House of Commons officially passes marriage equality

Timothy Kincaid

May 21st, 2013

The House of Commons has now passed the third reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill by a vote of 366 to 161.

Altogether 133 Tories opposed the bill, along with 15 Labour MPs, four Lib Dems, eight Democratic Unionists and an independent.

So even after all the hand-wringing and fury about Prime Minister Cameron “betraying” the Conservative Party, less than half of the Tories voted in opposition to the bill.

Now it moves to the House of Lords. Expect some rather wacky statements.


May 21st, 2013

Again, a bit misleading. More Tories voted against the bill 133 than for it 117. The rest (some 50 odd) were absent.

Ben in Oakland

May 21st, 2013

Zeke, those missing Tories? It sounds like they should have had the courage of their convictions and voted….

If they had any convictions.


May 21st, 2013

I agree Ben. I just wanted to clarify Timothy’s statement that I believe was misleading to those who didn’t know the whole story. It’s more accurate to say that over 180 didn’t vote for it (with 133 of those actually voting against it) and 117 voting for it.


May 21st, 2013

It looks like some of the counts are changing, which isn’t uncommon in parliamentary votes. The latest report has 128 Tories voting against the bill.

Timothy Kincaid

May 21st, 2013


sorry, but I’m not trying to filter the news through some agenda based on ideology.

The salient point is that for weeks we’ve been hearing that Cameron might lose power, that the Tories were in revolt, and so on because it was Cameron against his party. But when it came to votes, less than half expressed opposition to Cameron’s position. It isn’t “oooh, did more vote yes or no?”, but did they show a majority opposition to the leader. They did not.

I’m sure some didn’t vote because they personally oppose the bill. But they also showed confidence in Cameron by not voting no. Or, at least, they can see the future and that it doesn’t bode well for opponents to equality.

If you are misled, it’s because you are focused on a different perspective: how this plays to the public (“see, the conservatives are your enemy” or “oh look, you don’t need to fear conservatives”).

While that’s worth looking at, it’s not nearly as interesting as the political dynamics at play. And besides there are dozens and dozens of sites that will tell you that.


May 21st, 2013

Sure you are Timothy. Otherwise there would have been no need for you to throw in the misleading statement.


May 22nd, 2013

Zeke, the statement that “less than half of the Tories voted in opposition to the bill” wasn’t misleading, it was the truth: out of 305 Tory MPs, 133 (44%) voted against the bill. That’s easily less than half.

I think something else has been missed though. All eight DUP MPs voted against the bills – no great surprise there, but it could signal change in Northern Ireland. The DUP is the biggest party, but only has 38 MLAs at Stormont, and this is the fourth time the DUP has voted unanimously against gay marriage in the last few months – three times at Westminster and once at Stormont. This only reinforces the party’s well-earned reputation for being amongst the most rabidly homophobic parties in the UK, and that could well come back to haunt them at the elections for both Westminster and (more importantly for gay marriage) Stormont in May 2015. Since the other main unionist party, the UUP (13 MLAs) is also anti-gay, any pro-gay unionist voters will have to vote for a non-unionist party if they want to see equal marriage (and similar laws) passed by Stormont.

The three other major parties at Stormont are the SDLP (nationalist, 14 MLAs, divided on gay marriage but leaning towards support) Sinn Fein (nationalist, 29 MLAs, pro-equality) and the Alliance (non-partisan, 8 MLAs, pro-equality). The gay marriage bill was only relatively narrowly defeated, and if the pro-equality parties make gay marriage an issue in 2015 I expect that all three would see an increase in the number of MLAs. Equal marriage could arrive in Northern Ireland by around 2017, leaving only three jurisdictions within the British Isles lacking it: Jersey, Mann and Guernsey.

Timothy Kincaid

May 22nd, 2013


It is true that DUP has consistently opposed equality. And I know that is out of sync from public attitudes both in Britain and the Irish Republic.

But I don’t seem to see polls about North Ireland. Do you know whether their views reflect the attitudes of that region or if they are shooting themselves in the foot with the position?


May 22nd, 2013

This situation at present is not necessarily as important as the situation at the time of the election. Within two years, and with the exception of the microstates and Germany, every single country along the western seaboard of Europe – thirteen in all – will have marriage equality. Since Germany could well start the process of recognising equal marriage following the next general election in a few months time, and with gay marriage likely to be an issue in the 2015 Swiss general elections, Northern Ireland will be almost completely isolated on this particular issue.

That said, the views of the majority of voters may not necessarily be as important as you might think. This is because Northern Ireland’s politics are primarily divided along ethno-religious lines rather than the conventional left-right political ideology found in most other systems. However it so happens that the divide between the two main political blocs does mimic the left-right pattern: on the left are the SDLP and Sinn Fein, who represent the nationalist/Catholic community; on the right are the DUP and UUP, who represent the unionist/Protestant community.

This should leave conservative Catholics voting for left-wing parties, and liberal Protestants for right-wing parties, however the left-wing parties have the advantage that liberal voters are less likely to vote along sectarian lines, i.e. the nationalist parties can more easily attract unionist voters than vice-versa. Liberal voters also have a third option, the Alliance, which is non-partisan, left-wing, and has most of its support in the majority-Protestant areas around Belfast.

All this means you’re likely to get more left-wing MLAs than you might initially assume.

Tactical voting by LGBTs and allies could push this further to the left. It’s generally assumed that LGBTs make up around 5% of the population, however as a voting bloc we have more influence than our numbers would suggest because we influence the voting decisions of close friends and family. This is an effect which increases over time as more people come out and their friends and family come to a better understanding of the importance of equality for LGBT people. So with each successive election the balance is likely to shift away from pro-discrimination MLAs, MPs, senators, etc., in favour of pro-equality ones.

Timothy Kincaid

May 22nd, 2013

tavdy, thanks for the clarification. I try to keep somewhat aware of politics outside the US (we Americans sometimes forget that the world doesn’t stop at our borders) but it’s hard to watch local politics on a global scale.

Just one of the reasons I love the BTB readers.

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