Staffordshire MP: 'Gay marriage will strengthen society'
Karen Bradley, Conservative MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, will risk criticism from some constituents and grassroots party members by voting to support gay marriage today. Here, she explains why...
THIS issue has filled my postbag for months and months. I have thought long and hard about it because it's not a decision I take easily.
I really don't want people to feel that the world is going to end because of this, and I do believe a lot of the concerns that people have are unfounded.
Allowing same sex marriage will not affect most people, but it will make a huge difference to the people it does affect. Those people in same sex relationships who want to make this very special commitment to the ones they love will now be able to do that.
I do understand the concerns, and I've heard arguments for and against, from inside and outside the party, from constituents and from across the political divide.
As long as institutions which do not want to conduct a marriage between two people are not being forced into it, I don't think it's my job to stop those who do want to from being able to.
My husband is a Catholic who agrees with the decision I am taking, and he has personally discussed this matter with priests and others.
A lot of people talk about marriage being ordained by God and I don't question that – I was married in a church myself. But 75 per cent of marriages are civil services where there is no mention of God.
All this bill does is allow those civil services to be the same whether you are gay or straight.
I spoke to one man who said he doesn't want to get down on one knee and ask his partner to enter a civil partnership – he wants to say 'will you marry me'. When people see things like that I think they will realise that this will actually strengthen marriage by extending it to so many more people who want to show their commitment and love for each other.
The bill will protect religions. There are some faiths which want to be able to take part in gay marriage, and to try to stop those which are happy to do so seems discriminatory. Those which don't want to will not have to.
The Church of England is separate as the established church and it will be up to other churches what they do – in the same way that they don't have to marry a divorcee or someone who doesn't practise their religion.
I don't believe there is any threat from human rights laws. I think this will strengthen religious organisations' position to legally make their own choice.
If a couple is told they can't get married in a church, they won't have a legal case because they can go down the road and get married somewhere else.
The debate will pass through the House of Lords where there are bishops and the Chief Rabbi. If they have concerns, they will be ironed out.
This is a free vote, and so despite all of the debate it has probably been easier for me, as a Government whip, than normally as I haven't had to try to persuade or influence anybody. The party whips have had no involvement, this will be a vote of conscience based on MPs' own beliefs or concerns
I think of those parents who have gay children who would be deprived of the opportunity of being mother of the bride or groom who will now get that opportunity, and I think it's fantastic.