Jul. 15, 2013 (TSR) – The equal marriage bill for England and Wales has cleared its highest hurdle and passed on Monday its Third Reading in the House of Lords.
The Lords resumed at 3pm, and the debate was brief. Amendments were added to hold reviews for pension survivor benefits for same-sex couples, humanist weddings and civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples.
Following closing speeches, both from those for, and against the bill, it was passed through its Third Reading without a vote, as opponents of the bill conceded defeat.
Those opposed to the bill spoke of regret, but said they commended those pushing it through, and accepted that it was an inevitability.
Politicians took to Twitter to express their support for todays’s events. Ed Miliband, Labour leader said; ‘I am proud the Lords has passed
#EqualMarriage, but the fight for equality isn’t over’.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minster, Nick Clegg said; ‘I didn’t think my
#equalmarriage pledge… could become law so quickly’.
The amendments added to the bill will be introduced by Culture Secretary Maria Miller MP in the House of Commons at 7pm tomorrow, and if accepted the bill will go on to receive Royal Assent, when the Queen is available to sign it, which is as soon as Wednesday 17 July.
The first marriages of same-sex couples will take place in England and Wales in spring 2014.
The House of Commons Path
On Tuesday 5 February 2013 the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Commons.
This is the first opportunity that MPs had to discuss the Bill in detail and vote on the proposals. We were delighted that MPs voted overwhelmingly to support marriage equality in England and Wales.
The final vote in favour of equal marriage was 400 to 175 – a majority of 225.
Following the Second Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in the House of Commons the Bill proceeded to Committee.
The first stage of the Bill Committee allowed individuals and organisations to give evidence and opinions about the Bill. Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill gave detailed evidence to the Committee on Tuesday 12 February.
The second stage of the Bill Committee allowed MPs – from all of the main political parties – to scrutinise the proposals in greater detail. MPs can look through each part of the Bill and table amendments.
The Report stage of the Bill took place on the 20 and 21 May 2013. This allowed MPs further opportunity to discuss and amend specific clauses of the Bill. A number of clear wrecking amendments were proposed and debated.
At the end of the first day of Report stage the House of Commons rejected an amendment – by 375 votes to 70 – designed to wreck the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. The amendment, tabled by vocal opponents of equality, would have resulted in significant delays to the Bill’s implementation.
Third Reading of the Bill took place on 21 May and gave MPs the opportunity to debate the Bill as a whole. The Bill passed its Third Reading vote in the House of Commons by366 votes to 161 free from any wrecking amendments.
The House of Lords Path
On 24 January 2013 Rt Hon Maria Miller MP introduced the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill to Parliament. The Bill set out the necessary legislation to extend the legal form of marriage to same-sex couples. On Tuesday 21 May the Bill passed its Third Reading vote in the House of Commons by 366 votes to 161 free from any wrecking amendments.
On 3 and 4 June the Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Lords. Lord Dear proposed a motion which would have effectively killed the Bill. On 4 June Lord Dear’s motion was defeated by 390 votes to 148. The Bill completed its Second Reading and continued onto Committee stage on 17 and 19 June, Report Stage on 8 and 10 July and Third Reading on 15 July.
The Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Lords on 3 and 4 June. In the debates loving and committed same-sex relationships were likened by some opponents to incest and bigamy. Lord Dear proposed a motion that would have effectively killed the Bill. On 4 June Lord Dear’s motion was defeated by 390 votes to 148, a majority of 242.
The Bill then received comprehensive scuritny during three full days of Committee debate on the floor of the House of Lords. Veteran opponents of equality sought to rename same-sex marriage as ‘civil unions’, allow teachers to opt out of teaching facts and enshrine in law that public servants can refuse to serve gay people.
The first day of Report Stage in the House of Lords took place on Monday 8 July. The debate went on until the early hours of Tuesday morning and a number of wrecking amendments were pushed to a vote by opponents.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern pushed a vote on amendments that sought to create two categories of marriage – one for opposite-sex couples and one for same-sex couples. This was a clear wrecking amendment which was defeated by 314 votes to 119.
