Lib Dem MPs to be given free vote on all aspects of the same-sex marriage bill

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Liberal Democrat MPs are to be given a free vote on all aspects of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, it has been revealed.

Liberal Democrat Voice reports at Tuesday’s parliamentary meeting of Lib Dem MPs, it was agreed that all would be given a free vote during next week’s Commons debate on a number of amendments to the bill.

Previously, it was only agreed February’s second reading vote would be unwhipped.

Lib Dem Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael made the announcement about the second reading last December but stressed that the only decision taken on whipping arrangements was in relation to the 5 February vote – the broad principle of the bill – for all other votes the MP said the initial presumption of whipping still applies.

In May 2012, Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg criticised David Cameron for granting Conservative MPs a free on the issue – at a time when the government’s official position was that it was only looking at reforming civil marriage laws and not those concerning religious establishments.

But in December, in an exclusive interview with, Mr Clegg signalled that he was now in favour of allowing his party’s MPs the freedom to vote with their conscience on the issue.

“As I say, I’m not going to be illiberal in pushing through a liberal measure,” he said. “I just fully expect Liberal Democrat MPs will vote in favour of something that we have recently formally adopted as our party policy in the Liberal Democrats.”

The House of Commons will debate the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill as part of its third reading on Monday 20 May and Tuesday 21 May.

It will then travel to the House of Lords for further debate, scrutiny and voting.

Earlier this week, Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather told the Catholic Herald that voting against the bill in February was “an extremely difficult choice”.

Ms Teather was among four Lib Dem MPs to vote against the bill in its second reading – along with Sir Alan Beith, Gordon Birtwistle and John Pugh.

Seven other Lib Dem MPs were also absent from the vote.