MPs voted by a majority of 225 in favour of the new Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill last night, February 5. The final vote was 400 for, 175 against.
The Bill extends the legal form of marriage to lesbian, gay and bi-sexual (LGB) people and permits religious denominations to celebrate such marriages should they wish. It was the Bill’s second reading.
Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill, said:
“As the last piece of the legislative jigsaw providing equality for gay people in Britain, this is a truly historic step forward. We’re absolutely delighted that MPs have demonstrated so overwhelmingly that they’re in touch with the twenty-first century.
“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.
“Most people in Britain support equal marriage and will be delighted that we’re now a step closer to it. We’re grateful to the thousands of Stonewall supporters, many of them straight, who played a big part by contacting their MPs in support.”
Simon Kirby, MP for Kemptown & Peacehaven, is a long standing and vocal supporter of equal marriage. In his role as Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport he has been actively involved in preparing the ground for this historic legislation.
“Tonight’s vote marks an important milestone in the evolution of the institution of marriage and the advance of equality in the UK. I am proud to have voted in support of this historic change and I am proud of this Government for having the courage to introduce the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
“The legislation strikes the right balance between equality for same sex couples and the rights of people of faith. I believe that those who listened to the debate will be assured that no Church, Synagogue, or Mosque will be forced into something that contradicts with their beliefs and organisations and individuals who don’t believe in same sex marriage will be fully protected from legal challenges.
“I know that equal marriage has the support of the majority of my constituents in Brighton Kemptown and I assure them that I will continue to fight for this Bill as it makes the remainder of its passage through Parliament.”
Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove & Portslade, said:
“I was honoured to vote for this Bill and I am delighted that the Government’s proposals for same-sex marriage passed through the House with an overwhelming majority. Marriage equality is right and I know that a large number of my constituents look forward getting married as soon as the law changes.”
Caroline Lucas ,MP for Brighton Pavilion described the vote as a “momentous occasion” and called for further reforms to allow everyone, same sex and opposite sex couples, to be able to choose both civil partnership or marriage.
“While the Conservative catfight over today’s vote will fade into insignificance, the momentous occasion on which MPs were given the chance to stand up for equality in marriage will be remembered for many years to come.
“The majority of the public sees no reason why people of the same sex who love each other and want to marry should not be able to do so – and despite claims to the contrary, this legislation will not force any faith groups to conduct gay marriages.
“Like many of the constituents who have written to me on this issue, I support the aims of the government’s proposed legislation and will therefore vote ‘yes’ to same sex marriage in Parliament.”
“However, while I’ll be voting for equal marriage, I’ll also be calling for more far reaching reform to allow everyone – same sex and opposite sex couples – to enjoy a civil partnership or marriage, as they choose.
“This is a question of equal love. It’s not about asking for special treatment for gay couples or straight couples, it’s about everyone enjoying the same rights regardless of their sexuality.”
Green councillors on Brighton & Hove City Council welcomed the vote and also called for the Government to go one step further, and make civil partnerships available to heterosexual couples too.
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, Deputy Leader of the Council, said:
“Greens have historically argued that all couples, regardless of their gender or sexuality, should be allowed to marry. A vote on equal marriage in the Houses of Parliament marks an historic milestone in the campaign for genuine equality for LGBT people.
“Today I am attending Allsorts lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) Children, Young People and Families Day – the first major event of its kind to celebrate LGBT youth identity and community. With ‘Togetherness’ as the theme, it is only right to talk about the brighter future younger LGBT people will see once we have equal marriage.
“If agreed, we welcome the victory for the many faiths that will now be permitted to conduct same-sex marriages. However we believe the proposals to ban the Church of England from conducting same-sex marriage unfairly discriminate against Anglicans who wish to have their love recognised in the same building they worship in. We don’t think this is good enough at all.
“In addition it is unfair and discriminatory to bar opposite-sex couples from civil partnerships.
“Fundamentally, we believe that the only non-discriminatory way to go forward is to offer all faiths and none the right to marry or to have a civil partnership. Beyond this historic day, Greens will carry on campaigning on this basis.”
Adrian Trett, Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats maintained that Liberal Democrats on the Bill Committee would do all they could to improve the legislation where it fell short of Liberal Democrat policy.
“Today is an historic day for equality, and a very special day for LGBT+ Liberal Democrats. Our campaign is drawing near to the goals set out in September 2010. Thanks to the great support from especially our Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, former Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone MP and current Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson MP. We look forward to the improved Bill passing both Houses of Parliament and being brought into law as soon as possible.”
Speaking for Liberal Democrats locally, Brian Stone, Chair of Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats, heralded the vote as the first step forward towards full equality for all in the area of marriage.
“Tonight is a night to congratulate all MPs, of all parties, who made a stand for the rights of lesbian and gay people”, Brian Stone said. “This is a great night for the LGBT community in Brighton and Hove, but we must not rest on our laurels. The fact that we have 175 MPs who do not think that we are equal shows that the path to equality will not be an easy one, and the victory will have to be fought for all the way”.
“Tonight is also a good night to be a Liberal Democrat. We have led the campaign all the way. Nick Clegg took a decisive during the General Election and this would not be happening without the effort and commitment of Lib Dem MP. Lynne Featherstone”.
Tom French, Policy Coordinator for the Equality Network, the LGBT equality charity that runs ‘Equal Marriage’ the UK’s first and longest running campaign for same-sex marriage in Scotland welcomed the overwhelming majority in the commons.
“This is an historic day and a huge step forward for equality. After centuries of facing prejudice and discrimination, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can finally look forward to a day when they are no longer treated as second-class citizens. Today MPs have taken a stand for what is right, by overwhelmingly backing this fair and progressive law. The big majority in favour of equal marriage reflects the views of the country as a whole. In Scotland, two thirds of people support same-sex marriage, and we look forward to a similar resounding vote in the Scottish Parliament. We call on the Scottish Government to introduce the bill as soon as possible after the end of the current consultation.”
Matthew Sephton, LGBTory Chairman, commented:
“We are delighted, after months of work, that history has been made today with the progression of the bill led by a Conservative Prime Minister, to allow same sex couples to marry.
“It is disappointing that a significant number of Conservative MPs opposed the bill at this stage. There has been a well-funded campaign of propaganda and misinformation by those opposing equality that has left many struggling to understand the true facts of this simple legislation.
“We will continue to counter these lies and hope more MPs will be able to support the bill at its next vote”
Gill Mitchell, leader of the Labour and Cooperative group on Brighton & Hove City Council said:
“Labour and Cooperative Councillors have been campaigning for Equal Marriage and it is good to see that Parliament has at last recognised this.”
Of the 136 Conservative MPs who voted against the Bill, 12 were ministers and there were 6 whips. there were a further 40 abstentions.