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Marriage: ‘the most successful partnership in history’

Posted on 21st, February 2012


Yesterday saw the launch of the Coalition for Marriage and its national marriage petition (sign here). Here is the text of the launch speech given by Colin Hart, Campaign Director for the Coalition.

I would like to announce the launch of the Coalition for Marriage. The Coalition has one, very simple aim: To support the current definition of marriage and to oppose all plans to redefine it. The law currently defines marriage as “the voluntary union for life, of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others”. That understanding of marriage has stood the test of time, and it has been the best environment for raising children.

Most people agree that, although divorce and death may prevent it, the ideal situation is for a child to be raised by their married mother and father. In the months ahead, I am sure we will hear a lot about the rights of adults. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the best interests of children. Marriage means more than a relationship between adults. It is bigger than that. Marriage has an important role to play in our society, it is part of our common heritage, and part of our history. It is bigger than any of us.

The word “marriage” appears 3,258 times in UK legislation. It is woven into the fabric of our national laws. That can’t be just unpicked in a single stroke. But marriage predates English law. It predates England as a nation state. It predates the Christian Church. Marriage has been the most successful partnership in history, stretching back thousands of years, across cultures, and across the world.

Marriage was not dreamt up by government, and this current government cannot simply overturn thousands of years of history by redefining it. Especially so, when no political party made it part of their election manifesto. If they believed that the public support them on this issue, why didn’t the party leaders have the courage to put it in their manifestos? They have no mandate for this monumental change to our culture.

In March the Government will launch a public consultation. But the Home Secretary has already declared it will be a consultation about “how” not “whether” to redefine marriage. The 24 million married people in this country are not even going to be asked whether they mind marriage being redefined over their heads. This is profoundly anti-democratic. The Government is running away from this public debate. They are bulldozing ahead without any thought for the consequences.

And who is pushing for this momentous change? When candidates were canvassing for votes at the last election, did the average voter stop them in the street and beg them to redefine marriage? Of course not! Ordinary people want the government to sort out the economy, they want to feel safe on the streets, they want a decent education for their kids, and they want a National Health Service that we can all be proud of. They are not saying “what I really want from my government is a new definition of marriage!” The only people pushing for this a handful of single interest groups and fans of political correctness.

The general public have been shut out, ignored, and forgotten. Well, the Coalition for Marriage is here to give the British public a voice. We have this morning launched a national ‘petition for marriage’. It has been signed by leading public figures – politicians, lawyers, academics and religious leaders. It has been signed by people of different faiths, and people of no faith at all. They have signed it because they care very much about marriage and its place in our society.

The petition is open to anyone resident in the UK over the age of 16. It can be signed online on the Coalition’s website “c4m.org.uk”. This week we will be emailing 175,000 people, inviting them to sign online. And we have printed half-a-million petition sheets for distribution across the nation. I don’t think the government truly realises the strength of opposition to its plans. The Coalition is no flash in the pan. We intend to defend the current definition of marriage, and we intend to win the argument.

No doubt, in the days and months ahead, there may be a great deal of intimidation against those of us who defend traditional marriage. Already, we have seen the Archbishop of York receive racist hate mail simply for saying marriage should be between a man and a woman. I would hope that this debate can be conducted in a courteous and reasonable manner. It is perfectly possible to defend traditional marriage, while also respecting the rights of others.

The fact of the matter is, the rights of marriage are already available to same-sex couples through civil partnerships. This issue is not about rights, it is about redefining marriage for everyone. And when the public are given the facts – when they are told that the rights of marriage are already available through civil partnerships – a majority of the public back traditional marriage.

So, we believe there is all to play for in this debate. And we intend to win it, and hold on to the current definition of marriage, the most successful partnership in history.