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Updated: House of Commons approves marriage equality bill

Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

Updated to correct date of IL Senate hearing and to include results of House of Commons vote

The UK House of Commons will debate proposed marriage equality legislation today prior to to a second vote on the measure, formally known as a second reading.  The bill, which would allow same-sex couples access to civil marriages and provide transsexual individuals with the ability to have their acquired gender legally recognized without ending their marriage, had its first reading a few weeks ago.

The marriage equality bill is being pushed by the Conservative government of Prime Minister David Cameron, and is expected to pass today’s vote, although several Conservative members of parliament (MPs) remain opposed.

Today, three top members of Cameron’s cabinet, George Osborne, chancellor of the Exchequer, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Home Secretary Theresa May, published a letter in the Daily Telegraph explaining their support for the legislation:

“Civil partnerships for gay couples were a great step forward, but the question now is whether it is any longer acceptable to exclude people from marriage simply because they love someone of the same sex.

“Marriage has evolved over time. We believe that opening it up to same-sex couples will strengthen, not weaken, the institution. As David Cameron has said, we should support gay marriage not in spite of being Conservatives, but because we are Conservatives.”

According to the Guardian, the bill should easily pass its second reading thanks to the support of Conservatives loyal to Cameron as well as Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs who are expected to vote in favor of it.  (The progressive blog LabourList reported that 218 Labour MPs are expected to vote in favor of the bill, 14 will vote against it and three will abstain.)  Still, The Guardian noted that nearly half of the 303 Conservative MPs in the House of Commons may vote against the bill or abstain from voting.

You can watch the parliamentary vote on the bill here.  The Guardian is also conducting a live blog on the proceedings on their website.

In another bit of marriage equality news, closer to home, Illinois state Senator Heather Steans told the Peoria Journal Star that the Illinois Senate Executive Committee will vote on a marriage equality bill today.  The same committee approved the bill by a 8-5 vote in the last legislative session, albeit with different members.  Last week, Senate President John Cullerton said he would like to hold a full floor vote for the measure on Valentine’s Day.  A livestream of the committee proceedings can be found here.

Update (2:30 pm Eastern): The House of Commons has passed by marriage equality bill on its second reading by a 400-175 vote.

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