London MPs to vote on gay marriage bill

15:54 05 February 2013

MPs will cast their votes tonight. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

MPs will cast their votes tonight. Picture: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

London MPs are preparing to vote today on the government’s controversial Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

The vote will take place at around 7pm today, with the issue expected to split the Conservative Party, with up to 120 reportedly to vote against.

The bill is expected to pass into legislation on the back of support from Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs. Stephen Timms (East Ham) and Stephen Pound (Ealing North) are the only two London Labour MPs expected to abstain and vote against the bill.

Lib Dem MP Brent Central MP Sarah Teather is reportedly set to abstain.

Tory big hitters George Osborne, Theresa May, and William Hague wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph today in favour of the proposals, urging their MPs to vote in favour. Tonight is a free vote, and MPs have not been whipped.

Speaking in Parliament today, culture secretary Maria Miller said the Government’s proposals would protect freedom of faith and extend equality to gay couples.

“Marriage is, in fact, an institution with a long history of adaptation and change,” she said.

Catholics and those of other faiths were once only allowed to marry in Anglican churches and it was not until the 20th century that men and women were treated as equal before the law.

“Suggestions that this Bill changes something that has remained unchanged for centuries simply does not recognise the road that marriage has travelled as an institution,” she said.

Asked to compare the new laws on marriage to those decriminalising homosexuality, Mrs Miller said: “What we have to do is not just legislate for today but for the future as well.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper welcomed the measures to the Commons.

She said: “Today, Parliament has the chance to support loving couples who want to get married. The chance to make some of the same-sex couples I have spoken to in the last few weeks very happy - it means they can finally set a date for their wedding.

“Couples who love each other should be able to get married regardless of their gender and sexuality and we should enjoy that and we should celebrate that.”

Ms Cooper said she acknowledged people had strong views on marriage and that some would oppose the Bill in the Commons tonight.

But one former coalition minister said the Government had no mandate for such a “massive social and cultural change”.

Aldershot MP Sir Gerald Howarth told her it was not in the Conservative Party’s manifesto and Prime Minister David Cameron had said he had “no plans” to introduce the measure.

He added: “There are many major issues this country has to deal with, this is an irrelevance.”

And Tory MP Matthew Offord (Hendon) asked Mrs Miller to confirm that “those opponents of this Bill, many hundreds of my constituents, are not homophobic, are not bigots and are not barking”.

Mrs Miller said he had made his point “very well”.

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