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Topics In the News
 
Stunning Victory in the House of Lords
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 06/04/13
Last updated on: 06/07/13
 
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On June 4, 2013, the House of Lords averted a constitutional crisis by approving the U.K.'s marriage equality legislation at second reading. It rebuffed an attempt to kill the bill by a lopsided 390 to 148 vote. It now goes to the committee stage, where it may be amended but is unlikely to be rejected. Lord Alli of Norbury, the openly gay media magnate who helped manage the bill in the House of Lords, described the rejection of the fatal amendment "a stunning victory."

Although Lord Alli and other proponents of same-sex marriage were cautiously optimistic that the legislation would be approved on second reading, the overwhelming vote against an attempt by Lord Dear, the former Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, to defeat the bill took many observers by surprise. Among the peers who took part in the debate, the speakers were roughly equal in favor and in opposition to the legislation.

It was believed that had Lord Dear's amendment passed, a constitutional crisis would have arisen. Had the Lords obstructed a bill that had been passed overwhelmingly in the Commons, not only would the government have invoked the Parliament Act, which would assure that the marriage equality bill becomes law even without having passed the Lords, but there would also have emerged a movement to severely limit the power of the House of Lords or abolish it entirely.

While the lopsided passage of the bill in the Lords means that marriage equality is almost certain to become law, it is likely that attempts will be made to amend the bill at the committee stage, where it is scrutinized line-by-line.

During the debate, Lord Alli, a Labour peer, praised Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron for his "huge amount of personal courage" in advancing equal rights. He told his fellow Lords that "everyone deserves the right to have their love recognized by the state."

Following the vote, he said "There can be no doubt that the public, the House of Commons, and now the House of Lords are in favor of marriage equality. Those opposed to this bill should listen to the overwhelming voice of the majority, not just in both Houses of Parliament, but across the country."

Liberal Democrat Baroness Liz Barker, who came out in the debate in the Lords, revealing for the first time publicly that she is in a same-sex relationship, told PinkNews, that in approving the same-sex marriage legislation the House of Lords "showed its generosity, spirit, relevance, and understanding of young people."

Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell also commented, saying: "This is a victory for love, marriage and equality. We are another step closer to our goal of equal marriage. It signals that the House of Lords accepts the principle that we should all be equal before the law."

James-J Walsh, Director of Campaigns at Out4Marriage, also praised the victory, but noted that there are other battles that must be won in the House of Lords "before Equal Marriage is Law."

One of the strongest supporters of marriage equality in the House of Lords is Labour peer Oona King, Baroness of Bow, who made a video for the Out4Marriage Campaign.

The video below documents the competing demonstrations by gay marriage proponents and opponents in front of Parliament as the House of Lords debated the issue on June 5, 2013. At the 3 minute, 30 second mark of the video, the announcement is made that the "wrecking amendment" tabled by Lord Dear has been resoundingly defeated.

 
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