Now that the Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Bill has passed its Second Reading and gone to committee stage, watch for those who voted against (or abstained on) the Second Reading to become the focus of vitriol - especially those from the Labour and Liberal Democrat benches.
22 Labour MPs and 4 Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the Bill whilst 16 Labour MPs and 7 Liberal Democrat MPs abstained. Not all those who abstained or were absent will have been opposed to the measure but, given the stated position of some of them, it would seem likely that the majority are.
There is already a list of the MPs on the New Statesman website and a comment about the "Pope checking the lists", I feel that the ones checking the list will be those who wish to bash those who voted against rather than in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill.
A large number of the MPs do appear to be Roman Catholic but there are other names who appear who are not and, indeed, would not be considered necessarily religious.
As someone who is firmly on the left of the party political spectrum, it gives me great encouragement to see that others are willing to question both the hasty legislative process which has been brought to bear on this matter (no Green Paper or White Paper) which has no mandate from the electorate and also to challenge the libertarian political drive which seems to lie behind this and so much other legislation.
As with the MPs who have voted against from a religious background, it is because of my faith that I became involved in politics and I find it constantly fascinating that those who claim faith but then allow their politics to redefine it become no different in their voting patterns to those who have never claimed be driven by anything other than a libertarian approach to politics. So you will have an MP, such as Mark Menzies (Conservative MP for Fylde), arguing that he can hold the Catholic view on marriage and vote for this Bill, as if the Church's teaching is somehow divorced from the world in which we live.
I have been involved in several conversations with people in favour of this legislation who say they can't understand how somebody who holds the views I do on politics in general can be "so homophobic" about this. When did it become homophobic to hold that marriage is between a man and a woman? Of course, I point out to them that my views in this case are consistent with all my other beliefs which, interestingly, they also don't share. My opposition to: the increasingly vengeful nature of our nation's Criminal Justice system; the appalling effects that the benefit cuts are having upon working people whose pay is so low that they have to rely upon others to help pay their rent - even with housing benefit - for often badly maintained private flats; the constant prejudice visited on Gypsies and Travellers with laws being passed to make their traditional lifestyles even harder to live; the easy racist language used against foreign workers in our country; the petty-minded 'Little England' mentality when any discussion is had about the EU (which I have my own problems with, but not in a kneejerk way); the appalling effects that the constant interfering with the NHS has had upon patient care and the morale of NHS workers; the scapegoating of poor families in rundown areas as being the authors of their own misfortunes, despite constant investigations showing this to be untrue. I could go on but won't.
My point is that many of those claiming to be liberal on this issue are among the most illiberal when it comes to almost every other policy.
As with abortion, I can state clearly that my views on marriage would not be different if I did not have my faith, I believe that these are matters that can be intellectually formed within and without a faith community. I suppose the biggest fight we have on our hands is that against those who will assure us that they will fight for our right to hold our views but oppose us whenever we try to argue for them in the public sector - needless to say, a position that does not obtain for themselves.
So, to those who voted against this Bill, and those, like Stephen Timms (Lab, East Ham) who abstained but spoke against the Second Reading, I offer encouragement and thank them for their courage. It is because of parliamentarians like them that I still have hope for our political system.