First batch of Lords' Equal Marriage Amendments
The amendments to the Marriage (Same-sex couples) Bill are starting to roll in for the Lords to consider. I think it is important that we know what is being proposed (not just in this bill, but in all legislation) so when we come to watch the next debates (17th June) and they refer to amendments we know what they are doing. To that end I am going to try and document them on here (I can't be bothered setting up another site for it, but if anyone fancies helping me to do something for the Communications Data Bill when that formally rears it's ugly head again... or censorship or any of my other interests, let me know).
So, what have we got? Well, firstly, we have the Bill as passed to the Lords - this is the document all these amendments are to be measured against. Then we have two batches of amendments which have been listed based on the day they have been submitted.
The big one in this batch is everyone's favourite, Lord Dear, asking that after Clause 1 we insert a new clause for "Protecting belief in traditional marriage":
Any person, in exercising functions under or in consequence of this Act
shall have regard to the following—
(a) that prior to the coming into force of this Act, marriage was the
union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all
others (“traditional marriage”);
(b) that belief in traditional marriage is a belief worthy of respect in a
(c) that no person should suffer any detriment because of their belief in
Part (a) 'merely' seeks to define "traditional marriage" as something greater than marriage. This may seem fairly innocuous but in fact just shows how little regard opponents of this bill have for us as human beings. Part (b) similarly goes on to affirm that belief in this hierarchy of worthiness is something respectable instead of the hate-fuelled bigotry it actually is. This is designed to protect registrars like Lillian Ladelle who feel that when being paid by public funds to provide a service to the public they should get to cherry pick which members of the public should get served - that's part (c).
This... is not a good amendment.
The rest of today's amendments are from Baroness Stowell and seem very technical.
In her first amendment, she aims to improve the specificity of who can authorise various branches of Judaism to allow same-sex marriage. Now, I dislike the idea of the legislation even putting in place the support for religious hierarchy - discipline of churches should be left to the Church, not set out in state legislation, but I have no idea personally whether this clarification is good or not... the biggest problem is foresee is that by becoming overly specific, we have to update the legislation should the situation on the ground change (i.e. a split). This is similar in nature to how the Civil Partnership legislation needs to be updated to recognise countries providing recognition to same-sex couples.
Her second amendment would remove 16(3)(a). This clause allows either House of Parliament to annul an order made by "other ecclesiastical law" of the Church of England. Actually, this does seem to be a very broad power not restricted to provision for (same-sex) marriage.
Her third and fourth amendments do seem to be clarification/tidying up.
Her final amendment is a bit more substantive. It basically adds provisions to void any marriage carried out by religious means without the appropriate consent of the religion's hierarchy. It does this by explicit reference to the Church of England and by the general consent method for other religious groups.
As I've said above, I don't like the hierarchical consent requirements of the religious provision of marriage, but it is a compromise which I can just about grin and bear.
I expect that most of Baroness Stowell's amendments will go through on a simple voice vote, Lord Dear's amendment will be where one of the big fights will be.
I'll do another post soon about the amendments from 12/06/2013