Meet the MPs deciding on the next stage of gay marriage
19 members of parliament will now meet in committee to decide on each aspect of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill
After the UK House of Commons voted in an overwhelming majority to back marriage equality in England and Wales, the world started celebrating.
But don’t go buying your hats yet, as there are several stages left before Queen Elizabeth II can sign the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill into law.
Today (12 February), 19 members of parliament will hear evidence from religious, parliamentary and gay rights experts.
Over the next few weeks they will go through each line of the bill and decide on the merit, the accuracy and whether it should remain.
Out of the 19, 15 voted for marriage equality and 4 voted against – a 79%-21% split.
There are seven Labour MPs, nine Conservatives, two Liberal Democrats and one member from the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland.
As well, there are four openly gay MPs and two strong allies in the mix.
Due to the high level of religious argument used against marriage equality debate back on 5 February, some gay rights advocates are concerned that over half of the MPs identify strongly as a Christian or Muslim.
Several MPs said as Christians, they supported marriage equality.
For example Stephen Doughty, Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, said he believes his religion does not have a ‘monopoly’ on marriage, while Helen Grant, Conservative MP for Maidstone, said people of faith should believe in fairness.
Meanwhile Desmond Swayne, Tory MP for New Forest West said as a married Christian, ‘it’s a huge blessing, and therefore I want that blessing to be extended to everyone.’
As shadow minister of state for equalities, Labour MP Kate Green says it is time to ‘finish the job’ civil partnerships started for gay couples and give them proper equality.
Other MPs voting for marriage equality include culture minister Hugh Robertson, as well as Jane Ellison, Siobhain McDonagh, Alison McGovern, and Jonathan Reynolds.
David Burrowes, the Tory MP for Enfield, Southgate, said the legislation debate was not about gay rights but ‘defending the historical purpose of marriage’.
Kwasi Kwarteng, a Conservative for Spelthorne, kept his views on marriage equality relatively close to his chest all throughout the debate.
It was only when a constituent asked him to vote in favor, he said: ‘I don’t believe that this is a change which has been driven by the gay lobby; nor do I think it substantially changes the rights enjoyed by homosexual couples under civil partnership legislation.’
Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, voted against marriage equality due to not wanting gay couples to have a religious service.
‘It is difficult for me to accept that the solemnity of marriage as a religious institution can be anything other than between a man and a woman,’ he said.
Jim Shannon, of Northern Ireland’s DUP, claimed during the debate ’99.9%’ of his constituents opposed the equal marriage reform.
…And The Gay
While all five gay MPs voted for equal marriage, their views differ significantly. There is also one MP, Simon Kirby, who is noted for his strong ties to the LGBT community.
Ben Bradshaw, a former Labour minister, has said the fight for marriage equality was just ‘semantics’ and the Conservatives’ plot was ‘pure politics’.
In response, Conservative MP Stuart Andrew, also on the committee, told Bradshaw it seemed like he was the one going for ‘cheap political point-scoring’.
Chris Bryant, Labour MP and former clergyman, became the first gay MP to have a civil partnership in the House of Commons in 2010 and has remained a key figurehead in the debate.
Stephen Williams, the first openly Liberal Democrat MP elected in 2005, has also said legalizing marriage equality will ‘show our country is a world leader in human rights and equality of esteem’.
Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, gave an impassioned speech at the debate.
He said: ‘This historic legislation will end this discrimination but, more crucially, it will send a signal that this house values everybody equally in this country and that signal will deeply affect those people like me who 20 years ago saw this house vote to equalise the age of consent.
‘That was the first time that I had seen that there were other people like me, it was the first time I realised I was not alone and it changed my life.’