In my view marriage is one of the most important institutions we have. The underpinning principles of long term commitment and responsibility bind people and society together and make it stronger. I am pleased by the commitments made to marriage by, for example, enabling married couples to transfer £1,190 of their tax-free income to their husband or wife where the highest earner is a basic rate taxpayer.
With regard to the value of integration, the recent Casey Report argued that that too many people in this country have been living parallel lives and not integrating or embracing the shared values that make our country great. For far too long politicians have failed to address this issue and it is right that this is now being properly explored. I welcome the 'Integrated Communities Strategy' Green Paper which sets out a framework of national priority actions to address the drivers of poor integration and to put forward a local approach. I am optimistic that this will mean we can continue to build a Britain that is fit for the future.
I entirely appreciate that there are concerns from religious organisations about their right to maintain their own beliefs in religious schools. In fact, the Act includes measures to protect and promote religious freedom by enabling religious organisations to act in line with their doctrines and beliefs. As with any other issue, teachers are entitled to express their own faith or beliefs as long as they do so in a sensitive, balanced and professional way. Teachers in religious schools already do this on a range of issues such as divorce and contraception and the same guidance applies to same sex marriage. The Government remains committed to freedom of speech and has given firm assurance that being able to openly follow your faith is a vital freedom it will protect.