I normally have a lot of time for Simon Hughes. Indeed in 2006 I supported his bid to be leader. However, yesterday in the Commons he was just wrong. He said:
"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."
So Simon you are right in that we are a party that supports Equal Marriage. We are also a party that supports individual and religious freedom. But here is the thing there is really no such thing as religious marriage indeed that is the argument often put by the churches, there is only one type of marriage so we are being told. The reason is that there are the legal requirements involved, there are civic elements that just happen to be able to be carried out by a religious celebrant with religious content allowed. That is something that is currently denied to other people who are LGBT and of faith, like yourself Simon, under civil partnerships.
Also does Simon seriously believe that the Minister will get the agreement of the faith leaders before proceeding? Of course there will be agreement from some, but we know that the big players at this time are not minded to be in agreement to any same-sex marriage whether civic or in a religious setting.
What the Minister should have done was protect faith groups that do not want to carry out same-sex marriage from prosecution from that stance. But enable all, and I mean all, faith groups from having the option to opt in if, or when, their own internal governance is minded to allow them to do so. Believe it or not Simon that is actually what your party stands for. Simon's comments yesterday appear to be an attempt to kick this matter into the long grass. I for one have been campaigning for years to overcome Labour's equal but separate lie about equality and feel that the long grass is not where we can allow the larger faith groups to move this for those of no faith, or those smaller faith groups who already want to progress.
Further however, the Lib Dem MPs said yesterday, after Labour and Conservatives said they were having a free vote on equal marriage, that they would all agree to introduce equal marriage and would rather do it as a free vote to show their believed it rather being told to do so by the whip. We will be watching to see how our MPs do vote on this party policy steeped in Liberal values very carefully.