It may seem an irrelevant point. Others would claim it is language used to enable each side to avoid hearing the other point of view. But what do the details tell us that are currently being unearthed by the debate in the House of Lords?
Now that the Bill is under the spotlight in the House of Lords some startling things are being discovered.
Faithfulness and Adultery
Faithfulness ‘not necessary’. Gone will be the statement that marriage is an exclusive monogamous relationship.
The exact quote from the Government minister is: “In terms of the law, marriage does not require the fidelity of couples. It is open to each couple to decide for themselves on the importance of fidelity within their own relationship.”
This means that, under the Bill, the Government can avoid the legal problems which would otherwise be created if it introduced laws about adultery or consummation for same-sex marriage. Now this is a redefinition of what marriage is. It would mean that a partner in a same sex marriage would not be able to divorce on the grounds of adultery or infidelity.
The Coalition Government has agreed to change the criminal law so that that disagreeing with same-sex marriage will not be a hate crime.
But! Government ministers are being advised by officials in the equalities office to block any other protections in the civil law. So a person may not be accused of a hate crime but could still lose their job for their views.
Up until now, officials in the equalities office have been telling Government ministers that the Bill won’t harm the liberty of people who disagree with it. But after pressure in the House of Lords, Government ministers have admitted they want commercial companies to be able to sack staff who refuse to be involved with same-sex marriages.
The Government thinks commercial chauffeurs who object to a same-sex marriage should be dismissed. By the same logic, florists, photographers and cake makers would also be in the firing line. So far the Government has refused to allow any flexibility which takes account of people’s sincere beliefs.
Those who can expect to lose their jobs will be public sector workers like teachers and chaplains.
And of course we have yet to find out if church leaders will be appearing in court over their beliefs.
I am not against civil partnerships, though I think they should not be limited to sexual partners but should include friends or relatives who live together.