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April 6, 2014

UK culture minister Maria Miller called to resign following alleged threat to Telegraph newspaper

UK culture minister Maria Miller called to resign following alleged threat to Telegraph newspaper

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Maria Miller in 2012
Image: Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Calls for the ouster of British government minister Maria Miller have been increasing following a claim by the Daily Telegraph newspaper that Miller’s special adviser used the threat of press regulation to try and prevent publication of a story about Miller’s expenses. A poll published today by a number of newspapers shows a majority of the public unhappy with Miller’s behaviour and saying she should be removed.

The issue stems initially from a report in the Daily Telegraph regarding Miller’s expenses claims to help pay a mortgage on a house in south London that Miller shares with her parents. The newspaper claimed that she had claimed £90,000 to pay the mortgage on the house. Miller’s expenses have been the subject of investigation by a parliamentary commissioner and then by the House of Commons Committee on Standards. The commissioner determined she should repay £45,000 of this expense, but the Committee determined she ought to only repay £5,800. Following the decision of the Committee, the Daily Telegraph reported Miller’s special adviser Joanna Hindley had said in a telephone call with the newspaper, “I should just flag up as well, while you’re on it that when she doorstepped him, she got Maria’s father, who’s just had a [removed] and come out of [removed]. And Maria [has] obviously been having quite a lot of editors’ meetings around Leveson at the moment. So I am just going to kind of flag up that connection for you to think about.”

The Telegraph alleges that this was intended as a form of intimidation: that Hindley dropped in mention of press regulation and the Leveson Report as a way to attempt to get the newspaper to drop the story. A leader column in the Telegraph stated Hindley’s remarks were “an indictment of the influence that press regulation by statute could have over free speech”. Therese Coffey, a Conservative MP (Member of Parliament), has defended Hindley’s statements to the Telegraph, as specifically referring to the “doorstepping” of Maria Miller’s elderly parents, specifically her father who had been returning from hospital. Coffey said of the audio published by the Telegraph: “I heard an adviser to the culture secretary suggesting that it’s inappropriate to be doorstepping elderly parents of somebody who has just come out of hospital.”

Heather Brooke, a campaigner who has been involved in the release and publication of MPs’ expenses and the scandal that followed, said the alleged doorstepping was “a public interest piece of reporting”, noting that the journalist from the Telegraph had to visit the property to work out who was living there. Brooke said it was “disingenuous to use this argument of privacy”.

Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher also claimed that Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s director of communications, also attempted to suppress the story: “When you get the Prime Minister’s spokesman making a similar phone call to you a couple of days later, you add all three calls up and you can only conclude that they are trying to harass you and stop you from publishing the story.”

Oliver has denied the story. “It is utterly false to suggest that I threatened Tony Gallagher over Leveson in any way. The conversation I had with him was about the inappropriate doorstepping of an old man”, he told the BBC.

Miller has the backing of Prime Minister David Cameron: on Friday, Cameron told reporters to “leave it there” on questions of Miller’s expenses. Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, suggested Miller could be targeted by a “witch-hunt” due to her role in press regulation following the Leveson inquiry, as well as her job in fronting the government’s gay marriage bill.

Duncan Smith told the BBC‘s Andrew Marr Show: “I am enormously fond of her. She has done a very good job in a very difficult set of circumstances with the Leveson inquiry that has stirred up a lot of media antipathy to her. And also the gay marriage stuff — there are a lot of Conservatives out there who, perhaps, were not necessarily in support of it all and so feel rather bitter about that. I have known her to be a reasonable and honest person.”

Labour politicians have responded to the affair with strong criticism of Miller, but no call yet to resign. Angela Eagle, the shadow leader of the House of Commons, said: “The latest revelations and the release of a recording raise further serious questions for Maria Miller and David Cameron. They urgently need to make clear what they knew about these calls and what action they took about them.”



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December 10, 2013

UK Government announce same-sex weddings to start from March 29

UK Government announce same-sex weddings to start from March 29

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Maria Miller, the minister who led the same-sex marriage bill through Parliament.
Image: Work and Pensions Office.

