MPs to approve gay marriage bill after Tory revolt fails
Labour proposal saves same-sex marriage bill but Tory opponents vow to continue fight in Lords
THE legalisation of same-sex marriages is set to be approved by MPs today after Labour helped the government head off an attempt by Tory backbenchers to derail it.
Fifty-six Conservative MPs had put forward an amendment seeking to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples. Critics said the amendment was a "wrecking motion" designed to seriously delay or scupper the gay marriage bill. But the government avoided an "embarrassing reverse" last night when it accepted a Labour proposal for an immediate review of civil partnerships instead, reports Sky News.
When the vote was held in the Commons last night eight Labour MPs, three Lib Dems and three SDLP members joined the Tory critics and voted in favour of the "wrecking motion". But it was easily defeated in a free vote by a majority of 370. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is expected to clear the Commons tonight when it has its third and final reading.
Gay couples could marry in England and Wales as early as summer 2014, although the bill is likely to "face stiff resistance" when it goes to the House of Lords on Wednesday.
Former Tory minister Tim Loughton, who tabled the defeated amendment on behalf of the Tory dissidents, accused his party's ministers of making a "grubby deal" with Labour to secure the passage of the bill. He vowed that the battle against legal same-sex unions would continue in the upper chamber.
While David Cameron has avoided the acute embarrassment of seeing a bill he has championed being defeated in the Commons, the rift created by the issue has done lasting damage to his leadership. The PM is "still under fire from many in his own party" who are vehemently opposed to the measure and warn it will cost "vital Tory support" at the next election, reports Sky News.
Labour said the review of civil partnerships for heterosexual couples could take place within the next few months, which would allow its findings to be reflected in the final legislation. "We are certainly anxious to do all we can to ensure that same-sex marriages arrives as swiftly as possible on the statute book," said shadow equalities minister Kate Green.