One of the few enjoyable moments at my alma mater was the Religious Studies lessons taught by John Pugh. What could have been a dull topic (especially to a young proto-gay leaning towards atheism) was livened up no end by his sense of humour which permeated every lesson. He once set an end-of-year exam consisting of multiple-choice questions, every one of which had a “gag” answer alongside three more serious possibilities (I can’t remember the question, but one of the answers was “Unshaven villains are impersonating priests!”). It’s the only time I’ve ever chuckled during an exam.
Since then, he’s left the world of teaching behind and is now the Liberal Democrat MP for Southport. By all accounts he’s done a decent job (although back in 2004 he said silly things about trains). So, it’s very disappointing to see that he is going to vote against the same-sex marriage bill tomorrow.
He has set out a very detailed argument explaining his opposition. Unfortunately, on closer inspection, he appears to have fallen for many of the talking points that gay marriage opponents have used to try and derail this change in the law.
He states: “The gain made by referring to a legally committed gay relationship as a ‘marriage’ rather than a ‘civil partnership’ strikes me as negligible.” There speaks a married heterosexual who has never had the legitimacy of his relationship questioned by anyone. Full marriage rights, rather than separate-but-not-quite-equal civil partnerships, send out the message that same-sex relationships are valued in exactly the same way as opposite-sex ones. That “negligible” gain will, in fact, be a big step towards full equality.
He thinks marriage should be reserved for “procreation”. Sorry childless couples, you have to get divorced!
He thinks it is a “threat to religious liberty”, despite the existence of protections in the bill (in a letter to the Times, three leading QCs are of the view that the so-called “quadruple lock” cannot be challenged in court).
Worst of all, he trots out the tired argument that it will inevitably lead to polygamous marriage being legalised in the future, similar to what happened in… nowhere.
Pugh concludes by stating that he is “tortured by the thought that I might be on the wrong side of history.” Him and about 142 others, at last count.