Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill


On Monday and Tuesday next week (20th & 21st May) the House of Commons will debate and vote on the Report Stage and Third Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

I have received many letters and emails – both for and against the Bill – urging me to vote one way or another.

Marriage is an important means through which couples can publicly make a long term commitment to each other and have that commitment recognised by the state.  I believe that gay and lesbian couples should be able to make that commitment and have it recognised, just as heterosexual couples do now. It therefore follows, that I support the right of gay and lesbian people to marry.

During the Second Reading of the Bill in February, there were some very powerful speeches made by MPs from all political parties.  I thought that the main front-bench speeches made by both Maria Miller (for the Government) and Yvette Cooper (for Labour) addressed the key issues for concern with thought and care. Both were clear in their support for the right of same-sex couples to marry and both were equally clear that the law should protect the right of religious institutions to have their views respected. Those churches and other religious institutions that oppose same sex marriage will be under no obligation to perform them.

I also thought some of the most powerful speeches in that debate came from gay and lesbian Members of Parliament themselves – like Margot James, Nick Herbert, Stephen Williams and Chris Bryant. They spoke very personally about why passing this Bill is so important. So I will be proud to join them in voting in support of the Marriage Bill.

Not everyone reading this will agree with me.  Sincerely held opinions are held on both sides of the argument. Whichever way I vote next week won’t please everyone.

So I will vote in line with my conscience and my judgement. I hope this article and the links below will give you an idea of the reasons behind the judgement I have made.  And of course, like all MPs, I will be accountable to the people who elect me for the judgements I make on this and the other important decisions which come before Parliament.


You can read the speeches I mentioned above here:

You can also follow next week’s debates (the Report Stage and Third Reading of the Bill) live here:

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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