The equal marriage bill for England and Wales is set to return to Parliament next week, here’s a simple guide to what happens next in the process.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will go to the House of Lords for Report stage on Monday 8 and Wednesday 10 July, when further amendments will be introduced, some of which will aim to derail or wreck the bill’s progress.
Included in the 136 amendments already put forward is one by Lord Dear, who has already attempted to wreck the bill in two previous amendments, which could effectively make the bill defunct by separating straight and gay couples’ marriages in definition, in order to protect those holding a “traditional view” of marriage.
A second amendment by Lord Dear would mean the bill would strengthen the right of teachers to express personal beliefs around equal marriage.
Lord Singh of Wimbledon has also tabled an amendment to the bill calling for a referendum on the issue of same-sex marriage, which would mean that even if passes at all stages, the law would not come into effect until voters approved it in a referendum. It is unclear whether voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland would be able to vote on the issue, despite that the bill only affects people in England and Wales.
Other positive amendments include an amendment by Labour peer Lord Alli who has tabled a new amendment to the bill which is identical to an amendment to the Pensions Bill by Green MP Caroline Lucas, and would give equal provision of survivor benefits for same-sex couples.
On 31 May, Out4Marriage launched the LobbyALord website, which is a free service which makes it easy for members of the public to lobby Peers on the issue. The site was tweeted by Stephen Fry, and was mentioned by peers during Committee stage.
James-J Walsh of Out4Marriage, said: “It is now more important than ever to make our voices heard, and push the equal marriage bill through the final stages of Parliament.
“Users have already sent thousands of lobbies though LobbyALord, but there is still more to be done. LobbyALord is gimmick free, and does not ask for donations. It is simple to use, and includes resources to show which peers are for and against equal marriage.
“We are calling for all equal marriage supporters, whether LGBT or straight/heterosexual to contact a peer using our new simpleLobbyALord.org website, as well as talk about the debate on social media and other websites too using #LobbyALord”.
After it completes the Report stage, the bill will go through its Third Reading on 15 July. If passed in its Third Reading, the bill will be different to that which passed in the House of Commons, so will return there to for approval.
If the House of Commons makes changes, the bill returns to the House of Lords, and can go back and forth until both are agreed. This process is known as parliamentary ping pong, and is scheduled for 16 and 17 July, when Parliament goes into recess. If the process is not agreed by then, the bill cannot be debated again until late into 2013.
Once eventually passed in both Houses, the bill will be given Royal Assent, before coming law, however it is unlikely that Royal Assent will be given until after summer recess.