Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK
2013-JUL: The bill returns to the house, is passed,
and receives Royal Assent. First same-sex marriages
are expected in mid-2014.
This is a continuation from an earlier essay.
In this web site, the term "SSM" means "same-sex marriage."
House of Lord's version of the bill returns to the House of Commons for a vote:
Since the original version of the bill that had been passed by the House of Commons was amended by the House of Lords, the latter version had to return to the Commons for a second vote. This process sometimes results in "Parliamentary Ping-Pong" -- passing the bill between the two Houses for multiple votes until a final compromise version is accepted by both. Some commentators were dubious about the process ending in a law for many months.
Preceding the debate in the Commons, David Burrowes (Conservative) had tabled an wrecking amendment in an attempt to delay the inevitable. However, other Members of Parliament extended the length of their speeches in order to use up all available debating time. Burrowes' amendment was not debated and voted upon. 1 The bill then returned to the House of Commons.
During the debate in the Commons, Equalities Minister Maria Miller said the passing of the bill was a:
"... clear affirmation' that 'respect for each and every person is paramount, regardless of age, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexuality."
Conservative MP Sir Gerald Howarth, one of the bill's opponents, said that it was
"... astonishing that a bill for which there is absolutely no mandate, against which a majority of Conservatives voted, has been bulldozed through both Houses. ... I think the government should think very carefully in future if they want the support of these benches. Offending large swathes of the Conservative Party is not a good way of going about it."
To the surprise of many, the House of Commons accepted the House of Lord's version the next day, 2013-JUL-16. Queen Elizabeth II gave her royal assent to the bill the next day -- JUL-17 at 15:06 local time. 1 Interestingly, the Queen is both head of state and leader of the Church of England. Parliament had approved same-sex marriage, but the Church of England fought same-sex marriage until the first vote in the House of Lords indicated that their cause was hopeless. The Church then left the debate to others. The Church leadership may have felt a degree of conflict of interest.
The bill formally became law on 2013-JUL-17 after the royal assent was announced in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. 1 John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, announced in the chamber:
"I have to notify the House in accordance with the Royal Assent 1967 that Her Majesty has signified her Royal Assent to the following acts. ... Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill." 1
The bill becomes effective -- and the first same-sex weddings will take place -- during mid-2014. The delay is caused by some unfinished decisions, including harmonizing pensions. Also, the government computer systems have to be altered to handle same-sex spouses.
England and Wales thus became either the 15th -- or the 15th and 16th -- countries in the world to legalize SSM everywhere within their borders -- depending on how one defines "country." In addition, Mexico and the United States have made SSM available within some of their states and not others.
Members of House of Commons responded with loud cheers. 2
Reactions to marriage equality becoming law:
- Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative) tweeted:
"After a long parliamentary process, gay marriage became law tonight – something I believe we can be proud of as a country."
Earlier, he had said:
"There will be girls and boys in school today who are worried about being bullied and concerned about what society thinks of them because they are gay or lesbian. By making this change they will be able to see that Parliament believes their love is worth the same as anyone else’s love and that we believe in equality. I think this will enable them to stand that bit taller, be that bit more confident and I am proud of that.
And to anyone who has reservations, I say this: 'Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other.'
So I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative." 3
None of these further developments have occurred yet in any of the countries that have attained marriage equality.
- Paul Parker, recording clerk for the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain, said:
"It's wonderful to see same-sex marriage achieve legal recognition. Quakers see the light of God in everyone so we respect the inherent worth of each individual and each loving relationship." 8
- "Ra," an individual apparently named after the Egyptian sun God, posted a comment to the Pink News article that contained Sir Howarth's speech. Ra said, with tongue firmly in cheek:
"Just sending a quick note to say a big 'Thank You' for your support in getting equal marriage passed. This could not have happened without your input: your inane fears, homophobia, crazy and creepy ideas, and, especially, your temper tantrums and raging, which could not have provided more evidence to the insanity of your ilk’s reasoning to those sane and reasoned MPs and those in the House of Lords, and thus ensuring equal rights for all. I am surmising it must have been embarrassing for you and your kind; but be proud, you did a great job of it.
I will probably be marrying my partner of 15 year soon, and maybe I’ll send you an invite. But, don’t get your hopes up." 4
- Maria Miller, the Culture Minister, said:
"This is a historic moment that will resonate in many people's lives. I am proud that we have made it happen, and I look forward to the first same sex wedding by next summer." 7
- Yvette Cooper, the shadow women and equalities minister, said it was the:
"... time to celebrate and not discriminate." 5
- Paul Parker, a spokesman for The Society of Friends (a.k.a. Quakers) in Britain, issued a statement saying:
"The voice of minority faith groups has been heard on this. We respect others who do not yet share our view. For Quakers, this is a matter of religious freedom." 6
Reformed Jews and Unitarians are also long-term supporters of marriage equality in the UK.
