Bernard Jenkin is the Member of Parliament for Harwich and North Essex and Chairman of the Public Administration Select Committee. Follow Bernard on Twitter.
David Cameron’s initiative to create a new institution of “civil marriage” for same sex couples has stirred a heated and angry debate, particularly between government ministers and the churches, and within the Conservative Party. A lot of MPs (and this includes a lot of Labour MPs, whom the media permit to suffer in the anonymity of opposition) are fed up to find themselves confronted by this question. It hardly seemed urgent or pressing before David Cameron put it on the political agenda. I certainly would not have encouraged him to do so. Many regard this as “the final straw” on the top of many other mid-term frustrations. I can honestly say that no other measure this parliament seems to have made so many colleagues feel so unhappy. Nevertheless, after some intense consideration, I decided to support the principle of same sex marriage some months ago. Despite the political unhappiness of it, I remain ever firmer in this view and I will vote for the Bill.
The two extremes of this debate both repel, and we should do our best to ignore them. The more ardent supporters do not build consensus and confidence in their judgement by branding every opponent as “bigot” or “homophobe”. They are a turn-off. Equally, even the most passionate opponents of gay marriage should recognise that same sex relationships can embody passion, love and care, and are not solely about the sex or possibly not even remotely about sex (with which some opponents can appear over-preoccupied). The vast majority of representations I have received, and conversations with colleagues, have been on an altogether higher plane of debate, and I pay tribute to their moderation and sincerity on both sides.