Although he will not be whipping all his MPs to vote for equal marriage, the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband has said that his entire shadow cabinet backs the move.
Mr Miliband said: “I am pleased that the government will finally bring forward legislation to allow equal marriage and that we have succeeded in making sure that religious organisations that want to carry out same-sex marriages will be able to do so. However, it is disappointing that the government is making same-sex marriage illegal in the Church of England.
“The Labour Party has a long and proud history of campaigning to end discrimination against same-sex couples and it is Labour votes which will ensure that this measure is passed in the House of Commons. This promises to be a step forward in allowing every couple who want to signify their commitment to each other by marrying to do so.
“The whole Shadow Cabinet is united in supporting same-sex marriage together with the vast majority of all Labour MPs.”
The Labour Party has signalled that it will now allow its MPs to have a free vote on the government’s equal marriage plans despite previously indicating that it would impose a three-line whip.
He said a whipped vote would make him instantly more inclined to rebel as it would go against “personal freedom”.
However, the party’s London Assembly Member Tom Copley has warned against allowing marriage equality to become a free vote for parliamentarians.
On Twitter, he said: “Allowing MPs of faith a get-out-of-the-whip free card on grounds of conscience brings religious privilege into the legislative process.”
The three-line whip arrangement was reported on the same day Labour leader Ed Miliband released an Out4Marriage video in September, where he called on the government to extend the right of religious institutions in providing marriages for gay couples.
Labour MPs such as Jim Dobbin, Joe Benton and Mary Glindon, who have already signalled their public opposition to marriage equality by signing a petition against the measure, would not be at risk of potential disciplinary action if they sided against Mr Miliband under a free vote.
David Cameron has already granted Tory MPs a free vote – a move which saw the prime minister criticised by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg earlier this year.
According to the Coalition for Equal Marriage‘s website, 164 Labour MPs are likely to vote for equal marriage, with 8 against, 2 are neutral, and 83 are unknown.