The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act has completed its passage through the Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent on Wednesday 17 July.
On 16 July 2013 the House of Commons considered all amendments introduced by the House of Lords - none of which were wrecking amendments - and passed the Bill. Opponents in the House of Commons attempted to wreck the Bill with last-minute amendments but in the face of such overwhelming support amongst MPs decided not to push it to a vote.
The Bill left parliament free from any wrecking amendments and with the overwhelming support of both MPs and peers. We are continuing to push for the Act to be implemented as swiftly as possible and hope to see the first marriages of same-sex couples take place in January 2014.
This is an historic moment for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, their families and their friends. This Bill will mean that, for the first time, children growing up to be gay in England and Wales will have full equality in law. We can now proudly claim to be a beacon to the world for gay equality.
Throughout the course of the Bill there have been repeated attempts by well-funded opponents to wreck it and deny loving, committed same-sex couples equality. We would not have overcome that opposition without the support of tens of thousands of people, including hundreds of MPs and peers, who have shown unwavering support for legislative equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
Thank you for all your support.
We are working with the Government to make sure that the Act is implemented as quickly and efficiently as possible. We will continue to work with officials and parliamentarians so that any technical regulations that relate to this Act are fit-for-purpose and are dealt with swiftly. We'll push to see the first marriages of same-sex couples to take place in January 2014.
The Government has indicated that they may phase the implementation of different aspects of the Act, including the conversion of civil partnerships to marriages. We are seeking clarification of why such phasing may be necesary and are pushing for the complete Act to be implemented without unnecessary delays.
We will also continue to work to ensure that lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Britain and across the world are not only equal in law, but also at home, at school and at work
On 24 January 2013 Rt Hon Maria Miller MP introduced the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill to Parliament. The Bill sets out the necessary legislation to extend the legal form of marriage to same-sex couples. On Tuesday 21 May the Bill passed its Third Reading vote in the House of Commons by 366 votes to 161 free from any wrecking amendments.
The Bill has now made its way to the House of Lords where we expect a tough fight ahead of us.
On Tuesday 5 February 2013 the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Commons.
This is the first opportunity that MPs had to discuss the Bill in detail and vote on the proposals. We were delighted that MPs voted overwhelmingly to support marriage equality in England and Wales.
The final vote in favour of equal marriage was 400 to 175 - a majority of 225.
You can see our full statement welcoming the result here.
Following the Second Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in the House of Commons the Bill proceeded to Committee.
The first stage of the Bill Committee allowed individuals and organisations to give evidence and opinions about the Bill. Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill gave detailed evidence to the Committee on Tuesday 12 February.
The second stage of the Bill Committee allows MPs - from all of the main political parties - to scrutinise the proposals in greater detail. MPs can look through each part of the Bill and table amendments.
Stonewall has attended all of the Committee sessions and has briefed MPs throughout the process. We've also been covering proceedings via social media.
You can view transcripts of Committee debate and read any amendments tabled here.
Some of the amendments are quite technical so feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.
The Report stage of the Bill took place on the 20 and 21 May 2013. This allowed MPs further opportunity to discuss and amend specific clauses of the Bill. A number of clear wrecking amendments were proposed and debated.
At the end of the first day of Report stage the House of Commons rejected an amendment - by 375 votes to 70 - designed to wreck the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. The amendment, tabled by vocal opponents of equality, would have resulted in significant delays to the Bill's implementation.
Third Reading of the Bill took place on 21 May and gave MPs the opportunity to debate the Bill as a whole. The Bill passed its Third Reading vote in the House of Commons by 366 votes to 161 free from any wrecking amendments.
The Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Lords on 3 and 4 June. In the debates loving and committed same-sex relationships were likened by some opponents to incest and bigamy. Lord Dear proposed a motion that would have effectively killed the Bill. On 4 June Lord Dear's motion was defeated by 390 votes to 148, a majority of 242.
You can read our full statement welcoming the result here
The Bill then received comprehensive scuritny during three full days of Committee debate on the floor of the House of Lords. Veteran opponents of equality sought to rename same-sex marriage as ‘civil unions’, allow teachers to opt out of teaching facts and enshrine in law that public servants can refuse to serve gay people.
We were, however, heartened to see so many supporters articulately and calmly make the case for equality. Our speaking notes, and intervention briefings, were used repeatedly on all sides of the House to counter misleading, and often offensive, claims about gay people and their relationships.
Thankfully, the Bill remains materially unamended despite efforts to wreck the proposals.
The first day of Report Stage in the House of Lords took place on Monday 8 July. The debate went on until the early hours of Tuesday morning and a number of wrecking amendments were pushed to a vote by opponents.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern pushed a vote on amendments that sought to create two categories of marriage - one for opposite-sex couples and one for same-sex couples. This was a clear wrecking amendment which was defeated by 314 votes to 119.
Baroness Cumberlege then pushed a vote on amendments that would grant registrars, who are public servants paid for by all taxpayers, an opt out from solemnizing marriages of same-sex couples. We firmly opposed this amendment that would open the door to public servants denying a range of services to gay people, and other groups. The amendment was defeated by 278 votes to 103.
