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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 7, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 23
British marriage bill passes another test - House of Lords rejects attempt to derail equality legislation
Section One
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British marriage bill passes another test - House of Lords rejects attempt to derail equality legislation

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Britain's House of Lords this week decisively rejected a so-called 'wrecking amendment' that would have derailed the marriage equality bill passed by the House of Commons on May 21.

Lords do not do anything as mundane as voting Yes or No. The procedure in the House of Lords is to be 'Content' or 'Not Content' with a proposal.

In a June 4 voice vote on the wrecking amendment, an overwhelming chorus of 'Not Content!' shook the normally sedate chamber. In a subsequent division of the house, the amendment was voted down by 390 votes to 148.

Some Lords reportedly voted to reject the measure because they categorically oppose obstructive amendments, rather than because they support equal marriage rights, but the size of the majority for the marriage bill indicates it will almost certainly pass Lords and become law in relatively short order.

'A VICTORY FOR LOVE'
After the vote, Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the LGBT rights group Stonewall, said he was delighted, adding: 'Britain's 3.7 million Gay people don't deserve to be second-class citizens in their own country.

'A tough fight lies ahead and we'll continue to work tirelessly every single day to get equal marriage through the Lords.'

Peter Tatchell, who co-ordinates the Equal Love campaign, said, 'This is a victory for love, marriage, and equality. We are another step closer to our goal of equal marriage. It signals that the House of Lords accepts the principle that we should all be equal before the law.'

Britain's Equalities Minister, Baroness Tina Stowell of Beeston, called the legislation a 'force for good' that would strengthen marriage.

CHANGES POSSIBLE
The defeated amendment was proposed by Lord Dear, a so-called 'crossbencher,' meaning he is not affiliated with either the governing or the opposition parties, and was put forward on the first of three required readings of the bill. Lord Dear's proposal was to disallow a second reading of the bill, and once that was defeated, the second reading took place immediately afterwards.

The third reading will take longer, because at that stage the Lords may offer amendments that alter details of the legislation. Some Lords reportedly want to strengthen the religious exemption, and Stowell, a government whip, told the Lords in her closing speech that the government would not necessarily object to amendments of that kind.

Even if the Lords vote down the marriage bill, they cannot permanently prevent it from passing. Most bills can be sent by Commons to the Queen for her 'assent' - in other words, her signature - even if they are not approved by the Lords.

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