Minister for Equalities, Maria Miller and her opposite numbers Kate Green and Yvette Cooper were able to reach a compromise on a review on the future of civil partnerships. This meant that MPs were convinced not to back a so called ‘wrecking amendment’ to introduce straight civil partnerships.
At points during the day, PinkNews was receiving frantic phone calls from pro-equality Conservative MPs warning that Labour support or abstention on Mr Loughton’s amendments would scupper the bill in the House of Lords.
Tim Loughton, the anti-gay marriage Conservative MP who proposed the motion said that he did not propose it to derail the bill. He told MPs: “If the Government think it is right to extend marriage to everyone then it has to be right to extend civil partnerships to everyone too.”
He added: “This can only be good for improving stability for many more of the near three million opposite-sex couples who currently choose to cohabit but are in no formally recognised relationship.”
In the end, just 70 MPs voted with Mr Loughton, significantly less than had been feared before Mrs Miller and Labour were able to agree on the wording for the clause promising a civil partnerships review.
Mrs Miller told MPs: “We have to show our commitment to the ability of same-sex couples to be married.
“We have to show we are not diverted but we will make sure we consider, in full, the opportunities of extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.”
Despite widespread fears that passing opposite sex civil partnerships would wreck the same-sex marriage bill, Peter Tatchell argued that it should have been passed: “Heterosexual couples have a right to a civil partnership,” he said.
“Banning them is wrong. This issue is all about equality. Just as gay couples should be allowed to marry, straight couples should be permitted to join together in a civil partnership. There should be no discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law”
In further debates, Hugh Robertson, a minister at the DCMS, said that there would be a review of whether teachers and schools can be exempted from equality legislation that relates to same-sex marriage.
MPs also voted against a motion to grant civil registrars the ability to ‘opt-out’ of same-sex marriage for religious reasons. An attempt to regard a rejection of same-sex marriage as a ‘protective characteristic’ under the Equality Act was similarly rejected.
Sir Gerald Howarth said: “I fear the playing field is not being levelled I believe the pendulum is swinging so far the other way, and there are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this [equal marriage] as but a stepping stone to something even further.”
Later today, the bill receives its third reading. MPs are expected to vote overwhelmingly in favour of the bill. It will then transfer to the House of Lords in approximately two weeks time.