We’re having a hectic day here at PinkNews with multiple options ahead for the Marriage (same-sex couples) Bill. Here’s where we are:-
Conservative opponents of same-sex marriage are backing an amendment originally tabled by Tim Loughton among others to introduce opposite sex civil partnerships. They are primarily backing straight civil partnerships to derail the bill but many Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs support opening up civil partnerships to all couples.
Maria Miller, the Minister for Equality has proposed an amendment that would review the position of civil partnerships in five years. It is possible that the Government could decide then to abolish them completely (because few same-sex couples were still having them) or allow all couples to choose between the two forms of union. Conservative MPs are being urged to back this amendment.
Labour has proposed a manuscript amendment to Maria Miller’s amendment that would mean the Government opens up a consultation on straight civil partnerships. Yvette Cooper has said that this could take place before the legislative progress for the current bill is complete. Some Tory MPs who support equal marriage have told PinkNews that they will support this amendment. A senior Government source said that it was ‘relaxed’ about an immediate consultation.
Labour’s amendment can only be considered if Maria Miller’s amendment is passed first. Meanwhile Labour sources are telling PinkNews that they will only oppose Tim Loughton’s amendment (rather than abstain) if David Cameron and other Conservative supporters of equality back their amendment.
It is possible for all of the amendments to be passed even if they are contradictory, thus arming opponents in the House of Lords with the argument that the bill is confused and poorly drafted.
There is another alternative being suggested by MPs to PinkNews, that the Government ‘negotiates’ with Labour to agree a timetable for a consultation or a review of civil partnerships.
Downing Street has told PinkNews that David Cameron will make sure that the legislative progress continues after tonight’s votes, whatever the outcome. We were originally told that a decision on how to progress will be taken tonight, after the vote.
A vote on the opposite sex couples civil partnership amendments is likely at around 10pm.
(The entire PinkNews team has contributed to this guide)