As the House of Lords has just wrapped up Wednesday’s second day of debates around the equal marriage bill in its committee stage, here is the simple state of play on the bill.
After the Humanist wedding amendment was withdrawn by Lord Harrisson, and a well deserved dinner break, Lord Curry of Kirkharle introduced Amendment 20, which would require a congregation to ballot, in order to opt-in to performing same-sex wedding ceremonies. Amendment 20 was withdrawn.
Then Lord Singh of Wimbledon introduced Amendment 22, which would have added specific language to the effect that Sikh groups would have to opt in to equal marriage. After being asked to withdraw the amendment, he did so.
Amendment 23, which Lord Dear said was to protect school teachers who object to same-sex marriage was introduced.
Among peers arguing against the amendment was Lord Alli, who said “Teachers in all contexts need to teach the legal position”, rather than personal opinion. Lord Dear then withdrew his amendment, and Clause 8 of the bill was approved.
Lord Elton introduced 24C, which would have meant couples who had civil partnerships would need to go through another ceremony and vows, in order to be recognised as “married”. After a short debate, Amendment 24C was withdrawn.
The peers quickly approved Clause 9 of the bill, Amendments 25 and 26 were already withdrawn, and Lord Alli introduced Section 26A, which related to the recognition of marriage in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
A long drawn-out debate around the complexities of marriage in the devolved nations ensued, before Lord Alli withdrew the amendment, saying he will revisit it at the bill’s Third Reading.
Clause 10 of the bill was passed by the peers, before Amendment 27, relating to same-sex marriage ceremonies at sea was introduced by Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, and was supported by Lord Tunnicliffe, but later withdrawn.
It had added language which read: “Couples, whether they are of a different sex, the same sex, or non-gendered.”
Lord Tunnicliffe introduced Amendment 33A, which sought to remove gender from marriage, and looked at issues faced by intersex couples, which was later withdrawn, and Clause 11 of the bill was agreed.
Several Government amendments to Schedule 3 were accepted, and the Schedule was accepted by the peers.
Moving on to consummation, and adultery, Baroness Butler-Sloss, who said earlier this year that the Government should stop “faffing around with gay marriage”, said that “penetration only takes us half way there”, before withdrawing her amendments.
Wrapping up, noting comments made by peers including the words “anus”, and “penetration”, Baroness Stowell jokingly asked “how BBC Parliament would cope if this group of amendments came up before the 9 pm watershed,” to which Baroness Thornton responded: “They could turn the lights down.”
Debate at committee stage in the Lords will resume on Monday 24 June, and now there are just under 20 amendments remaining to be considered by peers. After committee stage, the bill will go on to Report stage on 8 and 10 of July, ahead of its Third Reading.
Any of the amendments withdrawn on Wednesday could be revisited at a later stage.