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Topics In the News
U.K. Marriage Equality Assured
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 07/16/13
Last updated on: 07/17/13
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With its passage on third reading by voice vote in the House of Lords on July 15, 2013, followed by action in the House of Commons on July 16, the U.K.'s marriage equality bill is certain to become law, bringing equal marriage to England and Wales. After the House of Commons accepted amendments adopted by the House of Lords, the bill was sent to Queen Elizabeth II for royal assent. When that formality is granted, it becomes law. However, same-sex marriages will probably not be performed until next summer.

During the session on July 15, amendments were added to hold a review for pension survivor benefits for same-sex couples. But most of the debate consisted of closing speeches by both advocates and opponents of the bill. The passage of the bill by the House of Lords became a foregone conclusion with the stunning victory achieved on June 4, 2013, when the Lords approved the legislation at second reading and rebuffed an attempt to kill the bill by a lopsided 390 to 148 vote.

During the committee stage, so-called "wrecking amendments" were rejected, while a number of amendments to "tidy up" the bill's language were adopted. In addition, more substantive amendments, including reviews of humanist services and pension rights and protections for transgender couples, who will no longer have to divorce if one partner transitions to a different gender, were also accepted.

The foregone conclusion of the Lords' consideration on July 15 became apparent when the Archbishop of Canterbury earlier signaled that despite opposition from the Church of England, the bill would become law. In addition, the major organized group opposed to same-sex marriage, Christian Concern, cancelled a planned prayer rally against the legislation, acknowledging that they were powerless to block it. In contrast, as the Lords concluded their debate, the London Gay Men's Chorus serenaded supporters of the legislation.

Following the announcement of the bill's approval by the House of Lords, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said, "This vote is a defeat for discrimination and a victory for love and marriage. After a 21-year-long campaign, we are now on the cusp of same-sex marriage . . . . Ending discrimination against same-sex couples in marriage law will overturn the last major legal discrimination against LGBT people in Britain. It is of huge symbolic importance; signalling that same-sex love has social recognition, acceptance and parity.

Tatchell added, however, that "Our campaign isn't over yet. This legislation includes six discriminatory aspects, which we will seek to overturn in a subsequent bill."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is credited with being the first Party Leader to endorse marriage equality, also hailed the action of the Lords. Wearing a pink carnation as a symbol of his support, he told those gathered outside the Houses of Parliament, "I just wanted to come out . . . to really thank you for everything you have done to keep the politicians' feet to the fire so that they finally deliver this bill of equal marriage and make it an act of parliament this week."

He added, "It should be in my view, entirely unremarkable, and not unusual that people who want to express their love to each other and commemorate their love and celebrate their love--regardless of who they are, regardless of their sexuality, regardless of their gender--should be able to do so on an equal footing. Celebrating love in an equal way across society is what this is all about and I want to thank you for bringing this great change about."

Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband also celebrated the imminence of marriage equality in England and Wales. Writing in PinkNews, Miliband said, "I am proud that the House of Lords has now passed a bill that will allow everyone to marry the person they love."

In an unexpectedly early session of the House of Commons on July 16, 2013, the Commons approved the amendments offered by the House of Lords, deftly deflecting attempts to slow down the process by opponents. When the Queen grants royal assent, the marriage equality bill becomes law.

However, because of the number of regulations that need to be changed as a result of the new law, same-sex marriages will likely not take place until next summer.

Following the final approval by the House of Commons, Maria Miller, the Minister for Women and Equalities, said, "The completion of the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill through Parliament, undefeated in all aspects, is a tremendous achievement. Whilst this legislation may be about marriage, its impact is so much wider. Making marriage available to all couples demonstrates our society's respect for all individuals regardless of their sexuality. It demonstrates the importance we attach to being able to live freely. It says so much about the society that we are and the society that we want to live in."

After the vote, Labour's Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Minister for Equalities Yvette Cooper told PinkNews that she was extremely happy with the result.

"It's fantastic, the bill is finally through, it's on its way to Royal Assent; it's time to celebrate. This is time to celebrate, not discriminate, is what we've been saying throughout."

Among the numbers performed by the London Gay Men's Chorus in support of marriage equality is "Get Me to the Church on Time."

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