The Public Bill Committee of the House of Commons – made up of MPs who both have spoken against and in favour of LGBT equality – begins the task of scrutinising the government’s equal marriage bill for England and Wales this afternoon.
The bill will now receive greater parliamentary scrutiny with LGBT stakeholders being asked to share their thoughts about the bill – after the committee has completed its work – the bill will then be subjected to another vote (third reading) by MPs and it will then undergo a similar process in the House of Lords.
Despite last week’s convincing endorsement by the House of Commons, LGBT campaigners and political commentators have warned that smooth passage of the bill through the Lords is by no means a certainty.
Peter Tatchell has already warned that equal marriage opponents in the Lords could attempt to derail the legislation as part of a last-ditch stand.
Attempts to scupper the bill by proposing additional amendments are unlikely to de-rail the bill in its entirety– but they could succeed in lengthening the legislative timetable.
Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg told PinkNews in December that he was hopeful the first same-sex marriages would be able to take place by the summer of 2013.
The Coalition Government has already set a deadline of the end of the current parliament to introduce equal marriage in England and Wales.
Gay rights charity Stonewall will also give evidence.
The committee is made of MPs who both have spoken against and in favour of LGBT equality, including openly gay MPs such as Labour’s Ben Bradshaw, Chris Bryant and the Liberal Democrats’ Stephen Gilbert.
Tory MPs who voted against supporting the (Marriage Same Sex Couples) Bill in last’s week vote, including former children’s minister Tim Loughton, backbenchers Kwasi Kwarteng and David Burrowes, are on the committee along with staunch Conservative advocates of the bill, most notably Equalities Minister Helen Grant, backbenchers Jane Ellison, Simon Kirby, Hugh Robertson and the government whip Desmond Swayne – who was also David Cameron’s former Parliamentary Private Secretary.
Labour’s shadow equalities minister Kate Green, along with pro-equal marriage Labour backbenchers Siobhain McDonagh, Alison McGovern and Jonathan Reynolds are also on the committee.
Labour MP Jim Hood and Conservative MP Gary Streeter, who both abstained in last week’s vote, are the committee’s two chairmen.