Amendment to allow registrars to opt out of marrying gay couples defeated in Lords

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An amendment to allow civil registrars to opt out of marrying same-sex couples has been defeated in the House of Lords by a majority 175 votes.

On Monday evening in the report stage debate of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, 103 peers voted in favour of Amendment 3 – and 278 voted against.

The failed amendment had the key support of Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Williams.

Speaking in the debate prior to the vote, Baroness William said that civil registrars should be allowed the right to refuse to provide marriages for same-sex couples in the same as those who opposed totalitarian regimes.

The head of the National Panel for Registration (NPR), which represents marriage registrars in England and Wales, recently warned the Culture Secretary and the Minister for Women and Equalities against allowing civil registrars to opt of marrying same-sex couples.

In a letter to Maria Miller, Jacquie Bugeja, chair of the NPR, said: “Registration services and, in particular the registrars, are passionate and proud about the services they deliver and the customers they work with. For the past 176 years, registrars have been carrying out their duties and have never wanted a conscience clause, and do not see the need for one now.”