UK: 86 MPs vote to change the Equality Act in same-sex marriage amendment debate

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A bill proposed by Conservative MP Edward Leigh, a staunch equal marriage opponent, to amend the Equality Act in order to provide further legal protections for those who disagree with allowing gay couples to marry has received the support of 86 MPs.

Mr Leigh, who represents Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, remains unconvinced by the government’s position on religious safeguards and claims pending legislation offers no security to people opposed to the change.

Mr Leigh’s Equality (Marriage) (Amendment) Bill was given its first reading in the Commons yesterday after a vote by MPs, which he won by a majority of 55.

A total of 117 MPs voted in Tuesday’s debate. 86 supported the bill – 31 voted against.

The MP explained his bill would amend the Equality Act 2010 to include a person’s “conscientious beliefs” about the definition of marriage.

Mr Leigh’s bill will proceed to second reading but it is unlikely to become law due to lack of parliamentary time.

He told the Commons: “They are entitled to protection not just in their churches, they are entitled to protection in the workplace, on Facebook, a home and when they are teaching in the classroom.

“They are entitled to speak about their beliefs on merit.”

But Stephen Doughty, the Labour MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, argued that there was “no need” for the bill.

He said the House of Commons would have a “full chance” to debate such issues during second reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill for England and Wales on Tuesday of next week.

Earlier in the week, Conservative MP Philip Davies, who along with Mr Leigh is another staunch equal marriage opponent, told a PinkNews reader that he expects the government’s bill to pass with a Commons majority of between 300-400.