I am a Christian – and proud to declare my faith to anyone who cares to listen – but I am also a civil libertarian. As such, I believe that in the 21st century, it is right that the relationship between State and Citizen is completely non-discriminatory.
Society, and public attitudes, have come a long way since homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967. The age of consent has been lowered, and then equalised; and then same-sex unions, in the form of Civil Partnerships, have been introduced. And today, in 2013, homophobia is rightly considered as unacceptable, just as racism and sexism are.
Marriage is not set in stone – despite what some people have told me in emails. Indeed, the State has changed marriage laws on a number of occasions. It introduced the concept of civil ceremonies conducted in registry offices; it removed the monopoly on the Church of England to perform marriages – especially to non-Anglicans; it allowed other approved buildings to be licensed for marriage ceremonies; it made men and women equal within marriage in all rights; and it changed the law on rape in marriage. And now we are on the cusp of the next change. The State will give full legal recognition to the loving commitment of any two Citizens, irrespective of their sex.
Now I fully accept that a significant number of people with faith do not share my view, and as a civil libertarian, I do not believe that any person of faith should be forced to change their firmly held beliefs on the issue of Holy Matrimony. Actually, I feel this new law protects the religious freedom of anyone to hold, support and to communicate their own views on marriage. Had it not done so, I would have found it very difficult to support a change.
Last night, I voted for equality in the eyes of the State for all citizens to be treated with fairnes, tolerance and respect; and to enshrine in that same law some very clear and specific protections for those who hold a different view.