The Lords have been discussing amendments to Government's Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill this week and will continue to do so next week.
The vast majority of the amendments have been about protecting "conscientious objectors", i.e. those who don't like the gays. Unfortunately, for religious freedom, these amendments have been written prejudicially and are championed by people who (until this week) were deeply against allowing this bill through at all.
What do I mean that these amendments are prejudicial? It seems the proponents of these amendments have a very 2D view of freedom and are astonishingly short-sighted. As evidenced by the debates in the Lords, there is cross-party support for protecting religious freedom. However the amendments proposed do not support religious freedom but support a far more narrow protection only for those opposed to marriage equality. Take Amendment 23 from arch-opponent Lord Dear.
This amendment would protect teachers who voiced opposition to same-sex couples marrying. Yet it fails, spectacularly, to protect teachers who voice SUPPORT for same-sex couples marrying in religious schools. This would be something completely within the scope of the bill and would defend religious and individual liberty, but our opponents don't really care about religious liberty. It also fails to spell out why only this belief should be protected. Surely if we are to protect teachers beliefs we should support their freedom to voice concerns with/support of a whole range of highly charged political issues without fear of censure. That'd be true liberty but I think our opponents would be terrified of allowing such a scenario where teachers in religious schools had individual freedom to criticise even core religious beliefs. So it should be no surprise this amendment was withdrawn.
Or take the weasel words "relevant marriage" used when suggesting exactly what marriages people are allowed to refuse to conduct. But if this is really about religious freedom why limit it to same-sex couples? Why can't registrars refuse to marry divorcees, or Muslims, or those they deem unworthy? Again the prejudices of the proponents of these amendments are on show, the limits of their support for religious freedom are there for everyone to see and again it is no wonder they receive limited support from other peers who can see straight through their wrecking motions.
Which brings me back to my other point that these amendments prospects were severely damaged by being championed by those who actually completely oppose the bill. Does anyone believe Lord Carey or Lord Dear (who seem to have parted company somewhat) really believe in the amendments they are proposing when we know they simply want to stop this bill by whatever means necessary? No, and that remains the biggest obstacle to protecting religious liberty in this bill. Our opponents are that obstacle and any subsequent problems can be quite rightly laid at their door, just as flaws with the same-sex marriage bill's devotion to true equal marriage can be laid at the doors of its proponents in Parliament who seem unable to see these flaws at all.