Local prejudice: West Oxford MP opposes equal marriage

During term I don’t have much time to get excessively angry about politics. Why watch a smug David Cameron and an irritating Ed Miliband slog it out at PMQs in a battle of half-wits, or plunge myself into despair by watching Question Time, when I could waste my time far more constructively by reading the latest criticisms from my tutor on OxCort and weeping into my library books? Perhaps we should all try and find the time however, to wind ourselves up over things slightly closer to home, and I’d like to take this opportunity to flag something up.

According to an article in the Oxford Mail, and a letter she has sent to a constituent, Oxford West and Abingdon’s Tory MP Nicola Blackwood, who won the seat by a whisker in 2010, is due to oppose legislation on Equal Marriage. This is not the first time I have been irritated by Blackwood and behind the cultivation of a somewhat moderate image lie some questionable opinions, such as siding with the likes of Nadine ‘Mad Nad’ Dorries on abortion issues. On Equal Marriage, in my opinion, her opposition to the legislation is first of all objectionable, and second of all, likely to put her in disagreement with the majority of her constituents, most especially the student population.

In response to a letter from Dr. Ed Long, Blackwood describes herself as ‘not an enthusiast’ for the change, saying that she does ‘not believe in legislation for the sake of it or where it will produce unintended consequences’. She justifies this by arguing that ‘the proposed changes will confer no additional legal gains other than those already conferred by civil partnerships’ and that ‘an unintended consequence of this legislation will be the risk of legal challenges, whether to domestic courts or the ECHR, on the basis of human rights law to religious organisations who for different reasons may choose not marry same-sex couples’.

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One might be tempted to ask whether these ‘different reasons’ might include a bit of good old fashioned prejudice but for the time being this is beside the point. To me, this all mostly sounds like a load of hot air. If Blackwood thinks that the legislation is all about ‘legal gains’ for same-sex couples then she is completely missing the point. The idea behind Equal Marriage as I see it is to do away with the whole ‘equal but different’ scenario whereby there is one sort of marriage for heterosexual couples, and a different kind of ‘gay’ marriage or civil partnership for same-sex couples. It isn’t so much about giving anyone more legal rights but about society recognising marriage as an equal institution for everyone whether you are gay or straight.

Furthermore, the legislation is about allowing those churches and religious groups who wish to carry out same-sex marriages to do so, and those organisations who have expressed their strong opposition to the idea, such as the Church of England are excluded from the proposed legislation. If there are organisations, such as the Quakers, who wish to carry out same-sex marriage I fail to see what right Ms Blackwood has to stop them. If she is so concerned about challenges to those who choose not to marry same-sex couples, then she should surely also be concerned about preventing those who wish to.

Nicola Blackwood claims that in opposing the legislation on Equal Marriage she is representing the ‘majority’ of her constituents who have ‘contacted her so far’. I am reluctant to believe that the majority of those living in Oxford West and Abingdon are against Equal Marriage and I suspect that it is certainly not representative of those students at Worcester, St Hugh’s, Lady Margaret Hall, Somerville, St Anthony’s, Green Templeton, St Cross and Wolfson colleges which form a part of her constituency.

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