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Marriage equality bill survives amendment process in House of Commons, moves to final vote today

Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

After a contentious day of debate and several votes, the UK House of Commons added amendments to a proposed marriage equality bill and avoided additions seen as poison pills to kill the legislation, the Guardian reports.

In February, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passed the House of Commons by an overwhelming margin of 400 to 175.  During yesterday’s debate, however, LGBT advocates were concerned that an amendment proposed by Tim Loughton, an anti-marriage equality Conservative Member of Parliament (MP), might derail the bill.  Loughton’s amendment, which would have made civil partnerships available to all couples regardless of sexual orientation, rather than only same-sex couples, was voted down 375-70.

Critics of Loughton’s amendment, among them Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative government, said that the measure would add £4 billion to the cost of the marriage equality bill (in the form of pension payments to civil partners) and could have delayed implementation of the change for several months.

While Cameron and his supporters were ultimately successful in defeating Loughton’s proposal, they were nevertheless forced to make a dramatic last-minute request to Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who was planning to abstain on the measure, to move against the amendment.  Many Labour MPs had expressed support for the proposal, and in return for Miliband’s support, Cameron’s government agreed that it would begin an immediate review into whether civil partnerships should be extended to opposite-sex couples.  That review, which equalities minister Maria Miller said might result in the abolition of all civil partnerships (after the passage of marriage equality), was initially to take place no more than five years after the marriage bill’s passage.

In another dramatic move, more than 100 Conservative MPs voted against Cameron by backing an amendment that would have permitted registrars to opt out of marrying same-sex couples.  Another vote intended to protect the religious beliefs of any opponent of marriage equality also failed.  According to Pam’s House Blend, two friendly amendments were approved: one which would protect religious officials from lawsuits and another which could pave the way for same-sex weddings in the Church of Wales.

The House of Commons will consider additional amendments today and will then hold a third reading and final vote on the bill.  If it is approved, it will proceed to the House of Lords in two weeks time for further consideration.

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