Moments ago the United Kingdom's House of Commons voted 366-161 in favor of marriage equality legislation. This was the third and final reading for the legislation. The second took place in early February, passing by a similar margin, 400-175. This legislation would legalize same-sex marriages in Wales and England beginning in 2014, but not in either Scotland or Northern Ireland.
The Conservative Government, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, supported the measure, but allowed their MP's a "conscience vote." In February, over half of Conservative MP's voted against their own Prime Minister's legislation, and the result was similar today. (Update: A total of 128 Tory MPs voted against the bill, while only 117 voted in favor of it.) Six MPs voted both ways.The large number of Labour and Liberal Democatic MP's in favor provided the support necessary for passage and the huge margin of victory.
A mini-drama took place yesterday before the debate began and into the day. A Conservative member of Parliament had introduced an amendment to the legislation which would have made heterosexual couples eligible for civil unions (currently only same-sex couples can enter into a civil union. Marriage equality legislation as introduced would not have changed this.) Some viewed this amendment as a "poison pill" intended to derail the legislation because of its alleged financial implications. While the opposition Labour Party is in favor of such legislation and enough Labour MP's were thought to be willing to vote for the amendment so that in coalition with Conservative MP's who hoped to derail the legislation it might have passed, Labour leadership eventually decided to advise against their MP's voting for the amendment. It was defeated 375-70, effectively replaced with a provision to have a "thorough" and "immediate" review of civil unions by the Government.
An amendment to allow government registrars to "opt out" of performing same-sex marriages if they had conscience objections was defeated 340-190. An amendment to make believing that marriage is between a man and a woman a "protected characteristic of religion" was defeated 339-148. An amendment to "beef up" language in the legislation foribidding people from being penalized for not conducting a same-sex marriage also failed, 321-163.
The question of the monarchy even came up in debate today, specifically what would happen if a future Queen was a lesbian. Conservative MP Norman Tebbit queried
When we have a queen who is a lesbian and she marries another lady and then decides she would like to have a child and someone donates sperm and she gives birth to a child, is that child heir to the throne?I don't believe the issue was settled.
The bill is set to be presented in the Lords on Wednesday but they will not begin debating until June 3.While the House of Lords cannot ultimately veto legislation passed by the House of Commons, it can delay it up to one year. If they do not consent within one year, the legislation would then have to be reintroduced into the House of Commons where it could then be passed without the consent of the House of Lords. There is also the possibility of the legislation being approved - with amendments attached - by the House of Lords. This would, I presume, force it back into the House of Commons.
There are 760 members of the House of Lords. Of those, 220 are Labour, 90 are Liberal Democrats and 178 are Independents. With some Conservatives presumably willing to support their own Government these number suggest the necessary votes to pass it. But the House of Lords is regarded as quite conservative (as befits its name I suppose) so all I can get out of my research on what the House of Lords might do is that no one really knows what's going to happen.
Bottom line is that it could be just a couple months before the legislation becomes law, or it could be more than a year. One way or another though, it's going to happen. Or to put it another way, within the easily foreseeable future a homophobe in the Chunnel will be in deep trouble.