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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK

2013-JUL: More wrecking amendments proposed.
Bill survives House of Lords' Report Stage intact.
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This is a continuation from an earlier essay.

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In this web site, the term "SSM" means "same-sex marriage."

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2013-JUL-03: Baroness Williams tables two amendments:

She served as leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords from 2001 to 2004. She is opposed to allowing same-sex couples to marry. She introduced two amendments:

  • One would allow registrars to discriminate against same-sex couples by opting out of providing marriage certificates to them if the registrar's personal religious or moral beliefs conflicted with same-sex marriage. This is viewed as an exercise of religious freedom by many religious conservatives, and as part of the new definition of religious freedom which includes the freedom to apply one's religious beliefs to oppressing, discriminating against, and denigrating others.

  • The other amendment suggests that same-sex and opposite-sex marriages be called by different names. This is vaguely similar to the system found in many U.S. states where same-sex couples were not allowed to marry but only to enter a civil union with the same legal rights as marriage. However, civil unions do not include what many same-sex couples consider the most important rights of marriage: the rights to call their relationship a marriage and to refer to each other as spouses.

    Her amendment said, in part:

    "... marriage between same-sex couples may be defined as same-sex marriage, lawful marriage between a man and a woman may be defined as opposite-sex marriage." 1

    Many of those who are promoting marriage equality view this and other "wrecking" amendment negatively. They are seen as attempts to denigrate loving, committed same-sex couples, their relationships, and their status. They view the amendments as mean spirited, and being motivated by animosity, enmity and hostility towards the LGBT community.

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2013-JUL-05: Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury delivers speech:

Speaking at his first General Synod as Archbishop of the Church of England, he discussed the SSM debate in the House of Lords:

"The cultural and political ground is changing. Anyone who listened to much of the same-sex marriage bill second reading debate in the House of Lords could not fail to be struck by the overwhelming change of cultural hinterland. Predictable attitudes were no longer there. The opposition to the bill was utterly overwhelmed, with amongst the largest attendance and participation and majority since 1945. There was noticeable hostility to the view of the churches."

"Some of what was said was uncomfortably close to the bone. The majority of the population rightly detests homophobic behaviour or anything that looks like it. It is utterly horrifying to hear of gay people executed in Iran, or equivalents elsewhere. With nearly a million children educated in our schools we not only must demonstrate a profound commitment to stamp out such stereotyping and bullying. We are therefore developing a programme for use in our schools, taking the best advice we can get, that specifically targets such bullying. More than that we need also to ensure that what we do and say demonstrates the lavish love of God to all of us, who are without exception sinners. Again this requires radical and prophetic words which lavish grace while holding to truth. ..."

"There have been many times where the Church of England felt that change was in the air or this was a moment of crisis. Because we are not an organisation, let alone a business, or even an institution, but in reality the people of God gathered by the Holy Spirit to walk together in a way that leads to the greater glory of God, there are bound to be many crises and turning points." 2

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2013-JUL-08: Marriage bill reaches Report Stage in the House of Lords:

The Report Stage provides an opportunity to make changes to the bill before the final vote in the House. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was debated over a full day and into the night. It survived several attempts to wreck it with amendments that were intended to weaken its impact. One would have called for a referendum during 2013-OCT so that the bill would only come into effect if a majority of voters favored it. Another amendment would have allowed religiously-based schools to opt-out of teaching about same-sex marriage and try to keep the students ignorant of such marriages. Some Government amendments were added. 3,4

  • An amendment was proposed to differentiate between two forms of marriage by calling them with different names: marriage (same-sex) and marriage (opposite-sex). This was voted down 229 in favor and 314 opposed.

  • An amendment was proposed to allow marriage registrars with a religious objection to same-sex marriage to discriminate against same-sex couples by refusing to marry them. That was also defeated 119 in favor and 314 opposed.

  • An amendment was voted upon that would allow teachers to express their personal views on same-sex marriage, The government spokesperson stated that teachers would only have to teach the legalities of same-sex marriage and would not be under any obligation to promote SSM. This amendment was also defeated with 32 in favor and 163 opposed.

  • Finally an amendment concerning the process to convert a civil partnership into a marriage was discussed. The government spokesperson said that this would be studied in the future.

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2013-JUL-10: Marriage bill's Report Stage concludes in the House of Lords:

This is the second and final day in the Report Stage:

  • An amendment was discussed to equalize pension survival benefits. Lord Alli said:

    "This is a tiny issue affecting a small amount a people at a terrible time of need."

    Baroness Howe said:

    "I can confidently say that this change in the law will mean the world to those it affects. ... Isn’t this exactly the government’s commitment to securing real equality for gay people?"

    The amendment was withdrawn, after Baroness Stowell said that she would make certain that pension equality would be studied later by the Government. 5

  • An amendment which would call for a review of the Civil Partnership Act to consider allowing carers and co-habiting family members to form civil partnerships was defeated with 89 in favor and 267 opposed. 6

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2013-JUL-15: Marriage bill passes third reading in the House of Lords:

During the third and final reading, Maria Miller, the Minister for Women and Equalities, said that the Government has attempted to assure:

"... that people should not be excluded from marriage simply because of who they love."

She said that the bill would not undermine those who believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Webmaster's note: The bill may not undermine the beliefs of those who feel that -- for them -- marriage should be a union of one man and one woman. However, the bill certainly would undermine those who believe that marriage should be exclusively restricted to that one type of union to the exclusion of all others. 7

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Common confusions about marriage terminology and the protection of clergy:

We have noticed that many advocates working in this field use an ambiguous term, stating that they are "for marriage."

  • Generally, they mean that they support "traditional marriage" or "historical marriage" between one man and one woman, while fighting against allowing marriage between two men or two women.

  • Others say they are "for marriage" and mean that they are in favor of allowing all loving committed couples -- whether of the same or opposite gender -- to marry, subject to limitations based on a minimum age and consanguinity restrictions based on kinship. The phrase is sometimes used to indicate that the individual is in favor of pre-marital counseling, financial benefits for married couples, etc. in order to encourage stable marriages.

Some advocates spread a concern that if same-sex marriages become legal in a state, province, or country, then clergy may be prosecuted under human rights legislation if they refuse to marry a same-sex couple. This is clearly a red herring. Most inclusive legislation that allow same-sex couples to marry contain a specific exclusion so that clergy can refuse to marry a same-sex couple with impunity. Those that don't contain a clause or clauses in their country constitution that guarantee separation of church and state. These clauses protect clergy from prosecution if they refuse to marry a couple for any reason.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Scott Roberts, "Lib Dems’ Baroness Williams tables ‘opposite sex marriage’ amendment to equal marriage bill," Pink News, 2013-JUL-05, at:
  2. "Archbishop of Canterbury: Church opposition to equal marriage was ‘overwhelmed’ by equality supporters," Pink News, 2013-JUL-05, at:
  3. Joseph Patrick McCormick, "Equal marriage bill passes Report Stage in House of Lords," Pink News, 2013-JUL-10. at:
  4. Joseph Patrick McCormick, "Highlights from the House of Lords Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill," Pink News, 2013-JUL-10. at:
  5. Joseph Patrick McCormick, "Lord Alli amendment to equalise pensions in equal marriage bill withdrawn," Pink News, 2013-JUL-10, at:
  6. Joseph Patrick McCormick, "Live Blog: Highlights from the House of Lords Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill," Pink News, 2013-JUL-10, at:
  7. "Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill: Lords third reading," British Parliament, at:

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM > UK > here

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-JUL-05
Latest update: 2013-JUL-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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