Simon Hughes wavering on equal marriage?

MP urges religious agreement before proceeding

London – 7 January 2013


Simon Hughes MP has provoked surprise and alarm after calling on the government to ‘engage with the faith leaders to seek their agreement before proceeding’ with legislation for marriage equality.

“Simon’s statement in parliament sounded somewhat equivocal. He seemed to be echoing the concerns of religious leaders who object to marriage equality; suggesting that the government should not legalise same-sex marriage without their approval. Giving them a veto would be dangerous and anti-democratic,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights advocacy organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

“Homophobic religious leaders do not represent the majority of religious people in Britain. The YouGov poll in June 2012 found that 58% of people of faith support same-sex civil marriage.

See YouGov:

Read below the full text of Simon Hughes statement to parliament on 11 December.

“I’m surprised by the tenor and ambiguity of Simon’s comments. He’s normally strong and clear on LGBT equality. In this instance, he comes across as wavering on equal marriage and wanting the government to accommodate anti-gay clergy. His emphasis is different from that of Nick Clegg and the official position of the Liberal Democrats.

“Hopefully, Simon’s statement inadvertently gave the wrong impression and does not properly reflect where he stands on the issue.

“I urge Simon to clarify his stance and confirm his full support for equal marriage in civil ceremonies and in religious ceremonies where faith organisations wish to conduct them.

“Claiming there is no electoral mandate for marriage equality, Simon failed to mention that prior to the 2010 election the Conservative Party promised to ‘review’ the ban on same-sex couples getting married. The promise of a review was written into their published document, A Contract for Equalities.

“This pledge followed the flash mob protest outside Tory election headquarters organised by Tamsin Omond and myself. The theme was: ‘David Cameron, where are your gay rights policies?’ We were reacting to the fact that the Conservatives were, at the time, the only major party with no LGBT policies. As a result of our flash mob, Tamsin and I were invited to meet George Osborne and Theresa May. One of our demands was a review of the ban on same-sex marriage. Osborne and May agreed to undertake a review and made this commitment public,” said Mr Tatchell.

Hansard 11 December 2012 Column 168

Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD): I am a member of a party that supports equal marriage, but the Minister none the less must take into account that this was in no election manifesto, that it was not in the coalition agreement and that many members of my constituency, my church and my party feel that much more work must be done to see whether it is possible to redefine civil marriage separately from the traditional definitions of religious marriage. She therefore needs to proceed very carefully and cautiously, engage with the faith leaders to seek their agreement before proceeding, and proceed with draft legislation before moving speedily to get something on the statute book.