England’s gay marriage law to become legal
The bill allowing same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales has passed its final hurdle in Parliament.
The government legislation is now due to get royal assent, after which it is likely to become law later this week.
The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaderships all backed the bill, after the Lords approved the changes on Monday.
It is expected that the first gay and lesbian wedding ceremonies will take place by summer next year.
Under the terms of the the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, religious organisations will have to “opt in” to offering weddings, with the Church of England and Church in Wales being banned in law from doing so.
MPs decided not to oppose a number of minor changes agreed by the House of Lords.
Among these were protections for transgender couples, which will allow people to change sex and remain married.
There will also be a review of whether groups such as the humanists will be allowed to carry out marriages, while ministers said they were prepared to look at eliminating any difference in the treatment of gay couples when it came to pension schemes.
During the Commons debate, equalities minister Maria Miller said people should be free to marry “regardless of sexuality or gender”.
The passing of the bill was “clear affirmation” that “respect for each and every person is paramount, regardless of age, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexuality”, she added.
But Conservative MP Sir Gerald Howarth, one of the bill’s opponents, said 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”.
He added: “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.”
But Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, said: “It’s wonderful to see same-sex marriage achieve legal recognition. Quakers see the light of God in everyone so we respect the inherent worth of each individual and each loving relationship.”