The British government announced today that marriages in England and Wales between members of the same-sex will be conducted from March 29 of next year. The change follows the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act earlier this year.

The equalities minister Maria Miller said: “Marriage is one of our most important institutions, and from 29 March 2014 it will be open to everyone, irrespective of whether they fall in love with someone of the same sex or opposite sex. This is just another step in the evolution of marriage and I know that many couples up and down the country will be hugely excited that they can now plan for their big day and demonstrate their love and commitment to each other by getting married.”

The government have not given details of how couples already in a civil partnership will be able to convert to a marriage. The government are also working on arrangements for those who wish to change their legally recognised gender while married. Miller said arrangements on both of these issues would be in place by the end of 2014.

Ben Summerskill from the gay rights group Stonewall said: “This historic step will mean that, for the first time, every gay person in England and Wales will finally enjoy exactly the same rights as their heterosexual friends and family.”

The deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said on Twitter that it was “great news”.



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October 10, 2013

UK government rejects industry proposal for press regulation

UK government rejects industry proposal for press regulation

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

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Maria Miller announced the rejection of the newspaper industry’s proposals in Parliament Tuesday.
Image: Work and Pensions Office.

The British government have rejected a proposed plan for press self-regulation from a group of newspaper publishers and have said they intend to proceed with a Royal Charter supported by the three main political parties. The culture secretary Maria Miller said Tuesday in the House of Commons the proposal by the newspaper industry failed to implement fundamental parts of the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry into behaviour and ethical standards of the press last year.

Miller announced the final draft of the Charter will become availble on Friday following revisions by the political parties, and will be discussed by the Privy Council on October 30. The proposals offered by the newspapers and the government differ on implementation details on the regulator that would replace the Press Complaints Commission. The newspapers wish to allow former editors of newspapers to serve on the “recognition panel” which would supervise the operation of the regulator while the government wishes to forbid former editors. The government wish to prevent serving newspaper editors from being on the appointments committee for the regulator while the press proposal seeks to require one of the four members of the committee to represent the press industry.

The government proposal seeks to make it so the Royal Charter can be amended by Parliament, with a two-thirds majority from both houses, while the press proposal gives industry trade bodies a say on changes to the Charter. In both proposals, an arbitration service would be provided as an alternative to going to court, but the government wishes to make the arbitration service free for claimants while the newspapers want it to be “inexpensive” because they believe free arbitration could lead to a rush in claims going to arbitration. Both proposals would allow the regulator to fine the industry up to £1 million and demand the prominent publication of corrections and apologies to news stories.

The Hacked Off campaign welcomed the rejection of the industry proposals. A spokesman described the proposals as “a wrecking manouevre by unrepentant sections of the press trying to avoid accountability and carry on with a broken system of press regulation” but condemned the delays in implementation: “Ten months after the publication of the Leveson Report and seven months after all parties in parliament endorsed its recommendations in a Royal Charter, there can be no legitimate excuse for yet another delay.”

Hacked Off was formed following the revelations in 2011 that journalists working for the Sunday tabloid News of the World hacked into the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

The newspaper industry continue to express concern regarding the proposals. Trevor Kavanagh, a columnist for the Sun, said that the “major issue here is keeping the freedom of the press out of the sticky fingers of the politicians who want to control it”.

Kirsty Hughes from Index on Censorship said: “Establishing press regulation by royal charter could allow politicians to interfere in press regulation and threaten media freedom in the UK.”

Movie actor Hugh Grant, a director of Hacked Off, rejected criticism of the charter from the press, arguing the press object to the system because “when the press gets things wrong and harms people unfairly, the charter system will give those people a much better chance of redress. It will provide free or at least very cheap arbitration, instead of requiring people whose rights have been breached to pay mountainous high court legal bills. And it will provide a free, independent complaints service in the case of breaches of the industry code of standards.”

