The proposal to introduce same sex marriage into our law comes to the House of Lords. British Quakers believe some same sex relationships are marriages, they are just not recognised as such.
Despite passing the Commons by a massive majority, there are those peers who wish to take the unusual step of halting the Bill at its first appearance. Rival constitutional theories are being kicked around, whether a body largely appointed by the Prime Minister of the day with the odd bishop or hereditary Duke, has a better mandate than an elected, but whipped, body. History has sometimes judged the Lords right, and occasionally, on the wrong side of history (for example, in supporting legal discrimination against gay teenagers).
Listening to the fierce, aggressive tone of the campaign against, (the Bill will not legalise polygamy), and the tendancy of some who support the Bill to throw around accusations of bigotry, I am reminded by what New Zealand Quakers said about nuclear weapons, it is a time to listen for the whisper of hope not the clamour of fear.
God is love and those that dwell in love, dwell with God. I will witness and pray for the Bill, and pray for those who fear it. If the Bill is defeated for now (as abolishing slavery, votes for women, and abolishing the death penalty were defeated the first or even first five times) then I guess Quakers will recognise same sex marriage as best we can under the existing law.
The Lords rejected plans to throw out the Bill. The size of the majority 242, was stunning, although this may partly reflect constitutional caution about halting the measure at this stage. Nevertheless the majority of the three largest parties’ peers and the crossbencher peers supported the measure.
The supporters of the Bill should now listen carefully. Some proposed amendments are clearly intended to wreck the Bill or to permit prejudice and discrimination, but where fears can be allayed and a good balance of freedoms struck, this should be done.