Letter to Members of the House of Lords

2nd June 2103

Dear Members of the House of Lords

We the undersigned, representing a range of networks, are concerned that having failed to obtain exemptions from equality legislation on the protected characteristics of sexual orientation and gender identity via domestic law or the European Court of Human Rights, conservative forces within some political parties and faith communities are attempting to seek 'opt-outs' by stealth. They now wish to apply the concept of conscientious objection to the issue of same-sex marriage.

Currently, conscientious objection is permitted in very narrow circumstances, usually involving the taking of human life. Since registering a couple's relationship bears no resemblance to such actions, it is misleading to apply this principle in this case.

As the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill reaches the House of Lords, we urge you to reject those amendments which would undermine future equal rights for LGBT people. We encourage you to support the recognition of Humanist and other celebrations of marriage on a par with that currently accorded to Jewish and Quaker practice. We also urge acceptance of amendments either to the Civil Partnerships Act, or the proposed Marriage Bill, which would extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples, remove discrimination against transgendered people, and ensure equality for pension entitlements in civil partnerships and marriage.

The extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples, and the maintenance and equality of civil partnerships, are as much matters of social justice as issues of personal morality or conscience. Let United Kingdom law reflect this.

Yours faithfully

Maria Exall - Chairperson, Cutting Edge Consortium

The Revd. Colin Coward - Director, Changing Attitude

Pavan Dhaliwal - Head of Public Affairs, British Humanist Association

The Revd. Sharon Ferguson - Chief Executive, Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement.

Derek McAuley - Chief Officer, General Assembly of Unitarian & Free Christian Churches.

Rosie Martin - Sibyls Transgender Group

Martin Pendergast - Chairperson, Centre for the Study of Christianity & Sexuality.