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Married gay people don’t need to have sex, say House of Lords

Baroness Butler-Sloss fails to get an amendment through defining marriage consummation as 'penetration of vagina, anus or mouth' in England and Wales equal marriage debate
Baroness Butler-Sloss failed to get an amendment through the House of Lords defining the consummation of same-sex marriages as penetration of the vagina, mouth or anus.

Married gay people will not need to have sex to officiate their relationship, the UK’s House of Lords has said.

An amendment suggesting the definition of consummation and adultery failed to be agreed upon during the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) debate in the early hours of this morning (20 June).

While gay sex past midnight in the UK government’s upper house may sound like a tabloid newspaper headline, it was a somewhat serious debate at what counts as consummation in a gay relationship.

For heterosexuals, consummation is only defined as complete penetration of the vagina by a penis, although it does not matter if a condom or ejaculation is involved.

Put forward by Baroness Butler-Sloss, who says she is in favor of gay rights but against marriage, she urged the amendment be passed so it demonstrates the importance of both spouses remaining faithful to each other.

Saying 'penetration only takes it halfway, she claimed there is an inequality as saying straight men and women can be sued for cheating on their spouses.

‘I consider it profoundly unsatisfactory and, more importantly, profoundly unjust that adultery is not the ground for same-sex divorce. It undermines the value of same-sex marriage,’ Butler-Sloss said.

‘I assume that it is because there has not so far been a definition of consummation of a sexual relationship other than between couples of the opposite sex.’

Butler-Sloss, a former judge, said the definition of rape requires penetration of the anus, mouth or vagina. She said the consummation of marriage should be imported from sexual offences law.

Lord Alli, in favor of marriage equality, argued the ‘definition of the sexual act that defines fidelity for heterosexuals is outdated and, in my view, very cumbersome.’

He added: ‘Simply importing the definition of penetration—anal, vaginal or oral—into this would leave lesbians at a complete disadvantage regarding fidelity.’

Baroness Stowell of Beeston made it clear the bill allows divorce on grounds of ‘unreasonable behavior’ and added gay couples will be able to choose to make promises and commitments in the form of words they choose.

Butler-Sloss, withdrawing the amendment, said she was ‘sad’ the Government was not prepared to tackle adultery properly, and said straight couples and gay couples will not be equal according to the law.

In May 2012, ministers said they were considering taking sex out of the marriage law – for both straight and gay couples – entirely.

During the rest of the House of Lords debate, they rejected an amendment for humanist weddings.

After Baroness Tina Stowell said gay marriage was the wrong ‘vehicle’ to legislate for humanist weddings, Lord Harrison said he would withdraw but push for them again in the Report Stage.

Lord Dear, author of the many wrecking attacks to the bill, put forward an amendment that he said would ‘protect school teachers’ from ‘promoting gay marriages’.

Alli, in response, said: ‘I don’t think it is difficult for a teacher to teach the facts.’ The amendment was later withdrawn.

The committee stage of the bill in the Lords will continue on Monday (24 June).

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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