Lord Dear then pushed to a vote a 'son of Section 28' amendment that would 'protect' teachers from having to 'endorse' or 'promote same-sex marriage' in schools. We strongly opposed this amendment. It was defeated, late at night, by 163 votes to 32.
At around midnight Lord Elton pushed to a vote an amendment that would force couples converting their civil partnership to a marriage (which would be voluntary), who have already made a public a binding commitment to each other in front of a registrar and witnesses, to have a marriage ceremony. We firmly believed that such a ceremony should be optional and it would be wholly unnecessary to place financial and bureaucratic burdens on couples who view a conversion as a simple paper exercise. The amendment was defeated by 84 votes to 15.
A number of other unnecessary amendments were debated but not pushed to a vote on issues such as employment 'protections' for opponents of same-sex marriage, adultery, the public sector equality duty of the Equality Act 2010 and 'protections' for the 'freedom of belief' of opponents of same-sex marriage.
The second day of Report Stage on Wednesday 10 July will include further debates on teachers and schools, pensions, referendums, 'freedom of expression protections' and opening civil partnership to family members.
If all goes well - and at Stonewall, we never assume or take anything for granted - Third Reading will take place during week commencing Monday 15 July.
Contact your MP
On 21 May MPs voted overwhelmingly to support marriage equality in England and Wales. 366 MPs voted to back the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at Third Reading in the House of Commons.
Sadly, 161 MPs voted against this modest final measure of equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
If your MP did not vote to support marriage equality you might want to write to them and ask why. If you voted for them at the last General Election you may also want to let them know how their decision might influence your vote in future.
Long-term same-sex relationships are being publicly compared to bestiality, slavery and child abuse by opponents of equal marriage – who will stop at almost nothing to prevent Britain’s lesbian, gay and bisexual people from enjoying this last measure of equality. Organised opposition from groups such as the so-called Coalition for Marriage and the Catholic Church is attempting to gain momentum and media coverage to whip up a public frenzy.
We know this campaign will only intensify over the coming weeks and months, making it critical that we make sure the voices of Britain’s 3.7 million gay people are heard above the bigotry and ignorance.
Your donation will help us tackle this very well-funded campaign against equality and help us continue to push for the extension of the legal form of marriage to same-sex couples.
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We’ll be campaigning hard over the coming months to ensure that MPs and members of the House of Lords support this final modest measure of legislative equality.
Stonewall Cymru has long campaigned for the extension of the legal form of marriage to same-sex couples and we warmly welcome the introduction of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
We’re particularly pleased that ministers have been persuaded to extend their original proposal to permit same-sex marriages for those religious denominations that wish to hold them. Read Stonewall's statement on the announcement.
We’ll be campaigning hard over the coming months to ensure that MPs and Members of the House of Lords pass this final modest measure of legislative equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in England and Wales. Sadly, recent deeply offensive comments comparing marriage equality with slavery, child abuse, polygamy and bestiality clearly show that we still face significant opposition.
This is why in July we launched our 'Say I Do to Equal Marriage' appeal to make sure we can continue to push for this final measure of legislative equality. For more information and to support our campaign click here.
We'll also be urging all supporters of marriage equality to make their voices heard by writing, emailing or even tweeting their MPs.
In June the government closed its consultation on its intention to extend the legal form of marriage to same-sex couples. We submitted our detailed response in March and urged all supporters of marriage equality to get involved in our campaign and respond to the consultation themselves.
We’ve also published a range of visual materials encouraging the government to expedite its plans to extend the legal form of marriage to same-sex couples and permit religious denominations to celebrate same-sex marriages if they wish.
On 14 February 2012 Stonewall published a draft parliamentary Bill for extending the legal form of marriage to same-sex couples. The simple two-page Bill of five clauses outlines the legislative steps necessary to allow same-sex couples to marry. Click here to read the draft Marriage Bill.
In June 2011 Stonewall published a draft consultation response which set out the key questions that would likely be raised when the government published its own consultation. You can read it here.
Stonewall Scotland is also working with the Scottish Government to achieve same-sex marriage in Scotland. To find out more about Stonewall Scotland's work click here.
You can also write to your MP or send them one of our postcards. It's important MPs know that their constituents support marriage equality. To find out who your MP is or how to contact them click here.
Stonewall fought long and hard for the introduction of civil partnerships in 2005. Sadly, as recently as 2010 Lord Tebbit stated: ‘We should be utterly, completely and absolutely clear that a civil partnership is not a marriage, cannot be a marriage, never will be a marriage and should be treated entirely separately from marriage.’
By insisting that marriage and civil partnerships must be kept separate and distinct, opponents of equality still perpetuate the offensive notion, even if inadvertently, that relationships between same-sex people are not as stable, rich or valid as those between heterosexual couples. It is clear that these views impact negatively on public attitudes towards gay people themselves.
We therefore want to see civil marriage available to same-sex couples on the same basis as heterosexual marriage - available in a registry office but without a mandate on religious organisations to celebrate it.