Grant goes on to argue that the press have attempted to reform the “old, discredited” Press Complaints Commission which Lord Leveson had found not fit for purpose. Instead, he argues, the press should welcome the new regulator as a protection from libel as joining in means “their journalists will have better protection from legal bullying by corporations and oligarchs. Because litigants are pushed towards cheap arbitration it will no longer be possible for the very wealthy to gag reporters simply by threatening high court actions. The court costs would fall to the libel bully.”



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May 22, 2013

Same-sex marriage passes third reading in House of Commons

Same-sex marriage passes third reading in House of Commons

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Maria Miller: “Let us make equal marriage possible because it’s the right thing to do, and then let us move on.”
Image: Department for Work and Pensions.

The UK House of Commons voted yesterday to approve the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at third reading, with 366 MPs supporting and 161 MPs opposing. The Bill proceeds today to the House of Lords. The legislation continues to draw strong criticism from right wing Conservative MPs and has caused political trouble for Prime Minister David Cameron.

Opponents of the Bill led by Tim Loughton MP submitted an amendment to allow opposite sex couples to enter into civil partnerships, which were introduced in 2004 as an alternative to marriage for same sex couples. The government warned that Loughton’s amendment was an attempt to wreck the passage of the Bill. Sir George Young, the Conservative chief whip, asked Labour whips to oppose the amendment despite the Labour Party previously supporting the amendment.

A Labour Party source quoted in The Guardian said they “had an eleventh hour appeal from the government that they did not have the numbers to defeat the Tim Loughton amendment” and that Labour leader Ed Miliband considered it an “overriding priority […] to ensure that the bill gets on to the statute book. Ed and Yvette Cooper will therefore be voting against the Tim Loughton amendment. We expect a large number of MPs to join Ed and Yvette. Since there was a genuine threat to the bill Ed decided the best thing to do was to act in this way.”

A rival amendment put forward by the Labour Party would bring in a review of whether civil partnerships ought to be extended to opposite sex couples but would not delay the implementation of marriage for same sex couples. This amendment was approved 391 to 57 by the Commons.

Opponents of the Bill including David Burrowes and Peter Bone are hoping the House of Lords will reject the law: Burrowes stated Lords would have the right to reject the bill as “there was no clear manifesto commitment, no coalition agreement, no green paper — just a sham consultation”. The Conservative Party’s 2010 “contract for equalities” reads, “We will also consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage.”

Norman Tebbit in 2008.
Image: James Robertson.

In an interview with The Big Issue, former cabinet minister and Conservative peer Norman Tebbit expressed concern about the possibility that a law legalising gay marriage would cause confusion regarding royal succession: “When we have a queen who is a lesbian and she marries another lady and then decides she would like to have a child and someone donates sperm and she gives birth to a child, is that child heir to the throne?”

Tebbit also argued the new law “would lift my worries about inheritance tax because maybe I’d be allowed to marry my son. Why not? Why shouldn’t a mother marry her daughter? Why shouldn’t two elderly sisters living together marry each other?”

During the debate, Gerald Howarth referred to Conservative MP Margot James as representative of an “aggressive homosexual community”: “I warn you, and MPs on all sides of the house, that I fear that the playing field has not been levelled. I believe that the pendulum is now swinging so far the other way and there are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this as but a stepping stone to something even further”. Howarth’s comments sparked a trending topic on the social networking site Twitter.

David Cameron has been on the political defensive since rumours circulated that Conservative Party co-chairman Lord Feldman referred to Conservative activists as “mad, swivel-eyed loons”. Conservative Grassroots chairman Miles Windsor remarked, “This week has begun a civil war in conservatism, it may rumble on for years — but as things stand, Nigel Farage is winning it at a stride.”

Maria Miller, the government minister responsible for equality, tweeted after the vote on the third reading: “Just won Third Reading vote of Equal Marriage Bill – After all the hard work, its moment to be proud of. It’s the Right Thing”. Labour MP Diane Abbott said: “I did not think I would live to see the day this reached third reading.”

