Equality rights for gays and lesbians to marry have taken one step closer to being recognized in the UK.
MPs have approved same-sex marriage in England and Wales in a key Commons vote, despite the opposition of almost half the Conservative MPs.
The Commons voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, by 400 to 175, a majority of 225, at the end of a full day’s debate on the bill.
Prime Minister David Cameron has described the move as “an important step forward” that strengthens society.
One battle won, but the war is not over. The House of Lords has the opportunity to make amendments to the bill before it gets to its final stage.
Conservative MPs have warned David Cameron that he had won a battle but not the war on gay marriage as they vowed to seek big changes to the Bill that will legalise it. Ministers are privately nervous the House of Lords will water down the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill and that a majority of Tory MPs might back key changes sought by peers, which Mr Cameron would then seek to overturn in the Commons. “We are expecting problems in the Lords,” one minister admitted.
Tory opponents of the measure said peers would feel emboldened to defeat the Government because more Tory MPs voted against the Bill than supported it when it received a second reading on Tuesday night.
The Bill’s next hurdle will be when it is discussed in detail by a committee of MPs. Rebel Tories have already begun tabling a flood of amendments. They will seek further safeguards to prevent churches including the Church of England being forced to carry out gay marriages if a case were taken to the European Court of Human Rights; provision for Parliament to reconsider the issue if the ECHR intervenes; more protection for public sector staff who object to same-sex marriage; and the idea of a “civil union” for both heterosexual and gay couples.
In the meantime, the world has not ended.