Same Sex Marriage

To me politics is about finding solutions to difficult issues that, wherever possible, reconcile people with opposing points of view about building a consensus which heals divisions. But sometimes the issues are just too controversial and whatever course of action you take, you know you will cause deep offence or worse to many.

So it was with my decision to vote for same sex marriage. I knew my eventual decision to support it would disappoint many who objected to what they saw as the redefinition of marriage. I respect their concern and their deeply held views, often expressed very thoughtfully in letters and emails to me, but I could not vote against my conscience.

There were two quite separate issues at stake. First the merits of the argument itself and second the principle that, in a democracy, the wishes of minorities must be respected - unless doing so causes real harm to others or to society.

On the merits of the argument, the more I looked same sex marriage the more I saw that it was really about love and commitment. Society is stronger when we celebrate and reinforce these things. The problem with marriage today is that it is often entered into too lightly and dissolved too unthinkingly. Similarly, it is often rejected as an option by those who are unprepared to make the commitment to each other that would strengthen their relationship and, in the process, society.

So I could see no reason to deny marriage to those we once wrongly derided as sinful or perverted, but now recognise simply as fellow human beings with different sexuality.

On the rights of minorities, this was an issue the debate about hunting forced me to think about very carefully. My main reason for supporting the right to hunt was that we should never let simple disapproval be a reason for banning any activity. Only if actual harm is done to others should a democracy deny a freedom to a group. Hunting did no harm to human beings (nor, I would argue more controversially, to animal populations either) so we should not have banned it.

The same logic applies to the rights of minorities in all other areas of human activity. Unless actual harm is done, we should respect their freedoms too. This might lead us to difficult and surprising places as we carry the logic through, but we must be consistent if we are to be truly democratic.


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