Same sex marriage advances in the UK

In the UK, members of Parliament have voted by a majority of 225 in favour of the new Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. The Bill will extend the legal form of marriage to lesbian, gay and bisexual people and permit religious denominations to celebrate such marriages should they wish. Prime Minister David Cameron has described the move as "an important step forward" that strengthens society.

The measure includes protections for churches that do not believe in same sex marriage to protect them from being forced to conduct these ceremonies. It also makes it illegal for Church of England clergy to conduct a same sex marriage until their church changes its poison on this matter. Given that the new Archbishop of Canterbury reaffirmed his opposition to same sex marriage during his first interview in his new position, it seems unlikely the CofE will change in the near future. Several CofE clergy have promised to break this law and marry same sex couples should that become necessary. 

While this is a strong step forward, the measure still faces several hurdles. ‘We anticipate, as always, a tough battle in the House of Lords. Happily, the size of the Commons majority seen tonight – much larger than for most normal Government business – will make it very difficult for peers to suggest that the Bill should be rejected,” Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said today.

During the debate, our colleague The Rev. Colin Coward reports: “I watched the debate in its entirety this afternoon and was profoundly encouraged. Kate Green, the Shadow Equalities Minister and Hugh Robertson, the Culture, Media and Sports Minister, wound up the debate with speeches that I felt affirmed me, my sexuality, my relationship with my partner, my faith and my status in UK society. Some MPs were clearly using the briefing material provided by C4M, scare stories of the terrible, frightening dangers that might result from equal marriage. No-one laughed at the speeches, but neither were they taken seriously, and were robustly answered by Hugh Robertson in his closing speech. What the debate did have was great dignity in the speeches from the gay MPs who spoke (no lesbians, unless I missed someone). They spoke in the context of many speeches from both sides of the House, many from Christians, who firmly rebutted the scare stories, often speaking very personally and passionately.”

The full text of David Lammy's speech for the Equal Marriage bill is utterly marvellous ("This is not a violation of Christian values - it is their triumph") and is found here.  

The debate in its entirety can be watched here, or alternatively over here.