Gay marriage in England and Wales is progressing to the third and final reading intact in the House of Lords.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) has just completed the final day of the Report Stage, with several votes on amendments made to wreck the bill.
From a referendum on equal marriage to a question from a young teen with same-sex parents, the upper house of parliament discussed and debated long into the evening yesterday (10 July).
Lord Singh put forward the referendum, which would have cost British taxpayers £75 million ($113m, €86.7m).
‘Sadly, those pushing the Bill, perhaps because of a collective guilty conscience over past persecution of homosexuals, looked only to the supposed wishes of the gay community with no thought for the rights of others,’ he said.
Baroness Turner, in response, said the amendment was ‘entirely discriminatory’ and Lord Alli said it would be ‘insulting the integrity of both Houses’.
As the debate went to 11pm, Lord Singh sensed he was becoming unpopular and withdrew the amendment.
An amendment similar to the ‘Son of Section 28’, which called for the protection of teachers to allow them to not teach the facts, came back after being defeated on Monday by a majority of 131.
Moved by the Bishop of Leicester, he wished to protect religious schools from having to say same-sex marriages were equal to opposite sex ones.
Lord Pannick said: ‘If and when sex education addresses homosexuality, it should equally be taught in that same context of responsibility and other relationships and, as a result of this Bill, that will include same-sex marriage.
‘For this amendment to be adopted would, I am afraid, run counter to everything else that we are seeking to achieve in this Bill.’
The bill was later withdrawn.
The Earl of Listowel went on a long rant about how same-sex parenting was too ‘new’ to know what the consequences will be to the children.
‘I fear a gradual erosion of that traditional norm that the best situation for every child is to have a mother and a father,’ he said.
‘We know from experience that boys growing up without fathers are at greater risk of poorer outcomes than those with fathers.
‘We know that male same-sex relationships can be of brief duration, and that unstable parental relationships are harmful to a child’s development.’
‘The Secretary of State must provide evidence-based information to teachers on the implications of the measures in this Act for the raising of children and the promotion of family life.”
Baroness Farrington brought up a question from a 12-year-old who asked her why the House of Lords was discussing same-sex marriage, using it as an example that it is a ridiculous notion schools are places where ideas are promoted.
She said: ‘These days, even young children, and certainly 13 year-olds, will ask questions; but the idea that a teacher can go into a classroom and tell children of 13 what to think or know is pretty ludicrous.
‘Those children are growing up in the world; they recognise it. In fact, we are recognising the world of those children who recognise it.
‘A 12 year-old said to me, “What are you doing in the House of Lords?” I said, “Same-sex marriage”. The child said, “Why should there be any argument about that—who is arguing?” I said, “Well—some of the people from religious backgrounds.”
‘The child said to me, “You know, I could go off God.” That was a child in a church school in rural Essex. I said, “You really mustn’t blame God for what some of the religious followers say. It isn’t always God who is wrong; it may be their interpretation”.’
The third reading of the bill in the Lords will take place on 15 July.
Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said: ‘We’re close to making history. It’s a promising sign of progress that peers from all parties and the crossbenches have refused to let the Bill be derailed by Lord Dear’s “Son of Section 28” amendment and others.’
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.
On 15 July, there will also be a vigil outside the UK parliament with gay musicians, politicians and celebrities and supporters of the marriage equality bill attending.