Michael Gove: Marriage will be enhanced by extending it to gay people

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Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has offered his support to proposed legislation which would legalise equal marriage, and has re-iterated that teachers would not be disciplined for refusing to “promote” it.

On Tuesday, the House of Commons will vote on the Marriage (same-sex couples) Bill, which would make it legal for same-sex couples to marry.

Some critics of the bill had raised concerns that teachers would risk being sacked if they objected to the law.

Mr Gove said that while all teachers would be expected to teach that equal marriage was legal, if the law were to pass, none would be expected to actively “promote” it.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he started by saying that he thought it was wrong to say that the love between gay couples was less legitimate than the love between a straight couples.

He said: “It’s wrong to say that because of how you love and who you love, you are not entitled to the same rights as others. It’s wrong because inequality is wrong.” He continued: “Marriage is not undermined by extending it to gay people – it is reinforced by including everyone equally.”

He directly addressed concerns raised by some critics, saying: “Some teachers are concerned that equal marriage legislation may require them to teach views which go against their beliefs and open them to threats – either in the workplace or the courts – from those who hold diverging views.

“If I thought any legislation, however well-intentioned, would make life more difficult for great teachers and great schools I wouldn’t support it. I have complete confidence in the protection our law offers freedom of conscience and speech.

“There is a significant difference between expecting a teacher to explain something and requiring them to promote it.”

“Teachers are expected to explain the world as it is in a way which is appropriate to the age, stage and level of understanding of pupils. This includes explaining some things of which they do not necessarily approve, such as divorce and abortion.

He concludes: “The same will apply to new forms of marriage. Teachers will not be able to pretend that legal marriages between same-sex couples do not exist, but there will be no requirement to promote them. That position will not be changed by the new definition of marriage.”

This news from the Education Secretary mirrors Maria Miller, Culture Secretary’s attempts to dampen fears that teachers could face action for telling children they oppose same-sex marriages.

Last week, speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme ahead of the publication of the Marriage (Same-sex couples) Bill, Mrs Miller defended the government’s plans to introduce full gay equality.

Earlier today, 23 current or past chairmen of local Conservative Party Associations delivered a letter to David Cameron by hand where they plead for him not to go ahead with Tuesday’s vote.