- The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales issued a statement saying:
"The new act breaks the existing legal links between the institution of marriage and sexual complementarity.
This is a simple statement of the obvious: that marriage was previously confined to opposite-sex couples and will now be expanded include all gender combinations: one woman and one man, two women, and two men. The need for sexual complementarity in a loving, committed relationship doesn't make a lot of sense to same-sex couples.
The Bishops Conference continues:
"With this new legislation, marriage has now become an institution in which openness to children, and with it the responsibility on fathers and mothers to remain together to care for children born into their family unit, are no longer central. That is why we were opposed to this legislation on principle."
This is a statement acknowledging that same-sex couples are infertile, as are about 15% of opposite-sex couples. Now, instead of married couples consisting of a woman and a man being responsible for raising the children in their family -- whether they are conceived as the result of sexual activity by the couple or by artificial insemination, in-in vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, adoption, or children having been carried over from previous marriage(s), -- this responsibility will be extended to also include same-sex couples as well. Again, this is a statement of fact, but one that is in conflict with the Church's teaching on human sexuality. The Bishops' arguments, taken to their logical conclusion, would prohibit all marriages -- both opposite-gender and same-gender -- from adopting children, or raising children of previous marriages.
- Benjamin Cohen, the founder of the Out4Marriage campaign -- a pro-marriage equality group -- said:
"We are delighted that after five years of editorial campaigning and just three years after we received the support of the three main party leaders, same-sex marriage in England and Wales has been signed into law. Giving gay couples the right to marry will make our nation a more tolerant, open and welcoming place to live in and significantly increase the life prospects of so many people. It is absolutely fantastic that this change in the law, almost uniquely in the world, was proposed by a Conservative prime minister and his Liberal Democrat Deputy with the support of the Labour party leader. Sometimes politicians can work together for the common good and this is a stunning example of this.
Now we eagerly await the debate in the Scottish Parliament and look forward to politicians in Northern Ireland following Cameron, Clegg and Miliband in supporting gay rights. It will be ridiculous if some parts of the UK are more equal than others." 1
It seems that Northern Ireland is likely to remain a part of the UK which will not attain marriage equality for the foreseeable future.
The law will bring very few extra rights to same-sex couples. Civil partnerships, which have been legal in England since 2005, already gave them most of the rights, benefits, and protections of marriage. However, they will now be able to refer to their relationship as a marriage. This is really the main goal of the LGBT community. They will now be able marry in a religious ceremony by any faith group other than the Church of England that is willing to marry them. Transgender and transsexual individuals who are married will now be able to register a change in their gender without having to first divorce from their spouse.
In order to be married in a religious setting, both the clergyperson and the clergyperson's faith group would have to be in agreement with marrying same-sex couples. Either can deny access to marriage for such couples. Included in the law is the prohibition of the Church of England solemnizing same-sex marriages.
2013-JUL: Worldwide status of SSM among the English-speaking countries:
Among the predominately English-speaking countries of the world:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Joseph Patrick McCormick, "Equal marriage bill for England and Wales given Royal Assent and is now law," Pink News, 2013-JUL-17, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/
- "Gay marriage legal in Britain after royal assent," AFP, 2013-MAY-17, at: http://www.foxnews.com/
- James Park, "David Cameron: ‘Gay marriage is something I believe we can be proud of as a country’," Pink News, 2013-JUL-17, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/
- Scott Roberts, "Sir Gerald Howarth: The ‘wretched’ equal marriage bill was ‘bulldozed’ through Parliament," Pink News, 2013-JUL-17, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/
- "Britain legalizes gay marriage after Queen's approval," Associated Press, 2013-JUL-17, at: http://www.foxnews.com/
- "UK same-sex marriage bill becomes law with royal assent." The Age/Australia, 2013-JUL-18, at: http://www.theage.com.au/
- "Gay marriage legalised in England and Wales after Queen gives royal assent to parliamentary bill," AFP, 2013-JUL-18. at: http://www.abc.net.au/
- "Same-sex marriage becomes law in England and Wales," BBC, 2013-JUL-17, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/
Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2013-JUL-17
Latest update: 2013-NOV-05
Author: B.A. Robinson