House of Lords Passes Gay Marriage Bill In UK

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House of Lords passes gay marriage

LGBT and human rights activist Peter Tatchell and colleagues hold placards at a gay marriage vigil outside the House of Lords. Pic by Pete Riches

The Upper House of British Parliament, the House of Lords, today passed the Gay Marriage Bill by a majority of 242, paving its way to become a law in Britain. The Bill has already been passed on May 21st by the lower house, the House of Commons, with a 205 majority. The Bill will now undergo further scrutiny.

In Britain, a Bill must pass ‘three readings’. The ‘first reading’ is the general introduction of the bill, while the ‘second reading’ is where the bill is debated. This was the second reading of the Gay Marriage Bill, and it will now move to a committee comprising of all members of the House, which will further scrutinize it in details; before being tabled for the ‘third reading’ of the bill.

The House of Lords spent two days debating the bill, but rejected an amendment by Lord Geoffrey Dear which would have stopped the bill. “The Lords voted by 390 votes to 148 to reject an attempt by Lord Dear, a crossbencher, to defeat the bill at second reading,” reports The Guardian. “Two principles seem to have been behind the vote: Some backed the bill because they support lesbian and gay marriage, others because they see the House of Lords as an unelected chamber of revision and believe they should do a full job of scrutinizing the bill,” writes GayStarNews.

The bill allows same-sex couples, who can currently only form civil partnerships, to marry. The bill also allows religious organizations to perform same-sex marriages.  While the successful passage of the bill in the upper house was never in question, the overwhelming majority with which the bill was passed by members has surprised many. “The news of the vote was greeted with cheers, blowing whistles and even the start of a conga-line dance by pro-gay marriage campaigners outside the House of the Lords,” reports GayStarNews. The bill would extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples in England and Wales.