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Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK

2013-JUL: More wrecking amendments proposed.
Bill passes House of Lords' Third Reading intact.
Bill returns to the House of Commons for final vote.
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This is a continuation from an earlier essay.

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In this web site, the term "SSM" means "same-sex marriage."

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2013-JUL-15: Marriage bill passes third reading in the House of Lords:

During the third and final reading: 1

  • Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, expressed pride that the bill had reached third reading in the House of Commons. She hoped that there would be further discussions in the House of Lords about widening the options for the solemnization of marriages. The bill allows civil ceremonies and religious ceremonies by those clergy and faith groups who are willing to conduct them. Some have suggested a third option: that of secular marriages conducted by humanists. She also hoped that progress would be made on the eligibility for civil partnerships by opposite-sex couples.

  • Nick Herbert pointed out that religious freedom is a double-edged sword. It grants the freedom of clergy to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to marry them. But it also grants the freedom of clergy from more liberal faith groups to be free to marry same-sex couples. He said:

    "Religious freedom cuts both ways, and those who have rightly spoken on behalf of religious freedom cannot ignore the cause of religious freedom for Churches [sic] that do wish to conduct same-sex marriages. What about the Quakers, the Unitarians, or the liberal Jews; what about their religious freedom?"

    He also noted bias in public opinion polls, saying:

    "... all the independently conducted opinion polls -- not those conducted by the pressure groups opposed to the Bill -- [indicated] that a majority of the public support this legislation."

  • Jeffrey Donaldson of the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party said that:
    • His party is opposed to the bill.

    • Marriage had historically been limited to one man and one woman.

    • Marriage should not be redefined.

    • To redefine it would undermine one of the fundamental building blocks of society, and

    • Opposition to the bill is based on people's Christian beliefs.

He feared that SSM is a slippery slope that would eventually lead to the legalizing of polygamy.

  • David Borrowes criticized the bill because it had caused division within the Conservative Party and also within the country. He said of the bill:

    "There was no clear manifesto commitment, no coalition agreement on it and no Green Paper -- there was just a sham consultation [with the public] -- and there are no significant amendments to the Bill beyond the civil partnerships review. We have had programme motions that have denied all MPs the opportunity to scrutinise the Bill in detail. Consciences have been constrained." 2

The members of the House of Lords gave their assent to the bill without a final vote. The House was packed with members wearing pink carnations, symbolizing their support for marriage equality. Baroness Stowell said that it was a "historic" achievement.

Ben Summerskill is the head of Stonewall -- a LGBT-positive group. He said:

"It’s impossible to express how much joy this historic step will bring to tens of thousands of gay people and their families and friends.

The Bill’s progress through Parliament shows that, at last, the majority of politicians in both Houses understand the public’s support for equality – though it’s also reminded us that gay people still have powerful opponents."

The main opposition to the SSM bill has been the Coalition for Marriage (C4M). They have assembled a data base of about 700,000 supporters who signed C4M's petition to oppose marriage equality. They plan to target 39 closely contested seats in Parliament in the hopes of changing the results of the 2015 election. A main goal will be passage of new legislation that will allow marriage registrars to discriminate against same-sex couples by denying them services, and will allow teachers who want to openly attack same-sex marriage in their classes.

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Colin Hart, campaign director for C4M said:

"... the Coalition for Marriage has nearly 700,000 supporters, nearly six times the number of members of the Conservative Party.

They are just ordinary men and women, not part of the ruling elite. They are passionate, motivated and determined to fight on against a law that renders terms like husband and wife meaningless and threatens one of the foundations of the institution of marriage: fidelity and faithfulness.

These concepts may not matter to the leaders of the three main political parties, who are drawn from a very narrow liberal political class, but they do matter to people up and down the country who believe that [opposite-sex] marriage is special, unique and the bedrock of stable families."

Lord Alli thanked the House of Lords, saying:

"As a gay man, over those 15 years, you have changed my life. You have given me dignity where there was sometimes fear. You have given me hope where there was often darkness and you have given me equality where there was sometimes prejudice. This is a special place and I am proud to have figured in it."

Lord Cormack, who opposes marriage equality said:

"I want to congratulate all those who have campaigned for this measure upon their success. But in doing that I would just ask them to bear in mind that although this may be a day of unqualified rejoicing for them, there are many in our country who by no stretch of the imagination could be called either homophobic or bigoted who are unhappy about this Bill. They are unhappy about this Bill because it does strange the structure of society by changing the definition of marriage.

I hope that all those who enter into marriage under its new definition will indeed live happily ever after. But the sincerity of that wish in no sense prevents my saying to them I understand that you feel euphoric today but please have a thought for those who have different views.

Please have a thought to the many, not just thousands but millions of people in this country, for whom marriage will always be equated with what remains the Christian definition of marriage and I hope that in recognising that they will always remember the great Churchillian motto: 'magnanimity in victory'."

Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the web site PinkNews.co.uk:

"Of course … it has come about in a blaze of controversy [and] I think that was probably always going to be inevitable. [But] my own sense is once the bill is actually on the Statue Book and once you start seeing same-sex marriages up and down the country -– as I hope we see as quickly as possible -- then I think actually people will look back on it and think 'what was all the fuss about'. Very quickly it will seem entirely normal." 3

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill: Lords third reading," British Parliament, at: http://www.parliament.uk/
  2. "Library Note, "Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill'," House of Lords, 2013/011, at: http://www.parliament.uk/ This is a PDF file.
  3. John Bingham, "Gay marriage clears the House of Lords," The Telegraph, 2013-JUL-15, at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

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 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM > UK > here

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-JUL-05
Latest update: 2013-JUL-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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