Britain's gay marriage bill passes major hurdle
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Anti-gay marriage demonstrators listen to a speech by a fellow activist as they gather outside the Houses of Parliament in London May 21, 2013. A bill to legalise gay marriage in Britain passed a crucial hurdle in parliament on Tuesday, despite efforts by lawmakers from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party to wreck the plans. AFP PHOTO / ADRIAN DENNISA bill to legalise gay marriage in Britain passed a crucial hurdle in parliament on Tuesday, despite efforts by lawmakers from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party to wreck the plans.
Members of the House of Commons voted by 366 to 161 in favour of the same sex marriage bill, a majority of 205, and it will now go to the unelected House of Lords for consideration.
There was applause as the result was read out, although the bill is likely to face stiff opposition when it is debated in the Lords next month, especially from the bishops. The vote followed a marathon debate on Monday in which Cameron was forced to make a deal with the opposition Labour party to defeat a bid by his own rebellious Conservative MPs to scupper the bill.
Right-wing Tories had proposed an amendment to allow heterosexual couples to form civil partnerships, which was condemned by Cameron's office as a "wrecking amendment" that would have delayed the introduction of the new law.
Although the motion was easily defeated with Labour's help, the depth of the Conservatives' divisions were made clear when it was revealed that 128 of its MPs had voted against the bill, 11 more than voted in favour.
Britain has seen none of the mass protests over gay marriage held across the channel in France, which last weekend became the 14th country in the world to legalise it.
However, police said they had detained a woman after she tried to drive through the main gates of parliament shortly after the vote, but did not directly link the two events.
Some 54 percent of Britons are in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry, according to a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times.
But lawmakers are sharply divided, and Conservative former minister Norman Tebbit stoked the row on Tuesday by claiming gay marriage could result in a lesbian queen giving birth to an heir by artificial insemination.
"When we have a queen who is a lesbian and she marries another lady and then decides she would like to have a child and someone donates sperm and she gives birth to a child, is that child heir to the throne?" he told The Big Issue magazine.