Baroness Cumberlege then pushed a vote on amendments that would grant registrars, who are public servants paid for by all taxpayers, an opt out from solemnizing marriages of same-sex couples. We firmly opposed this amendment that would open the door to public servants denying a range of services to gay people, and other groups. The amendment was defeated by 278 votes to 103.
Lord Dear then pushed to a vote a ‘son of Section 28’ amendment that would ‘protect’ teachers from having to ‘endorse’ or ‘promote same-sex marriage’ in schools. We strongly opposed this amendment. It was defeated, late at night, by 163 votes to 32.
At around midnight Lord Elton pushed to a vote an amendment that would force couples converting their civil partnership to a marriage (which would be voluntary), who have already made a public and binding commitment to each other in front of a registrar and witnesses, to have a marriage ceremony. We firmly believed that such a ceremony should be optional and it would be wholly unnecessary to place financial and bureaucratic burdens on couples who view a conversion as a simple paper exercise. The amendment was defeated by 84 votes to 15.
A number of other unnecessary amendments were debated but not pushed to a vote on issues such as employment ‘protections’ for opponents of same-sex marriage, adultery, the public sector equality duty of the Equality Act 2010 and ‘protections’ for the ‘freedom of belief’ of opponents of same-sex marriage.
The second day of Report Stage took place on Wednesday 10 July. The debate, again, went late into the night as opponents of the Bill gave lengthy speeches about amendments that had already been debated, at length, at Committee Stage.
Lord Alli proposed amendments on reviewing the laws covering occupational pension schemes and same-sex couples.The Government Minister committed to discuss the potential of a review with other Ministers before Third Reading.
Lord Armstrong of Ilminster proposed an amendment which would allow for two classes of marriage – one for opposite-sex couples and one for same-sex couples – to be introduced in regulations once the Bill received Royal Assent. Many peers, rightly, took great issue with the amendment as the issue was debated at length on Monday and defeated by 314 votes to 119. Lord Armstrong withdrew his amendment.
Baroness Deech then pushed to a vote an amendment that sought to open up civil partnerships to family members and unpaid carers. We strongly opposed this amendment which sought to diminish the importance of civil partnerships and same-sex relationships. The amendment was defeated by 267 votes to 89.
Two amendments on education and schools were then debated. The first, proposed by the Bishop of Leicester, sought to provide ‘clarity’ for schools of a religious ethos aboutdiscussing same-sex marriage. This amendment was wholly unnecessary as it duplicated existing guidance which gives religious schools freedom to express their views on such issues. The Bishop of Leicester withdrew the amendment.
The second amendment, proposed by Earl Listowel, sought ‘evidence-based’ guidance to be sent to schools on the ‘implication’ of same-sex marriage on children. In his speech in support of the amendment Earl Listowel made gravely offensive statements about the ‘risks’ posed to children of same-sex parents. Stonewall strongly opposed this clear ‘son of Section 28’ amendment. Following a long debate the Earl of Listowel withdrew the amendment.
Lord Singh then proposed an amendment that sought to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage before the next general election. We strongly opposed this amendment which is both unnecessary but also had significant financial, and democratic, implications. After another lengthy debate Lord Singh withdrew the amendment.
Following the resounding defeat of previous wrecking amendments, peers opposed to the Bill decided not to move their amendments, including on ‘freedom of expression’ and the Equality Act 2010. The Government also successfully laid amendments on aspects of the Bill affecting trans people and their spouses.
The final stage in the House of Lords, Third Reading, took place on Monday 15 July. The Bill was approved by peers at Third Reading and now returns to the House of Commons for MPs to approve amendments laid in the House of Lords. Once both MPs and Members of the House of Lords have agreed, the Bill will be sent for Royal Assent. This is where the Queen signs a Bill therefore making it law. We expect Royal Assent as soon as Wednesday 17 July.