THE Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill received strong support
from MPs on Tuesday, passing its Second Reading in the House of
Commons by 400 votes to 175. The free vote followed about six hours
of debate, during which Christian MPs spoke for and against the
The Bill received the support of the majority of Labour and
Liberal Democrat MPs, but voting among Conservative MPs was
divided: 136, including 12 ministers, voted against the Bill; 127
voted for it; and 40 abstained.
The Bill will now proceed to Committee stage, where clauses and
amendments will be debated. It is likely to encounter opposition
when it reaches the House of Lords.
On Monday, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd
Justin Welby, said that he supported "the Church of England's
position" on same-sex marriage, set out in "statements" that have
asserted "that marriage is a union between one man and one woman" (
News, 1 February).
Opening the debate on the Bill's Second Reading, the Culture
Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller,
said: "The depth of feeling, love, and commitment between same-sex
couples is no different from that depth of feeling between
opposite-sex couples. The Bill enables society to recognise that
commitment in the same way, too, through marriage. . .
"There is no single view on equal marriage from religious
organisations. Some are deeply opposed to it; others tell us that
they see this as an opportunity to take their faith to a wider
During the debate, a number of Christian MPs spoke in favour of
the legislation. David Lammy, the Labour Member for Tottenham, said
that the Bill respected religious freedom, and marked the "end of
an organic journey from criminalisation to equality for the gay
community that began over half a century ago. . .
"There are still those who say it is unnecessary. 'Why do we
need gay marriage', they say, 'when we already have civil
partnerships?' They are, they claim, 'Separate but equal.' Let me
speak frankly: separate but equal is a fraud. It is the language
that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus."
Jonathan Reynolds, the Labour Member for Stalybridge and Hyde,
said that he supported same-sex marriage "because I am a Christian,
not in spite of it. . . I genuinely cannot see how my support for
equal marriage undermines my own marriage, the marriage of anyone
else, or marriage as an institution. If anything, I believe it
David Burrowes, the chairman of the Conservative Christian
Fellowship, who is one of the leading opponents of the Bill, quoted
a briefing given by the parliamentary unit and
legal office at Church House last week, which expressed "serious
doubts about whether the proffered legal protection for churches
and faiths from discrimination claims would prove durable".
Mr Burrowes said: "The state has become involved in refining
aspects of marriage, but the essential definition of marriage, and
therefore its meaning and purpose - its very foundation - have
remained unchanged until now."
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, said
that he and the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, who
convenes the bishops in the House of Lords, were "appreciative" of
the Government's attempts to protect religious freedom.
Sir Tony said, however, that there was "an inevitable degree of
risk in all this, given that it would ultimately be for the courts,
and in particular the Strasbourg court, to decide whether
provisions in the legislation are compatible with the European
Convention on Human Rights.
"There is absolutely no doubt that once marriage is redefined in
this very fundamental way, a number of new legal questions will
arise, and no one can be sure what the eventual outcome will be.
The Government believe that this is a risk worth taking. The Church
of England does not."
The Labour MP Stephen Timms, who is an Evangelical, said that
the "central problem" with the Bill was that it introduced a
definition of marriage that did not include the "procreation of
children", as in the 1662 marriage service.
"Children are at the heart of marriage, but they are barely
mentioned in the Bill. It aims to open up the benefits of marriage
to people who are excluded from it at the moment, but it does so at
the price of taking away a significant part of the meaning of
marriage. Children are the reason that marriage has always been so
A number of Conservative MPs said that they had not stood on a
mandate to introduce same-sex marriage. John Glen, the Conservative
member for Salisbury, said: "To cite that it was on page 14 of the
equalities contract, a sub-manifesto that had little or no public
scrutiny, is disingenuous at best" (
News, 1 February).
Question of the Week: Should the Government now rethink the
legislation on same-sex marriage?
CAMPAIGNERS against the legalisation of same-sex
marriage showed no signs of conceding defeat, after a majority of
MPs endorsed the Government's Bill on Tuesday, writes Ed
Colin Hart, the director of the Coalition for Marriage,
which has co-ordinated a petition signed by more than 600,000
people, said that the 175 MPs who voted against the Bill
represented an "astonishing . . . scale of
Mr Hart continued: "Mr Cameron hopes that this matter is
now settled. He is wrong. . . More importantly, this is not the end
of the fight against these ill-thought-through and divisive plans.
There are more votes in the Commons, more speeches, potentially
dozens of amendments, and then the Bill will go to the Lords, where
the voting arithmetic is very differ- ent."
The RC Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Revd Peter
Smith, said that the Commons debate had shown "that the Government
has not thought through a number of profound problems in the Bill
raised by Members of Parliament during the debate. It will be
extremely important that the many concerns we and others have
expressed will be fully and carefully considered during the next
A new group representing Conservative activists was
launched on Sunday, when a delegation of Conservative Association
chairmen delivered a letter to Downing Street expressing concerns
about the Bill.
Ed Costelloe, who resigned as chairman of Somerton &
Frome Conservative Association in protest at the Bill, said: "The
Government cannot get away from the fact that this was not in any
of the major parties' manifestos, nor was it in the Coalition
agreement. It cannot be avoided that there is no
Christian campaigners in favour of same-sex marriage
welcomed the vote on Tuesday. The Quakers' Recording Clerk, Paul
Parker, said: "Three-and-a-half years ago, Quakers decided that
same-sex couples should be able to marry in a Quaker meeting. Since
then, we have been waiting for the law to catch up."
Christians for Equal Marriage UK said that it was
"thrilled that Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour", but
"the battle's not over yet. Same-sex couples are still not treated
as equal by most churches, and cannot get married in