The vote on the Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will take place at 7pm today, following an afternoon of impassioned debate in the Houses of Parliament.
The vast majority of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs are expected to vote in favour of the bill, which will, among other measures, allows same-sex couples to enjoy civil marriages in registry offices. Certain faith groups, if they opt-in to the plans, will also be able to conduct marriage ceremonies for gay couples on their premises, although the Church of England and Church in Wales will be legally prohibited from doing so – following objections to the plans by representatives of both Churches.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller introduced the debate by saying that all couples who enter into a lifelong commitment should be able to describe their relationship as a marriage.
“What marriage offers us all is a lifelong partner to share our journey; a loving stable relationship to strengthen us and a mutual support throughout our lives.
“I believe this is something that should be embraced by more couples. The depth of feeling, love and commitment is no different between same-sex couples than opposite-sex couples.”
Other notable supporters of the bill included Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who gave a moving personal viewpoint on why gay people should be allowed to marry, and gay Conservative MP, Mike Freer, who was strongly critical of Conservative MPs who have voiced opposition to the bill. Of these, Kent MP Sir Roger Gale was outspoken in his condemnation of the proposed changes; “There is a way forward. It has been suggested but it has been ignored. I do not subscribe to it myself but I recognise the merit in the argument, and that is this; if the government is serious about this, take it away, abolish the civil partnerships bill, abolish civil marriage, and create a civil union bill that applies to all people, irrespective of their sexuality or their relationships, and that means brother and brothers, sisters and sisters and brothers and sisters as well. That would be a way forward. This is not.”
Gay Labour MP Chris Bryant described Gale’s comments as, “profoundly offensive”.
A rally in favour of equal marriage, organized by Peter Tatchell, is due to take place outside Parliament at 5pm, followed by the vote at 7pm.