UK moves step closer to same-sex marriage
By Danny Kemp ,AFPLONDON -- British lawmakers voted in favor of controversial legislation allowing gay marriage on Tuesday despite fierce opposition from members of Prime Minister David Cameron's own party.
February 7, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
The move puts Britain on track to join the 10 countries that allow same-sex couples to marry, but Cameron had the embarrassment of seeing more than half of his Conservative legislators refusing to back him.
The prime minister insisted that the plan to allow same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales would “make our society stronger” although the draft law still has several other parliamentary hurdles to clear.
“Strong views exist on both sides but I believe MPs voting for gay people being able to marry too, is a step forward for our country,” Cameron wrote on his Twitter page after the vote.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who leads the Conservatives' junior coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, called the result a “landmark for equality.”
“Tonight's vote shows parliament is very strongly in favor of equal marriage,” he said. “Marriage is about love and commitment, and it should no longer be denied to people just because they are gay.”
The vote passed by 400 to 175, mainly because it had overwhelming support from the Lib Dems and opposition Labour Party.
Just 127 of Cameron's 303 Conservatives voted in favor of the plans, with 136 voting against and 40 more either formally abstaining or not voting.
Two Conservative cabinet ministers, Owen Patterson and David Jones, were among those who voted against, while Defense Secretary Philip Hammond and Attorney General Dominic Grieve stayed away.
Cameron had allowed lawmakers a free vote on the issue, meaning they were not directed by party managers.
Opponents attacked the bill during an often impassioned daylong debate ahead of the vote in the House of Commons, or lower house of parliament.
Pleas from Cameron's heavyweight cabinet allies to persuade their Conservative colleagues to back his plans and avoid damaging divisions fell on deaf ears.
A former junior defense minister, Gerald Howarth, said the government had no mandate for such a “massive social and cultural change.”