Analysis: What next for the same-sex marriage bill?

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

With LGBT campaigners celebrating Tuesday’s historic vote by MPs – it’s important to remember that there is still a fair way to go before equal marriage is signed into law for England and Wales.

On Tuesday evening MPs voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill by 400 to 175, a majority of 225.

However, David Cameron’s personal authority was left weakened.

Voting lists show that 136 Conservatives – almost half of the party’s MPs – opposed the bill.

22 Labour MPs also voted against, along with 4 Liberal Democrat MPs.

The bill will now receive more detailed parliamentary scrutiny with LGBT stakeholders being asked to give evidence in front of the House of Commons Public Bill Committee.

After that, the bill will then travel back to the chamber for further debate and a final vote by MPs.

Yesterday, MPs also voted on whether they would support the bill’s programme (timetabling) motion – which makes a bill’s progress through its various stages much more predictable.

As a procedural matter this was a whipped vote for all MPs – yet 55 defied the whip – in a further sign of intense division.

Before the vote, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Simon Hughes warned that he would vote against the timetabling motion for the bill, because he thought the timetable was “rushed”.

Labour MP and former Treasury minister Stephen Timms said in yesterday’s debate that he would vote against the bill at its third reading; an indication that sceptical MPs who may have sided with the government could still seek to oppose the bill at a later stage.

Should it pass its third reading in the Commons, the bill would then head to the House of Lords, where members of the upper chamber would also need to vote in favour before it could become law.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has already warned that equal marriage opponents in the Lords could attempt to derail the legislation as part of a last-ditch stand.

Attempts to scupper the bill by proposing additional amendments are unlikely to de-rail the bill in its entirety– but they could succeed in lengthening the legislative timetable.

Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg told PinkNews in December that he was hopeful the first same-sex marriages would be able to take place by the summer of 2013.

The Coalition Government has already set a deadline of the end of the current parliament to introduce equal marriage in England and Wales.