London, (22nd of July 2013): The Same Sex Marriage Bill passed through Royal Assent last week and was enacted. In a final debate in the Lords, Lord Singh, the Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) proposed a referendum, stating that the ‘wider implications’ of the legislation had not yet been fully considered.
Lord Singh moves for referendum in Same Sex Marriage debate, in final debate before passage of Bill for Royal Assent.October 27th, 2013 | Posted by in Press Releases
Please see full text of Lord Singh’s speech on the 10th of July:
My Lords, the need for a referendum is important for two reasons. First, as we all know, no attempt whatever was made to consult the electorate before the last election, or through Green or White Papers, on the proposed redefinition of marriage, which millions see as an essential building block of society. Respect for the electorate demands their explicit consent for this major social change.
Secondly, many of us hoped that the wider implications of this legislation would be discussed and genuine concerns listened to in the progress of the Bill in the other place and in your Lordships’ House. Sadly, this has not happened. What is concerning about the support for the Bill is the narrow crusading zeal with which genuine concerns are either ignored or brushed aside. Many of us concerned with making ours a fairer society for all welcomed the civil partnership legislation which gave legal rights and dignity to the gay community in our wonderfully diverse society. The legislation recognised both dignity of difference and equality of respect.
The Sikh gurus from whom I take my cue taught the importance of recognising and respecting difference and the right to differ, but they also taught that all of us, men and women, are equal members of one human family. I vainly hoped that some of this sort of thinking would become evident in this debate. Sadly, those pushing the Bill, perhaps because of a collective guilty conscience over past persecution of homosexuals, looked only to the supposed wishes of the gay community with no thought for the rights of others.
Three tactics have been used as spoiling measures to stifle genuine debate. First, past persecution of gays has been used to demand unreasonable reparation from the wider community by appropriating, distorting and diluting the accepted meaning of marriage without consideration of the consequences for family relationships and the care and nurture of children.
Secondly, we have seen a deliberate misuse of language to suggest that sameness and equality—I mean equality of opportunity and equality of respect—are one and the same thing, and that to recognise and respect genuine difference amounts to prejudice and notions of superiority. The absurdity of this argument is self-evident. Cricket and football are different sports but this does not mean or imply that one is superior to the other, yet in seeking to blur difference in gay and heterosexual relationships in Monday’s debate, the learned noble Lord, Lord Lester, put forward this same spurious argument. He said:
“The attempt to define same-sex marriage differently from opposite-sex marriage while claiming that they are somehow equal would inevitably be seen by ordinary men and women in the street—and by me, as a not very ordinary man in the street, I suppose—as attempting to give the traditional view of marriage a superior status”.[Official Report, 8/7/13; col. 16.]
I believe that the man in the street is far more discerning and would resent being wrongly patronised in this way.
Thirdly, as we have heard this evening, statistics have been used to confuse debate. A small survey—the Cambridge survey—has again been quoted. It is said to have found that some children do better with gay parents. Perhaps that is so, but why ignore a much larger and more extensive survey of 3,000 people conducted by the University of Texas over a number of years on a random population which included interviews with children who had grown to become adult? It showed that the children who flourish best, measured in categories such as education, employment status, depression, crime, welfare dependency and drug misuse, are those who spend their entire childhood with their biological mother and father. All other family arrangements did significantly less well.
The worst outcomes were in children brought up by their mother in a lesbian relationship. Are we doing our children any favours if we simply refuse to look at such studies?
Following concerns I voiced in Committee, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from the government office. At the bottom of a politely phrased letter was a note that a copy of the letter would be placed in the Library. I welcomed this as genuine discussion, wrote a response and sought to place that in the Library. I was told that only the Government can do that. So it was not genuine debate but another attempt to promote a narrow, government view.
In summary, the electorate as a whole has been treated with contempt, not only because of an absence of consultation prior to the previous election, but because of a continuing reluctance to consult on the merits of the issue after the Government took office. Worse, the very meaning of the word “consult” has been redefined to limit it to discussion on an already agreed course of action. The express concerns of religious communities have also been almost totally ignored. One of the supposed safeguarding locks is, in fact, an open opt-out door: an open invitation to opt out of clearly defined religious practice in a way that can only promote division and dissent.
It is beyond doubt that the implications of this major social change have not been properly considered either in this House or in the country. The Government should withdraw the Bill for proper consultation with the electorate and affected bodies. If not, they should have the courage to allow the electorate to have a say on the merits of the legislation in a referendum on the lines suggested in the amendment. The man or woman in the street should be allowed to give their views on a measure that affects all of society. I beg to move.
Others who expressed concerns during the legislative process included Lord Dear and Lord Anderson of Swansea. Opponents of the Bill accused the Government of using a parliamentary “bulldozer” to speed the passage of the Bill.