United Kingdom

UK House of Lords backs same-sex marriage bill in third reading

Sonewall UK
Demonstrators outside the British Parliament celebrate after the House of Lords backs same-sex marriage.

LONDON — The upper chamber of the British parliament, the House of Lords, voted Monday to back the government plans to legalize same-sex marriage in England and Wales.

LGBT couples in England and Wales will be able to marry next spring, after the House of Lords moments ago approved the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill by a voice vote on its third and final reading.

Stonewall UK
Demonstrators outside the British Parliament celebrate after the House of Lords backs same-sex marriage.

Subject to possible amendments in the House of Commons – a technicality, since the bill had made it through the Lords without any material amendments – the Bill is expected receive Royal Assent, a formality where Queen Elizabeth II signs it into law.

LGBT advocates outside the British parliament greeted the news with cheers.

Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of the UK advocacy group Stonewall said: “It’s impossible to express how much joy this historic step will bring to tens of thousands of gay people and their families and friends.”

“The bill’s progress through Parliament shows that, at last, the majority of politicians in both Houses understand the public’s support for equality – though it’s also reminded us that gay people still have powerful opponents,” said Summerskill.

“Stonewall’s volunteers, supporters and staff have worked flat-out for equal marriage in England and Wales, and Stonewall Scotland’s campaign continues north of the Border. We’ll redouble our efforts in Scotland so that every single gay person in Britain will soon enjoy full equality,” he said.

Prominent British LGBT activist Peter Tatchell, called the vote “a defeat for discrimination and a victory for love and marriage.”

“After a 21-year-long campaign, we are now on the cusp of securing same-sex marriage,” said Tatchell.

“Ending discrimination against same-sex couples in marriage law will overturn the last major legal discrimination against LGBT people in Britain,” he said. “It is of huge symbolic importance; signalling that same-sex love has social recognition, acceptance and parity.”

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The bill passed Report Stage last week, and was already backed by the House of Lords in its previous votes on the two readings.

Previously the House of Commons, the UK’s lower chamber of parliament, backed the gay marriage bill in its third reading.

The bill applies only the England and Wales — Scotland is already in the process of legalizing marriage equality with a bill expected to be put to the vote later this year.

In Northern Ireland, lawmakers rejected a marriage equality draft bill, leaving it the only part of the United Kingdom with no plans to legalize same-sex marriage.

At 7 p.m. GMT, Maria Miller, the UK Culture Secretary Maria Miller will introduce the House of Commons to amendments added to the bill.

These include provisions to hold reviews of equal pension survivor rights, humanist weddings and civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples.

The House of Commons is expected to approve the bill unaltered by tomorrow evening, and then send it for “Royal Assent.”

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