Cornwall MP Stephen Gilbert speaks in gay marriage debate
A CORNISH MP has spoken of his own personal experiences in supporting legislation to allow same sex marriage.
Stephen Gilbert, MP for St Austell and Newquay, gave a passionate speech in this afternoon's debate in the House of Commons on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
The bill, which is on its second reading, would allow same sex couples to get married but has protections which mean that religious organisations would not be compelled to carry out same sex ceremonies.A vote on the bill is expected to take place this evening.
Liberal Democrat MP Mr Gilbert, wearing a rainbow coloured tie, declared an interest as he started his speech, stating: "I am a gay man who grew up in a rural part of our country, in Cornwall, in a working class background.
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"I grew up 20 years ago in an environment that made it hugely difficult for me to be open, honest and upfront with my family, with my friends, with my workmates about the choices I wanted to make in life and the people I wanted to see.
"That was unacceptable 20 years ago and it is unacceptable today but for many hundreds of thousands of people it remains the case today.
"This historic legislation will end this discrimination but, more crucially, it will send a signal that this house values everybody equally in this country and that signal will deeply affect those people like me who 20 years ago saw this house vote to equalise the age of consent. That was the first time that I had seen that there were other people like me, it was the first time I realised I was not along and it changed my life."
The MP added: "As a community we should be valuing diversity but treating everybody equally. These values are enshrined in Cornwall's motto One and All – it is a community that I grew up in and I am proud to represent.
"It is one that values the community – it is not One and All apart from if you are black, apart from if you are gay, it is a community that distrusts abuse of power which is exactly why the secretary of state is right in saying that this bill will not compel anybody or any religious organisation to do anything that they don't choose to do. We have struck the right balance in ensuring equality and preserving religious freedom."
He concluded: "Equal marriage will not be the end of the struggle for gay equality but it will start allowing us to ask the right questions to solve those other problems. It will send a clear signal that we value everybody equally."
On Twitter Mr Gilbert received many tweets commending his speech: