Comment: The Coalition for Marriage stands for homophobic discrimination

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The Coalition for Marriage is intolerant and out of touch. Its support for the ban on gay marriage is homophobic discrimination.

Coalition members are entitled to believe that same-sex marriages are wrong, but they are not entitled to demand that their opposition to such marriages should be imposed on the rest of society and enforced by law.

The coalition is a movement for discrimination. It is less a coalition for marriage; more a coalition against marriage equality. Allowing same-sex marriage does not undermine marriage; it strengthens it.

If they are for marriage, the coalition should welcome the fact that many lesbian and gay couples want to get married. Same-sex marriage does not detract in any way from heterosexual marriage. It does not diminish or devalue marriages between opposite-sex couples.

The Coalition for Marriage opposes same-sex marriage; claiming that it wants to defend ‘traditional marriage’ and halt attempts to ‘redefine’ it.

Religious views on marriage have evolved over the centuries. The churches have ceased to support child brides and forced marriages. They no longer oppose divorce and the remarriage of divorced couples. There is no reason why marriage should not evolve to include lesbian and gay couples.

The coalition is out of touch with public opinion. Most British people now support marriage equality.

A Populus poll in 2009 found that 61% of the public believe: ‘Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships.’ Only 33% disagreed (PDF).

The ban on same-sex marriage is discrimination. It violates the democratic principle that everyone should be equal before the law.

It was recently claimed that 100 Conservative MPs are bidding to veto the government’s commitment to legalise same-sex marriage before the next election. If true, this is evidence that substantial sections of the Tory party still back homophobic discrimination.

The Equal Love campaign is building political momentum. There is now a cross-party consensus for marriage equality. The right of gay couples to marry is backed by David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Boris Johnson and a growing number of Tory MPs, including Chloe Smith, Mike Weatherley and Margot James.

In 2010, the Green Party national conference was the first to vote to end the twin bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. It was followed by the Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru conferences. Oddly, the Labour conference has declined to vote on the issue; although the GMB, Unison and all 13 Labour MEPs want an end to sexual orientation discrimination in both marriage and partnership law.

The SNP government in Scotland is leading the way, with its public consultation on marriage equality already concluded; while David Cameron has twice postponed the start of his consultation, from last summer to next month.

One year ago this month, four gay couples and four heterosexual couples, sponsored by the Equal Love campaign, filed a historic joint appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). See here (PDF).

Their appeal argues that Britain’s twin legal bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships amount to illegal discrimination, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. The bans violate Articles 8, 12 and 14 – respectively the right to privacy and family life, the right to marry and the right to non-discrimination.

Peter Tatchell is coordinator of the Equal Love campaign, which seeks the right of gay couples to have a civil marriage and heterosexual couples to have a civil partnership.

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