A few days ago, I’d caught wind that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was being debated by the House of Lords in the UK. I’m happy to report that the debate is finished and that there is good news! The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was debated for two days, with many members voicing their concerns. Lord Dear insisted that the Same Sex Couples Bill would “completely alter the concept of marriage as we know it” and that the Bill was “ill thought through”, had no democratic legitimacy and was “fatally flawed.” Peers were allowed a free vote on an amendment which would effectively have wrecked the government’s plans to pass marriage equality. It was defeated by 390 votes to 148! Shortly afterwards, the bill was given a second reading without a vote taking place and will now go forward to more detailed scrutiny by peers. The result was greeted with cheers from same-sex marriage supporters gathered outside Parliament. The government is planning to introduce same-sex weddings next summer. Currently, same-sex couples can only form civil partnerships. Equalities minister Baroness Stowell of Beeston called the legislation a “force for good” which would strengthen marriage and that it protected both religious freedom and freedom of speech.
“I firmly believe that our society will be strengthened when more couples are able to choose to make a lifetime commitment to each other and when all members of our communities are able to celebrate their identity and relationships within the institution of marriage…” said Baroness Royall, Labour’s leader in the Lords
Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of the gay rights group Stonewall, said he was delighted:
“Britain’s 3.7 million gay people don’t deserve to be second class citizens in their own country. A tough fight lies ahead and we’ll continue to work tirelessly every single day to get equal marriage through the Lords.”
However, there is still some opposition. Colin Hart, Campaign Director for the Coalition for Marriage, said that 148 peers had “chosen to register their profound opposition to the gay marriage bill.”
“The government may have won the vote today but what was clear from the debate was the huge opposition to almost every part of the bill. We will continue to campaign to save traditional marriage and today’s vote and the concerns expressed by many peers mean we will be able to introduce safeguards that will protect teachers, registrars, chaplains and anyone who works in the public sector. If the government refuse to accept these changes, they risk losing the legislation at third reading.”