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From George Clooney love affairs to a new Section 28, House of Lords debate gay marriage

In the Report stage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill planning to give gay couples the right to get married in England and Wales, the upper house talk humanist weddings, lesbian adultery and more
George Clooney helped out England and Wales gay couples in the same-sex marriage debate in the House of Lords? We knew we liked him.

From George Clooney love affairs to a new Section 28, the House of Lords returned last night to debate same-sex marriage in England and Wales.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has just completed the first day of the Report Stage, with several votes made on amendments made to wreck the bill.

Among the many voted down was an amendment to allow registrars to refuse to do their job and not marry same-sex couples. It was voted down by a majority of 175.

But it was the mention of the Hollywood actor, star of ER and Oscar-winner, that provoked the most chortling from the unelected chamber.

Baroness Tina Stowell made the illustrious point while talking about how gay couples did not need to divorce on grounds of adultery.

She said: ‘As the law stands, if I was married to George Clooney and he was to have a sexual affair with, say, the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, that would be adultery.

‘If I was married to George Clooney and Mr Clooney had sexual relations with the noble Lord, Lord Alli, that would not be adultery because he would not be able to do the sexual act which is very specifically defined in law.

‘Should I wish to divorce Mr Clooney on those grounds, I would do so on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour.

Stowell added: ‘In future, if the noble Lord, Lord Alli, was to marry Mr Clooney, and Mr Clooney was to have an affair with me—and who would blame him in those circumstances?—that would be adultery and the noble Lord, Lord Alli, should he choose to, would be able to divorce Mr Clooney on those grounds.’

She then pointed out if Alli, an openly gay ally for same-sex marriage in the Lords, was married to Clooney and Clooney had an affair with the openly gay Lord Black of Brentwood (which he gave a firm ‘Hear, hear!’), then Alli would be able to divorce Clooney on grounds of reasonable behavior.

Finally, Stowell said: ‘We hope that all marriages, whether they are between a couple of opposite sexes or the same sex will continue, and that they will be faithful and remain happy and contented.

‘If that is not the case, we believe that the existing provisions are perfectly adequate for divorce to take place.’

One of the most fearful amendments was Amendment 46, described as the ‘Son of Section 28’ by gay rights group Stonewall.

Moved by Lord Dear, it called for the ‘protection of teachers’ so they could express their views on same-sex marriage.

Baroness Elizabeth Barker, a Liberal Democrat peer, said it was regrettable Dear chose to speak about the ‘promotion of same-sex relationships’, saying it brings an ‘echo of some very bad policy from times past for some of us’ – referencing Margaret Thatcher’s anti-gay policy.

Baroness Janet Royall of Blaisdon, a Labour peer, said in response:

‘I believe it is absolutely clear that while teachers will be under a legal duty, as is right and proper, to teach the law of the land—that gay couples will be able to marry—that does not mean that teachers are going to be able to advocate this as the best form of marriage, and nor are they going to be asked to promote same-sex marriage.

‘These are very different things. It is right and proper that teachers in our country should be expected to teach the law of the land—not to promote or advocate but just to teach.’

The amendment was defeated by Peers by a majority of 131.

One of the biggest wins for the day was a review of humanist weddings was included in the bill.

Speaking after the debate, Glenys Thornton, the shadow equalities minister, said: ‘I am very proud to have been part of getting humanist weddings on statute book at long last.

Lord Dear, the author of many of the wrecking amendments, once again had his ‘belief in traditional marriage’ protections removed from the bill.

The third reading of the bill in the Lords will take place on 15 July.

The Lords have already indicated broad support for the bill and it has been passed by the elected House of Commons who can force it, if necessary, through the unelected upper chamber.

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