Current Affairs

UK: Labour MP Chris Bryant to introduce ten minute equal marriage bill

October 16, 2012
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Labour MP Chris Bryant’s decision to introduce a ten minute rule bill on equal marriage in the House of Commons has been described as the “first shot” in the parliamentary battle for marriage equality.

The bill will be introduced later this month on Tuesday 30 October.

It seeks “to remove restrictions on marriage and civil partnership, including the prohibitions on marriage between two people of the same sex, on civil partnership between two people who are not of the same sex… and on the use of religious premises for the solemnisation of certain marriages.”

Writing on his blog, the BBC’s political correspondent Mark D’Arcy has described Mr Bryant’s intervention as a method of getting the Commons to debate the issue “in order to demonstrate the level of support among MPs”.

Since this autumn’s party conference season, a growing number of public figures from across the political divide have urged the government to speed up its commitment to introduce marriage rights for gay couples against a sustained and high-profile backlash by religious leaders.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has accused the government of being slow to implement the measure and believes David Cameron needs to “show a bit of backbone” over the policy.

Last week, at the Conservative Party Conference, the PM’s officials gave a strong indication that David Cameron is keen to begin the legislative process once the government issues its formal response to this year’s public consultation, which is due to take place before Christmas.

Mr Bryant, who announced his intentions to table a 10 minute bill, before the party conferences took place, hopes it can force the Commons to hold a vote far sooner than the government’s preferred timetable.

However, political commentators say that it is exceedingly rare for 10 minute bills to become law due to their accurate time restraint.

MPs often use them instead to make a point about a particular subject.

The parliamentary logistics of the government’s equal marriage plans have been in the spotlight after Labour signalled that it was prepared to whip its MPs on the issue – following last month’s Out4Marriage video by Ed Miliband.

Earlier this year, Downing Street confirmed that Tory MPs would be granted a free vote.

However, Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the BBC’s Andrew Marr in May that it was right to make equal marriage a whipped vote and that the policy should not become a “free for all”.

More: 10 minute rule bill, Andrew Marr, BBC, Chris Bryant, Civil partnerships, Conservative Party, conservative party conference, David Cameron, England, equal marriage, gay marriage, Labour party, lib dems, marriage equality, MPs, Out4Marriage, private members bill, same sex marriage, Yvette Cooper

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