Peers in the House of Lords have voted in favour of the equal marriage bill for England and Wales, with a large majority, following two days of heated debate around the issue.
The former Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, Lord Dear, had tabled a “fatal” amendment to deny the bill its second reading.
In voting against the amendment, with 390 votes to 148, a majority of 242, the House of Lords allowed the passage of the bill to committee stage.
It will now go on to committee in the Lords, where it will be scrutinised line-by-line on the floor of the Upper House.
A rally was held today from 5pm at the House of Lords in support of same-sex marriage. Yesterday’s rally was attended by actor Russell Tovey, Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green Mike Freer, Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Minister for Equalities, Yvette Cooper, Liberal Democrat peer Liz Barker and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
The debate, which began on Monday at 3pm, and went on until 10.45pm, resumed today, with passionate arguments both for and against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
As the debate heated up yesterday, many peers spoke passionately both for and against the bill, from Baroness Knight, who compared being gay to being blind, to gay Tory peer Lord Black, who said he had been with his partner for a quarter of a century, and wanted to get married, as he believed in family values, and from Lord Hylton, one of the few remaining hereditary peers left in the House of Lords, who said gay people had stolen the word ‘gay’ from its original meaning, to Baroness Barker, who stood to make a speech in which she spoke of her love for another woman – revealing publicly for the first time that she, herself, is in a same-sex relationship.
Reacting to the vote in favour of equal marriage, Baroness Barker said: “I think this is a very proud moment for the House of Lords, I think it has shown its generosity, and spirit. I think it’s show it’s relevance and understanding of young people.
“You never like to take things for granted, and the opposition to this has been highly well funded by these Evangelical Christian groups, and they’re very well organised at getting their propaganda around, so I didn’t take anything for granted at all”.
Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, Mike Freer said: “I welcome the successful outcome of the vote in the Lord’s. Wisely they took the view that the Commons had spoken loudly and overwhelmingly in support of allowing same sex couples to marry. It was pleasing to see so many peers embrace equality and reject the notion that same sex marriage would undermine marriage. At last gay couples will have full marriage equality in the eyes of the state.”
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, also commented, saying: “This is a victory for love, marriage and equality. We are another step closer to our goal of equal marriage. It signals that the House of Lords accepts the principle that we should all be equal before the law.”
James-J Walsh Director of Campaigns at Out4Marriage, said “It’s great that we have managed to influence so many Peers to support the equal marriage debate, but this was only the first of many battles we have to win in the House of Lords, before Equal Marriage is Law.”
He noted that potentially “disastrous” amendments could still be added to the bill, including one to exempt Registrars from having to perform same-sex ceremonies, and allowing teachers to put their personal beliefs ahead of a balanced view of both straight and gay couples.
“It’s vital that we don’t have any regression on what we have already achieved, and to do that we must make sure we keep the pressure up on the Lords, to priorities turning out to support this Bill, over their other commitments and day jobs, so that the right-wing elements of the House, do not outnumber our progressive peers”.