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MPs pass same-sex ‘marriage’ bill

— Opponents want Peers to reject legislation for Wales, England, as they believe the government has no mandate

The House of Commons voted on Tuesday to allow same-sex ‘marriage’ in England and Wales, despite 161 MPs opposing the government’s plans.

With the leadership of all three main parties backing the bill, the bill it now go before the House of Lords where opponents hope UK peers will be able to stop it. Opponents of the bill in the Commons have called on the Lords to veto it, claiming that, because it was not in any party manifesto or the coalition agreement they, have no obligation to pass it.

However, Prime Minister David Cameron has said he hopes it will become law soon, with the first ceremonies taking place by next summer. The bill says religious organisations would have to ‘opt in’ to offering weddings, with the Church of England and Church in Wales being banned in law from doing so.

 

Rebels

Welsh Secretary David Jones and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson voted against their government’s bill at its third reading. They were joined by 10 junior ministers. In total 133 Tories opposed the bill, along with 15 Labour MPs, four Lib Dems, eight Democratic Unionists and an independent.

The bill’s third reading was backed by 366 MPs, giving it a majority of 205.

Conservative critics had tabled a proposal to allow heterosexual couples enter into civil partnerships, if same-sex couples were allowed to get married but this was defeated, with MPs instead backing a Labour plan to consult on changing civil partnerships.

 

Church opposition

The Archbishops of Westminster and of Southwark recently pleaded with MPs to ‘think again’ about the consequences of the same-sex marriage bill before the vote.

A conscience clause in marriage legislation, backed by the Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster, was voted down this week by MPs.

Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark said the change in the law is ‘far more profound than first appears,’ and will change the meaning of marriage so that openness to children ‘is no longer central.’

The archbishops also said the bill as currently drafted poses ‘grave risks to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.’

Archbishop Smith also signed a letter from a group of senior Christian leaders warning that changing the definition of marriage could have a ‘chilling effect’ on young people seeking careers as teachers and doctors.

 

— This story ran in full in the May 24 print edition of the SCO

 

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