feel they are included and can be themselves. Giving gay couples the freedom to marry sends an important signal of inclusiveness. If that freedom helps gay people to be themselves in both their private and professional lives, it will eliminate one more barrier to a true corporate meritocracy.

‘If I had seen gay men in loving, stable and legally recognised public relationships of the sort my parents were in, I would have found it easier to come out. Civil partnerships perform this function up to a point, but they are not equal to marriage.’

Janet Royall

Baroness Royall is the Labour leader in the Lords.

She says: ‘I’ve talked to lots of gay friends, and gay relations, and they all tell me how important it is to be able to get married. They all say civil partnerships are wonderful, but they want to go that little bit further.’

Gay Star News will be providing full coverage of the debate as it unfolds. The UK bill will be for England and Wales. Separate legislation is being brought forward for equal marriage in Scotland and campaigners are trying to introduce marriage equality in Northern Ireland.