So, a historic day in the Commons this week and a huge step forward for LGBT rights. 400 MPs voted in favour of the Marriage (Same-sex Couples) Bill and 175 against so a clear majority of 225.
The issue has divided the Conservative Party with 136 MPs – almost half of it – voting against the Bill.
My local MP for Hastings & Rye, Amber Rudd, voted in favour I’m pleased to see.
This is the first stage of the process and the Bill will now go through the Commons Committee and then the House of Lords before it is passed so more detailed scrutiny, scribbled amendments and criticism to come. Many feel that it goes against the traditional definition of ‘marriage’ as a ‘union between one man and one woman’ and question whether it will destabilise marriage and biological parenting, arguing that it wasn’t part of the 2010 Conservative manifesto.
The Bill will enable same-sex couples to marry in a religious ceremony as well as in a civil setting as long as the church is in favour. At the moment gay couples cannot incorporate any religious readings or vows into a civil partnership. The Church of England, (Anglican) Church in Wales, Muslim Council of Great Britain and Roman Catholics are against the proposals. The Quakers, Liberal and Reform synagogues and the Unitarian Church are all in favour.
If the Bill goes through LGBT people will have two choices of ceremony – marriage and civil partnership while opposite-sex couples can only marry. What will it mean for the future of civil partnership? Will we see fewer ceremonies?
Thomas Duggins, associate at Charles Russell LLP thinks this is a possibility: “with marriage equality for all now seemingly secured (the size of the majority means that the Bill should pass through the Lords without issue), it will be interesting to see how popular civil partnerships remain and whether there will be increased pressure from heterosexual couples for the right to enter civil partnership, which would be true equality.”