After a long and sometimes bumpy ride through Parliament, marriage equality is now the law of the land in England and Wales. Just a day after the House of Lords approved same-sex marriages, the House of Commons finalized the passage after a two-hour debate. The bill now goes to the Queen (Elizabeth, that is) for royal assent, but that’s a monarchic formality expected to take place later this week. Marriage ceremonies will begin next summer.
The bill was backed by Tory Prime Minister David Cameron, who wanted to prove his party was progressive on social issues. However, Cameron paid a substantial political price for his backing. More than half of his party’s members in the House of Commons voted against the bill, including some of his own Cabinet ministers. That Tory rancor continued right down to the final debate. Former Defence Minister Sir Gerald Howarth called the law “wretched” and warned that people who oppose marriage equality “unable or inhibited from expressing their true opinions that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” (Yes, having to hide your homophobia is ever so much worse than denying people their rights.)
The impending passage of the law caused the predictable freak-out among the religious right. Anglican Mainstream, which is anything but, went to the summit of hysteria to suggest direct parallels to the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.
By contrast, LGBT activists were ecstatic. “”It’s impossible to express how much joy this historic step will bring to tens of thousands of gay people and their families and friends,” Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay group Stonewall, said in an online statement. ”The bill’s progress through Parliament shows that, at last, the majority of politicians in both Houses understand the public’s support for equality, though it’s also reminded us that gay people still have powerful opponents.”
However, marriage equality supporters still have their work cut out for them. Same-sex marriages are still not recognized in Scotland. Summerskill said that the focus will now move there ”so that every single gay person in Britain will soon enjoy full equality.”
Photo credit: Stonewall Facebook Page