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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex civil partnerships & marriages in the UK

2013-JUL: The bill returns to the house, passed,
and receives Royal Assent. Reactions to SSM bill.
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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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House of Lord's version of the bill returns to the House of Commons for a vote:

Since the original version of the bill that had been passed by the House of Commons was amended by the House of Lords, the latter version had to return to the Commons for a second vote. This process sometimes results in "Parliamentary Ping-Pong" -- passing the bill between the two Houses for multiple votes until a final compromise version is accepted by both. Some commentators were dubious about the process ending in a law for many months.

Preceding the debate in the Commons, David Burrowes (Conservative) had tabled an wrecking amendment in an attempt to delay the inevitable. However, other Members of Parliament extended the length of their speeches in order to use up all available debating time. Burrowes' amendment was not debated and voted upon. 1 The bill then returned to the House of Commons.

During the debate in the Commons, Equalities Minister Maria Miller said the passing of the bill was a:

"... clear affirmation' that 'respect for each and every person is paramount, regardless of age, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexuality."

Conservative MP Sir Gerald Howarth, one of the bill's opponents, said that it was

"... astonishing that a bill for which there is absolutely no mandate, against which a majority of Conservatives voted, has been bulldozed through both Houses. ... I think the government should think very carefully in future if they want the support of these benches. Offending large swathes of the Conservative Party is not a good way of going about it." 2

To the surprise of many, the House of Commons accepted the House of Lord's version the next day, 2013-JUL-16. Queen Elizabeth II gave her royal assent to the bill the next day -- JUL-17 at 15:06 local time. 1 Interestingly, the Queen is both head of state and leader of the Church of England. Parliament had approved same-sex marriage, but the Church of England fought same-sex marriage until the first vote in the House of Lords indicated that their cause was hopeless. The Church then left the debate to others. The Church leadership may have felt a degree of conflict of interest.

The bill formally became law on 2013-JUL-17 after the royal assent was announced in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. 1 John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, announced in the chamber:

"I have to notify the House in accordance with the Royal Assent 1967 that Her Majesty has signified her Royal Assent to the following acts. ... Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill." 1

The bill was originally expected to become effective -- and the first same-sex weddings will take place -- during mid-2014. The delay is caused by some unfinished decisions, including harmonizing pensions. Also, the government computer systems have to be altered to handle same-sex spouses.

England and Wales thus became either the 15th -- or the 15th and 16th -- countries in the world to legalize SSM everywhere within their borders -- depending on how one defines "country." In addition, Mexico and the United States have made SSM available within some of their states and not others.

Members of House of Commons responded with loud cheers. 3

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Reactions to marriage equality becoming law:

  • Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative) tweeted:

    "After a long parliamentary process, gay marriage became law tonight – something I believe we can be proud of as a country."

Earlier, he had said:

"There will be girls and boys in school today who are worried about being bullied and concerned about what society thinks of them because they are gay or lesbian. By making this change they will be able to see that Parliament believes their love is worth the same as anyone else’s love and that we believe in equality. I think this will enable them to stand that bit taller, be that bit more confident and I am proud of that.

And to anyone who has reservations, I say this: 'Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other.'

So I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative." 4

  • Sir Gerald Howarth, Member of Parliament for Aldershot, criticized the government for "bulldozing the wretched" legislation through parliament. He said:

    "I have to say that it is astonishing that a bill for which there is absolutely no mandate, against which a majority of Conservatives voted against, has been bulldozed through both Houses. ... [Allowing] just two hours of debate tonight is an absolute parliamentary disgrace.

    I think the government should think very carefully in future if they want the support of these benches, offending large swathes of the Conservative Party is not a good way of going about it. ..."

    "I do advise the House to be very careful. There are lots of people out there now who despite all that’s been said here will feel unable or inhibited from expressing their true opinions that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. ..."

    "We live in a politically correct society and it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens to teachers. How many teachers will feel able to express their views even in denominational schools for fear of upsetting their political masters and ... [losing] their jobs?

    I hope the government is serious about moving swiftly to prevent that from happening and the opposition will also support the government should it decide to do that." 5

  • Member of Parliament (MP) Margot James was the first openly lesbian Conservative MP. She said that the bill "leveled the playing field" by allowing loving, committed same-sex and opposite-sex couples to marry. She hoped that "outrageous verbal aggression" against the LGBT community would stop.

  • MP Howarth responded:

    "I warn her, I fear the playing field is not being leveled I believe the pendulum is swinging so far the other way, and there are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this as but a stepping stone to something even further." 5

    Howarth did not explain what further steps might be taken, but other conservative commentators have suggested a variety of developments:

    • Group marriages involving three or more individuals,

    • Men attempting to marry their dogs,

    • Even women attempting to marry the Eiffel Tower or similar objects.

None of these further developments have occurred yet in any of the countries that have attained marriage equality.

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This topic is continued 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. Joseph Patrick McCormick, "Equal marriage bill for England and Wales given Royal Assent and is now law," Pink News, 2013-JUL-17, at:
  2. "Same-sex marriage becomes law in England and Wales," BBC, 2013-JUL-17, at:
  3. "Gay marriage legal in Britain after royal assent," AFP, 2013-MAY-17, at:
  4. James Park, "David Cameron: ‘Gay marriage is something I believe we can be proud of as a country’," Pink News, 2013-JUL-17, at:
  5. Scott Roberts, "Sir Gerald Howarth: The ‘wretched’ equal marriage bill was ‘bulldozed’ through Parliament," Pink News, 2013-JUL-17, 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-17
Latest update: 2013-DEC-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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