Yvette Cooper: Parliament has the chance today to support loving gay couples

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has given a robust defence of the government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – ahead of this evening’s vote.

Speaking in the Commons as part of this afternoon’s debate, Ms Cooper, who is also Labour’s shadow minister for women and equalities cited President Obama’s support for marriage equality.

The Labour MP began her speech by saying: “Parliament has the chance today to support loving couples who want to get married.

“The chance to make some of the same-sex couples I’ve spoken to in the last few weeks very happy – it means they can finally set the date.

“I hope we will support this bill today.”

Ms Cooper continued: “Give those couples the chance to be wed, to be married and to have their relationship celebrated and valued by the state in the same way as everyone else.”

The Labour MP invoked the spirit of matrimony in her speech. She said: “I believe the case for equal marriage is a very powerful one. We all love a good wedding. We pause as we walk past a church or registry office to smile at complete strangers coming down the steps in a cloud of confetti because we think it’s lovely they’ve just got married.

“We love the idea of a golden or diamond wedding anniversary, the elderly couple who’ve stuck together through thick or thin, still bickering over the biscuits.

“And we clearly all like a good party.”

Ms Cooper joked that the measure had a financial benefit for Chancellor George Osborne – who also supports the reform.

“I see the impact assessment from the department even reckons that passing this legislation could lead to £14m extra spent on celebrations,” she added. “Which is a lot of confetti and rubber chicken.”

“Think it won’t quite be enough to boost the economy and deliver plan B, but I guess the chancellor needs all the help he can get.”

The Labour MP continued: “Call us hopeless romantics, call it the triumph of hope over experience, but most of us think it is wonderful when people love each other and want to make that long term commitment.

“So why would we want to stop a loving couple getting married just because they are gay?”

Ms Cooper said she was satisfied that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill provides strong protections for faith groups who do not want to marry gay couples.

She added: “Marriage has changed many times before and society hasn’t collapsed. Other countries are doing it. Their churches and their societies haven’t fallen apart.

“Spain – Catholic Spain – has had same-sex marriage since 2004.

“Denmark, Belgium, Canada and Norway, Portugal, Argentina and South Africa all celebrate same-sex marriage.

“France, just last week, passed the first vote on the way to same-sex marriage. And the President of the United States of America [is] in favour of gay marriage too.

“If the same sex couples who’ve told me of their love for each other are able to get married, that won’t weaken marriage it will strengthen it.”