British lawmakers vote in favor of gay marriage

LONDON — A bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Britain cleared a major hurdle Tuesday, as lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the proposals championed by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The vote in the House of Commons — 400 to 175 in support of the proposed legislation — will be followed by more detailed parliamentary debates. The proposals also require the approval of the House of Lords before they become law.

The process could take months, but if approved, the bill is expected to take effect in 2015 and enable same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies, provided the religious institution consents. The bill also lets couples who had previously entered into civil partnerships convert their relationship into a marriage.

“Tonight’s vote shows Parliament is very strongly in favor of equal marriage,” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said. “I genuinely believe that we will look back on today as a landmark for equality in Britain.”

The lopsided vote was a qualified victory for Cameron, with around half of his party’s lawmakers rejecting the proposals or abstaining. Nonetheless, strong support from the left-leaning Labour Party and Liberal Democrats party ensured the Commons approval.

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.”

Officials have stressed that all religious organizations can decide for themselves if they want to “opt in” to holding gay weddings. However, the Church of England, the country’s official faith, is barred from performing such ceremonies.

That provision aims to ensure that the Church, which opposes gay marriage, is protected from legal claims that as the official state religion it must marry anyone who requests it.

Currently, same-sex couples only have the option of a civil partnership, which offers the same legal rights and protections on issues such as inheritance, pensions, and child maintenance.

Supporters say that gay relationships should be treated exactly the same way as heterosexual ones, but critics worry that the proposals would change long-standing views about the meaning of marriage. Some Conservatives also fear the proposals would cost the party a significant number of votes in the next general election.

“Marriage is the union between a man and a woman, has been historically, remains so. It is Alice in Wonderland territory, Orwellian almost, for any government of any political persuasion to seek to come along and try to re-write the lexicon,” Conservative lawmaker Roger Gale said.

The bill’s provisions apply only to England and Wales — there are no plans for similar legislation in Northern Ireland. Scotland is considering introducing a similar bill.

More in Local News

District takes steps to secure school campuses

Safety measures have been enhanced at Hawthorne and Silver Firs elementary schools in Everett.

Local police join thousands honoring slain Canadian officer

Abbotsford Const. John Davidson was killed Nov. 6 in a shootout with a suspected car thief.

Hard work is paying off for Mariner High senior

Mey Ly has excelled in school since moving here from Cambodia; she also serves as an intrepreter.

1 arrested after SWAT team moves in on Marysville house

The incident was connected to an earlier robbery.

Darrington School Board race might come down to a coin flip

With a one-vote difference, a single ballot in Skagit County remains to be counted.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

No easy exit from Smokey Point shopping complex

There’s just no easy exit on this one. A reader called in… Continue reading

County Council upholds ban on safe heroin injection sites

At Monday’s public hearing, more than 15 people spoke in support of the ban. No one spoke against it.

Lynnwood, Marysville, Sultan consider ban on safe injection sites

If approved, they would join Lake Stevens and Snohomish County, which have temporary bans.

Most Read