Queen’s urges Andrew Smith MP to support marriage equality

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Queen’s College JCR voted unanimously in favour of a motion supporting marriage equality in light of the second reading of the same-sex marriage bill that was passed with a majority of 225 in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The motion, proposed by Jane Cahill, Queen’s College JCR President, and
seconded by Ashley Francis-Roy, the college’s LGBTQ rep, mandated Francis-Roy to write to Andrew Smith, Labour MP for Oxford East.

The JCR urged him to vote in favour of the marriage (same-sex couples) bill, which was subject to a free vote by MPs. There were no speeches in  opposition to the motion at the JCR meeting on Sunday and it was thus
passed unanimously.

The motion claimed, “Andrew Smith MP has been ambivalent recently about how he will vote on marriage equality, as he is concerned about religious freedom.” Smith’s constituency encompasses 29 Oxford colleges, including Balliol, Merton and St Catherine’s, which also petitioned Smith to support the
proposals on equal marriage. A letter from Merton gathered 90 signatures and a petition from 150 St Catz students was also sent.

However, in a statement, Smith commented, “My view is that in all but name Britain already has gay marriage through the institution of civil partnerships, which I thought was a very important and civilised step forward, and which confers very largely the same rights and responsibilities. I don’t see any  strong case for denying the opportunity to call this a marriage.”

The same-sex marriage bill passed through the House of Commons on Tuesday and saw MPs including Mr Smith vote in favour of the same-sex marriage bill by 400 votes to 175. The bill was subject to a free vote, although over half of Conservative MPs voted against the government.

Jane Cahill told Cherwell, “I’m very proud that we voted to defend the rights of our LGBTQ community. It’s important we express a view because these members are an important part of our community, and we want Mr Smith to know that his constituents, far from being against the bill, or even ambivalent about it, are strongly supportive of a ‘yes’ vote from our MP.”

OUSU Vice-President for Welfare and Equal Opportunities Katie Colliver commented, “Questions of equality affect everyone, whether or not you are a student. I think it is absolutely right that Queen’s JCR has taken a stand on equal marriage and I hope that other JCRs will follow their lead.”

Elizabeth Sherlock, a second-year classicist at Queen’s, told Cherwell, “Queen’s JCR’s decision to support and stand by its LGBT members made me incredibly proud to be a member of Queen’s! Any statement a college can make in favour of equality is valuable.” However, OUSU’s LGBTQ campaign had concerns about the bill, commenting, “We feel that equal marriage is a significant and necessary step forward, bringing us closer to equality and providing more religious freedom for LGBT and pro-LGBT people of faith.

“We feel that although aspects of the bill are inadequate, for example it forces transgender people to annul civil partnerships in order to transition, the bill must be passed to facilitate further progress.”

Smith resolved to continue considering the implications of the bill, stating, “I shall look to see how [the bill’s] inequalities and inconsistencies can best be
addressed. I will reflect further on all the issues raised in the light of the views constituents are putting to me, and the wider public debate.”

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