Yesterday’s debate on gay marriage shows a fundamental contradiction in government policy. On the one hand (for gay marriage), they argue that love, commitment and family unions come in different forms, all of which we should recognise and celebrate. They do, and we should. On the other (for tax breaks for married couples), they say only some couples deserve a tax break: those couples who are married, and one is mainly a homemaker and the other the breadwinner. These two arguments are impossible to reconcile: one is progressive and forward looking; the other is judgemental and harks back to a bygone age.
But perhaps more importantly, yesterday’s five hours of debate in the House of Commons, and the difficulties the Prime Minister has with his backbenchers, shows how hotly contested equal rights to marriage is. The dissenting voices remind us of the battle which campaigners have had to fight to get to this stage. The drive, commitment and passion they have shown to have their love fully recognised by the state is immense. This commitment is trivialised by a tax break for married couples. By offering a £150 a year to people who choose to marry, the government shows it doesn’t understand why people marry. People marry because they love each other. Simple as that.