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British lawmkers vote in favor of marriage equality bill

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

LONDON — A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Britain cleared a major hurdle Tuesday, as lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the proposals championed by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The vote in the House of Commons – 400 to 175 in support of the proposed legislation – will be followed by more detailed parliamentary debates. The proposals also require the approval of the House of Lords before they become law.

The process could take months, but if approved, the bill is expected to take effect in 2015 and enable same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies, provided the religious institution consents. The bill also lets couples who had previously entered into civil partnerships convert their relationship into a marriage.

“Tonight’s vote shows Parliament is very strongly in favor of equal marriage,” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said. “I genuinely believe that we will look back on today as a landmark for equality in Britain.”

The lopsided vote was a qualified victory for Cameron, with around half of his party’s lawmakers rejecting the proposals or abstaining. Nonetheless, strong support from the left-leaning Labour Party and Liberal Democrats party ensured the Commons approval.

After the ballots were counted, Cameron acknowledged that “strong views exist on both sides,” but said the result was a “step forward for our country.”

Officials have stressed that all religious organizations can decide for themselves if they want to “opt in” to holding gay weddings. However, the Church of England, the country’s official faith, is barred from performing such ceremonies.

That provision aims to ensure that the Church, which opposes gay marriage, is protected from legal claims that as the official state religion it must marry anyone who requests it.

Currently, same-sex couples only have the option of a civil partnership, which offers the same legal rights and protections on issues such as inheritance, pensions, and child maintenance.

Supporters say that gay relationships should be treated exactly the same way as heterosexual ones, but critics worry that the proposals would change long-standing views about the meaning of marriage.

Stonewall UK Chief Executive Ben Summerskill called the vote “a truly historic step forward,” and said he was “absolutely delighted that MPs have demonstrated so overwhelmingly that they’re in touch with the twenty-first century.”

“We anticipate, as always, a tough battle in the House of Lords. Happily, the size of the Commons majority seen tonight – much larger than for most normal Government business – will make it very difficult for peers to suggest that the Bill should be rejected,” said Summerskill.

Critics charge that the measure would change long-standing views about the meaning of marriage. Some Conservatives also fear the proposals would cost the party a significant number of votes in the next election.

The bill’s provisions apply only to England and Wales — there are no plans for similar legislation in Northern Ireland. Scotland is considering introducing a similar bill.

If passed, the bill’s provisions would come into effect in 2015, ahead of the next British general election.

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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30 more reader comments:

  1. Rule Britannia!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:23pm
  2. Woot woot!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:23pm
  3. YAY!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:24pm
  4. YAY!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:24pm
  5. Hip hip hooray!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:25pm
  6. Does anyone know… does it stand a chance of passing in it’s next stage?

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:25pm
  7. That’s such great news!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:26pm
  8. i think America needs to catch up

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:26pm
  9. See now that is how it should bedone.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:27pm
  10. wow 400-175 passed bigtime!! wtg brits!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:27pm
  11. woooo hooo!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:27pm
  12. It’ll pass. The conservatives in Europe are liberals compared to conservatives in this country. Ours will result in Supreme Court intervention.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:29pm
  13. Woohoo.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:32pm
  14. Prouda us!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:32pm
  15. Rule Britannia

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:35pm
  16. Good Job ENGLAND :)

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:35pm
  17. Expat here I come.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:35pm
  18. US should catch up in June, with a US Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:37pm
  19. Second Reading, get your facts right, its not law yet. http://www.stonewall.org.uk/media/current_releases/8461.asp

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:38pm
  20. C’mon US..quit being so lame!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:40pm
  21. Good for the UK but what about the US? I wanna get married some day and NOT have to travel to do it!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:43pm
  22. At least one country recognizes that you can not legislate who a person loves.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:56pm
  23. NO, it was NOT passed. It’s NOT law yet. LGBTQ Nation, check your facts and learn about UK legislation process. This was only a first reading. It now has to go to the parliamentary committee and then face more votes.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 12:57pm
  24. @Jesse Bachir More votes? Could the bill still be voted out then?

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 1:01pm
  25. It’s a step in the right direction but we’re not there just yet

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 1:05pm
  26. Highly unlikely that it would not pass after obtaining a 400 to 175 vote, and being backed by the prime minister

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 1:06pm
  27. Thanks for the answer.:)

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 1:14pm
  28. Awesome

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 1:15pm
  29. Get in!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 1:36pm
  30. Now if everyone could afford a trip to England, then it would be ok!!!!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 2:06pm