Gay Marriage: Labour and the Loughton Amendment

by George_East on May 20, 2013

806622658-miliband-wants-cameron-targetedAs David Cameron’s position in the Conservative Party seems to weaken by the hour and with the swivel-eyed loons increasingly in the ascendancy, the Labour Party are today in a position to deliver a further kicking to the Prime Minister, which might even prove to be fatal.    The opportunity comes with the amendment to the gay marriage bill placed by Tim Loughton.  The amendment proposes full equality by extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.

In my view, the amendment is right as a matter of principle and always ought to have formed part of the Bill.    Many couples remain profoundly uncomfortable with the concept of marriage (with all of it historical/sacramental/the giving of the woman by her father to her husband etc baggage).  Civil Partnerships provide for those couples who choose them the legal protections of marriage without the cultural baggage.  If they are to be available to gay couples, there is no good reason why they should not be available generally.     The only other way to ‘equality’ would be to abolish Civil Partnerships entirely, but that would plainly be a retrograde step.  Senior Labour figures, like Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary, have made it clear that they agree with this principle.

However, it is equally clear that the Loughton amendment is a bad faith amendment, in that its intention (or at least that of a lot of its anti-gay marriage backers) is to wreck the bill.   The number of potential conservative Members of Parliament voting for it could be well into three figures.   Further in his usual hopelessly weak appeasing way, David Cameron, is hinting today through his press secretary that if the amendment passes, the Bill will be postponed into the next parliament.  This in effect is inviting the amendment to be used to wreck the entire bill.  The one issue upon which David Cameron has shown bravery in standing up to his own Party, looks like it might be going the same way as everything else.

This provides Labour with an acute dilemma.  Principle is with the Loughton amendment: it is, in my view, plainly nonsensical to have civil partnership and marriage available to same sex couples, but only the latter available to heterosexual couples.     Further, the politics are with the Loughton amendment – if it passes it will again underline just how much distance there is between the Tory leadership and its own grassroots and it will further embolden the Tory grassroots to continue to undermine the Prime Minister, and thereby Tory election prospects.

On the other hand the consequence will be that gay marriage will be lost and potentially lost for some time.  The opportunity for an historic and in all truth irreversible piece of legislation, which the Labour governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did not deliver, will have been missed.

In my view Labour needs to do two things.  Firstly, it needs to publicly set out its commitment to equalising access to civil partnerships.  It should do so, though, by stating that it will introduce a bill to introduce them in its first Queen’s Speech following 2015 and that such legislation will attract a Three Line Whip (free votes on matters of fundamental equality are disgraceful).    Labour  should at the same time call bullshit on the Loughton amendment.  It should state that it will not allow the Loughton amendment to be used as a wrecking amendment and that although equal civil partnership should have been part of this Bill, the principle of equal marriage rights is too great.   It should then proudly march into the No lobby on the amendment, even if it does save David Cameron’s face by doing so.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlie East-West May 20, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Spot on. Labour need to rise above this and avoid playing party politics, whilst offering a fair solution for all.
All that matters is equality for both heterosexuals and homosexuals.


George_East May 20, 2013 at 3:19 pm

At the moment, I am fairly optimistic. Labour appear to be heading towards opposing Loughton but also adding their own amendment calling for immediate progress on equal civil partnerships. Free vote, so all up for grabs. But so far so good.


Charlie East-West May 20, 2013 at 3:21 pm
George_East May 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm

I think its quite a clever move. It means that there is a way of marking clearly by a vote that there should be full equality (ie on civil partnerships as well as marriage) but even in the unlikely event it passed, it would not wreck anything, as it merely calls for ‘consultation’. Whoever was the brains behind this deserves a big round of applause. Telegraph now leading with ‘Gay Marriage Bill Saved as Labour offer Cameron a Lifeline’. Good on Yvette Cooper.


Charlie East-West May 20, 2013 at 3:31 pm

And…if we are thinking about the political ramifications, it puts the Tories on the back foot. They either support an eminently fair amendment that offers equality, or vote it down because of stubborn political reasons – therefore opening up a debate on whether the Tories are just swivel-eyed homophobes.


George_East May 20, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Exactly so, a masterclass from Cooper.


George_East May 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm

From the Telegraph it looks like that Cameron is going to back the Cooper amendment. V impressive work from Labour on this today.


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