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Gay marriage bill passes final reading in British House of Lords

A marriage equality bill on July 15 passed its third and final reading Britain’s House of Lords. The measure still needs final approval in the House of Commons.

A statement from Ben Summerskill of the British civil rights group Stonewall read, “Today we’ve all made history. 

“For the very first time, every child growing up to be lesbian, gay or bisexual in this country will have exactly the same rights, responsibilities and choices as their heterosexual friends and family. 

“Throughout the campaign we’ve heard comments and accusations ranging from the absurd to the deeply offensive. Loving, committed same-sex relationships have been compared to bigamy, incest and slavery.

“Thankfully, MPs and peers from all parties have heard the public loud and clear and supported this final piece of legislative equality for gay people. Now the House of Commons will give final approval to the Bill before it receives Royal Assent. This should allow the first same-sex marriages to take place as soon as next spring. 

“Tomorrow the work to change hearts and minds continues. But today, let’s all be proud of what we have achieved together.”

House of Lords vote virtually ensures marriage equality for England and Wales

With two major U.S. Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage looming on the horizon, the British government has taken a step that virtually ensures gay and lesbian couples in England and Wales will be able to marry beginning next year.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s marriage equality bill survived a feared rebellion in the House of Lords that would have derailed the measure, which won prior approval from the House of Commons.

The House of Lords’ attempt to quash the proposed law was rejected by a voted of 390 to 148.

Civil partnerships have been legal in England since 2005. The new law would allow civil partners to convert their arrangement to marriages.

The law would ban the Church of England and Church of Wales from performing same-sex weddings but allow other religious organizations to chose for themselves whether to do so.

“This is a victory for love, marriage and equality,” said gay activist Peter Tatchell, who coordinates the Equal Love campaign. “We are another step closer to our goal of equal marriage. It signals that the House of Lords accepts the principle that we should all be equal before the law.”

Labour and Liberal Democrats largely supported the bill, while Tories were split.

In support of the bill, Tory peer Lord Jenkin said: “Other people have referred to their anniversaries. Last year, my wife and I celebrated our diamond wedding, and I have to say that it has been a marriage with mutual comfort and support. Is this bill going to redefine that marriage? I cannot see how that could possibly happen.”

British House of Commons passes marriage equality bill

The British House of Commons passed the marriage equality bill – known as the same sex couples bill – on May 21.

The vote on the third reading of the legislation was 366 votes to 161 votes.

The day before, supporters of the bill defeated, by a vote of 375-70, an amendment they said was intended to stall the equality campaign.

Now the bill will be considered in the House of Lords.

Ben Summerskill of the Stonewall LGBT civil rights group, said, “We expect to face determined and uncompromising opposition.”

He encouraged citizens to “make sure that the noisy voices of opponents don’t drown out the case for equality.”

Summerskill also said, “We’re so close to achieving this last remaining piece of the jigsaw of legal equality. With your help we can secure a future where everyone has the right to marry the person they love.”