British Commons Approves Marriage Equality Bill

Jim Burroway

May 21st, 2013

In the end, it was Labour who saved the day for marriage equality — and for Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, whose party turned against him in the final vote on the same-sex marriage bill in Commons today. The vote wasn’t close — 366 to 161 — but the Tory vote went against their own party leader, 117-133. Already, British papers are talking about a considerably weakened Prime Minister, who was already playing defense after an associate characterized disgruntled Euro-skeptics and social conservatives in the party as “swivel-eyed loons.” (Nobody does political rhetoric like the British.)

The bill now goes to the House of Lords, where efforts to kill it are expected to continue. If it does manage to survive the upper House, marriage equality may arrive in England and Wales as early as the summer of 2014.


May 21st, 2013

The chances that the bill will die in the Lords are not particularly high. The main opposition groups are the Tories, DUP, UUP, Ukip and the Lords Spiritual, who have 247 Lords between them. The opposing camp consists of Labour, the Lib Dems and Plaid, who have 304 Lords between them. There are also 178 Crossbenchers, who have no affiliation to any party, plus 21 others, and of these 199 the anti-equality camp needs to get 134 on board to be sure of rejecting the bill. The pro-equality camp needs half that number, just 67.

Plus even if the bill is rejected by the Lords, all they can do is make amendments and return it to the Commons – unless it is within a few months of a general election the Lords cannot either kill a bill outright or (as happened with the 2010 Equality Act) force an amendment through. They can reject or amend a few times, but each time it gets returned to the Commons and ultimately the Commons can overrule the Lords under the Parliament Act. This will pass the bill into law without the Lords’ consent, and Cameron has already indicated that he will use the Parliament Act if the lords reject the bill.


May 21st, 2013

Incidentally, I’m feeling pleased as I just found out that my MP, who had abstained at previous votes, changed to side with equality this time round. Looks like the lobbying by my friends and I did some good after all.

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