Britain has come one step closer to legalizing gay marriage. A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Britain cleared a major hurdle on Tuesday, as parliamentarians voted overwhelmingly in favor of the proposals championed by Prime Minister David Cameron. He announced “Today is an important day. I am a strong believer in marriage. It helps people commit to each other, and I think it is right that gay people should be able to get married too.”
After a six-hour debate, the vote in the House of Commons was 400 to 175 in support of the proposed legislation. Unfortunately, with every step forward, there comes a set back. It appears that more than half of the lawmakers in the Prime Minister’s Conservative Party voted against the bill or abstained. The bill will now receive more detailed parliamentary scrutiny, and then will head back to the House of Commons for a final vote. If the bill passes this third review, it will head to the House of Lords, where members would also need to vote in favor before it would be signed into law.
The process could take months, but if approved, the bill is expected to take effect in 2015 and will apply to England and Wales. The bill will enable same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies, provided the religious institution consents. Furthermore, the bill will also let couples that had previously entered into civil partnerships convert their relationship into a marriage.
After the ballots were counted, Cameron acknowledged that “strong views exist on both sides,” but said the result was a “step forward for our country.”
Do you think the bill will pass further scrutiny? Is the fact that religious institutions must consent to a religious ceremony going to cause even more problems? What are the chances of religious institutions actually agreeing to marry gay couples?
Article and Picture Source: The New York Times
While I hope that the bill passes further scrutiny, I worry that it will not. While the last step will be another vote in the House of Commons – where it was just passed by a vote of 400 to 175 and I feel there it will pass again –, it is this next “middle” step that worries me. More detailed parliamentary scrutiny could lead to more hurdles for the bill. However, I would hope the gravity of this bill and its broad effect and scope for the rights of gays and lesbians will not be lost and that it passes the scrutiny and becomes law. In regards to the need for religious institutions’ consent to marry such couples, I feel that could be a problem, but it could be a problem anywhere where gay marriage is legal and the couple wants a religious ceremony – some religious institutions may consent and others may not.
The Church of England and the Church of Wales have been strongly against the same sex marriage ceremonies. (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/67d2adb4-6fbf-11e2-8785-00144feab49a.html#axzz2KcHlJh00). The fact that this bill allows for religious institutions to have to grant consent before administrating the ceremony is a good middle ground and will prevent as much resistance and criticism as would have followed if this option were not available. That is not to say that there will be limited resistance now and it is highly unlikely that these two main Churches in the UK will grant consent to same sex marriage. Another criticism vocalized by conservative Tories is that gay marriage was not on the party manifesto or coalition agreement and so should not have been brought up at this time. (Id.). While there is overwhelming popular support from the public for a law of this sort, there are still many obstacles in the way and with Mr. Cameron losing the support of his party, I believe that it is doubtful that this legislation will pass the way it is now. (Id.).
I think that this proposed law should be the blueprint for similar legislation in the United States. I personally believe that what other people choose to do with their lives has no impact on me. In the U.S., the crux of the debate hinges on religious reasons and for a country that supposedly has a separation of church and state, I find it hard to accept any religious opposition to same-sex marriage.
England has the right idea in my eyes to refuse to let religious reasons get in the way of allowing all individuals to enjoy the same rights. The best aspect of this law is the concession that is made to the religious wing where there cannot be a religious ceremony unless the church grants consent. Most advocates against same-sex marriage cite the opposition to the idea in their religion; however by allowing the church to ban it, with respect to their followers, it gives the church the power to uphold its ideals.
A law legalizing same-sex marriage will go a long way in promoting equal rights among all people and I am very interested to see its outcome.