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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 8, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 6
UK House of Commons OKs marriage equality
Section One
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UK House of Commons OKs marriage equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The British House of Commons gave its initial approval to a marriage equality bill by a wide margin on February 5. The vote was 400 to 175.

Although Prime Minister David Cameron backed the measure, most of his Conservative Party members voted against it.

'More than half of the Tory MPs who voted chose to oppose Gay marriage,' The Guardian newspaper's live blog noted.

'Initial figures suggest that 139 Tories voted against, and only 132 voted for. Technically this is not a rebellion, because it was a free vote. But it is a severe embarrassment to David Cameron.'

CAMERON PRAISES VOTE
Trying to make the best of the situation, Cameron said the vote was a step forward for his country.

'Today is an important day. I am a strong believer in marriage. It helps people commit to each other and I think it is right that Gay people should be able to get married too,' he told reporters after the vote.

'This is, yes, about equality. But it is also about making our society stronger. I know there are strong views on both side of the argument - I accept that. But I think this is an important step forward for our country.'

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, which is the junior partner in Cameron's coalition government, said: 'I genuinely believe that we will look back on today as a landmark for equality in Britain. ... No matter who you are and who you love, we are all equal. Marriage is about love and commitment, and it should no longer be denied to people just because they are Gay.

'The Liberal Democrats have long fought for equal marriage. It is party policy and I am proud that the Liberal Democrats are part of the coalition government that are making it happen.'

LABOR: 'A PROUD DAY'
Opposition leader Ed Miliband, whose Labor Party supplied 217 of the 400 Yes votes, was quick to note that his party overwhelmingly supported equality.

'This is a proud day and an important step forward in the fight for equality in Britain,' Miliband said.

'The overwhelming majority of Labor MPs supported this change to make sure marriage reflects the value we place on long-term, loving relationships, whoever you love.'

Labor member David Lammy said existing civil partnerships for same-sex couples were discriminatory.

'Separate but equal' are the words that justified sending Black children to different schools than their white peers,' Lammy said. 'It is the same statement, the same ideas, and the same delusion that we borrowed in this country to say that women could vote but only if they were married and only when they were over 30.

'Separate is not equal, so let us be rid of it. As long as there is one rule for us and another for them, we allow the barriers of acceptance to go unchallenged. As long as our statute book suggests love between two men or two women is unworthy of being recognized through marriage, we allow the rot of homophobia to fester.'

MORE HURDLES TO CLEAR
The vote in Commons does not immediately legalize same-sex marriage. The bill will now go to a committee of the Commons, which may add amendments, and it then goes to the House of Lords.

British political pundits say the overwhelming majority for equality in Commons makes it far more likely the Lords will pass the government's bill intact, but even if they refuse to approve it, Commons is legally entitled to override them and give the measure final approval anyway.

Barring any complication in committee or in the House of Lords, the legislation should reach final passage relatively quickly, but even if equality opponents drag out the process, same-sex marriage should by legalized by the end of 2014.

Some Conservative members of Commons who opposed the bill predicted that if it passed, the issue would end up before the European Court of Human Rights, because the Church of England would complain that its religious liberties were being infringed. The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church spearheaded opposition to the bill.

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