MPs to resume debate of same-sex marriage bill this month

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

MPs will resume debate of the same-sex marriage bill later this month, it has been announced.

The bill’s remaining stages will be debated on 20 and 21 May, Leader of the Commons Andrew Lansley told MPs on Thursday.

If the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is approved on 21 May, it will then pass to the Lords for further scrutiny.

A group of MPs has been taking detailed evidence on the proposals in a public committee since February.

The House of Commons Public Bill Committee received testimony from both advocates and critics of the bill.

In February, Conservative committee member and equal marriage opponent David Burrowes MP accused PinkNews of “fomenting hostility”, and “abuse” against equal marriage opponents. 

He made the remarks as the committee received testimony from PinkNews and Out4Marriage founder, Benjamin Cohen.

Mr Cohen responded: “People are entitled to respond to what an MP says in their own way, but I don’t think that’s what we’re encouraging.”

The MP then admitted: “I wouldn’t say you are,” but went on to question: “So how do we protect the freedom of conscience?”

Mr Cohen responded to say that there was no obligation for everyone to agree with equal marriage as a result of the bill.

He said: “I can’t see anything in the bill which says that anyone would have to agree to people having same-sex marriage. People talk a lot about marriage being redefined – it’s not redefining marriages that already exist. If I got married as a result of this bill, it doesn’t actually affect anyone else, other than other same-sex couples.

The bill completed its committee stage on 12 March 2013.

A senior Downing Street source told PinkNews last Friday, with the bill already going through Parliament, there was no need for it to be mentioned in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech and the source said it was expected that its passage through Parliament would be complete before the summer recess. 

The Daily Mail welcomed the apparent absence of the bill from the Queen’s Speech. In an editorial, the paper said: “The Mail is also encouraged by the silence on gay marriage. Is it too much to hope ministers may be having second thoughts about this time-consuming irrelevance, which has alienated so many traditional Tory voters?”

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