On BBC Radio 4, David Cameron welcomed the passage of the bill: “I think we should think about it like this — that there will be young boys in schools today who are gay, who are worried about being bullied, who are worried about what society thinks of them, who can see that the highest Parliament in the land has said that their love is worth the same as anybody else’s love and that we believe in equality. I think they will stand that bit taller today and I’m proud of the fact that that has happened.”



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February 7, 2013

Same-sex marriage in the UK passes second reading in Commons

Same-sex marriage in the UK passes second reading in Commons

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Part of the promotional material the government have produced to promote the bill.
Image: Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Legislation to allow same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom has passed the second reading in the House of Commons Tuesday by 400 votes to 175. Amendments to the Bill are now to be discussed and voted in the committee stage and then debated in the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill 2013, if passed, would allow same-sex couples to get married in both civil ceremonies and religious ceremonies where a particular denomination has agreed to provide such services. The government have said the Bill contains a “quadruple lock”, four separate measures to protect the religious freedom of those who do not agree with same-sex marriages on religious grounds.

Before the debate

The government’s proposals have caused “growing discord” within the Conservative Party according to a letter written by a group of Conservative local constituency chairmen. The letter, which was delivered to Downing Street on Sunday, claimed the policy would cause “significant damage to the Conservative Party in the run-up to the 2015 election” and “resignations from the party are beginning to multiply”.

Sir Peter Bottomley says the legislation is “not going to be a big deal”.
Image: Steve Punter.

The Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley criticised media focus on the letter sent to Downing Street, telling the BBC the importance of the letter was overblown: “There are, say, 630 associations, there’s now two active officers for each one, that’s over 1200. Twenty five past and present officers went to Downing St — 25 out of over 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 — doesn’t strike me as newsworthy.”

Bottomley said he believes the majority of people in Britain are supportive of same-sex marriage although older people tend to be against it, and said the legislation is “not going to be a big deal”.

On Monday, in response to the letter sent to Downing Street, another letter from fifty grassroots activists within the Conservative Party including constituency chairmen and the chairman of Conservative Future, a group for Conservative supporters aged under 30, argued Conservative MPs should support the Bill: “Please do not allow the impression that all Conservative Party activists are opposed to gay marriage. Many of us strongly agree with the proposal. Nor is it true that gay marriage has no mandate. David Cameron made his support for it clear in his first conference speech as party leader, and won loud applause. It was in the party’s equalities manifesto at the last election.”

The letter said opposition to same-sex marriage would “risk alienating the voters we will need in 2015” and argued the plans have broad support from the wider public.

Maria Miller MP: “if a couple love each other, then the state should not stop them getting married unless there is good reason — and being gay is not reason enough”.
Image: Department for Work and Pensions.

In response to criticism from within the Conservative Party, Maria Miller, the government minister responsible for the Bill, wrote an editorial in The Times defending the proposals. Miller wrote: “The proposals for change are straightforward — if a couple love each other, then the state should not stop them getting married unless there is good reason — and being gay is not reason enough.”

Miller defended the bill from accusations it would infringe on religious freedom: “This bill is about choice. It is about giving those who want to get married the opportunity to do so, while protecting the rights of those who don’t agree.”

The Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, Nadine Dorries, confirmed on Monday in a post for the blog ConservativeHome that she plans to vote against the Bill, saying the Bill fails to make heterosexual and gay couples equal because the Bill does not require gay couples “to make any commitment to faithfulness whatsoever in the way straight couples are required to” and because there is no requirement for consummation. She also argued it is politically unwise for the Conservative Party, claiming loss of support “could lose us as many as 100 seats”. Dorries said Labour’s introduction of civil partnerships was “the right thing” but the Labour Party would not have supported same-sex marriage because it would cost them support from Catholics. She argued that if Conservatives push for same-sex marriage to become law, Labour would then not have to take a political hit for passing the Bill.

The Conservative Party activist Tim Montgomerie contradicted claims that the Conservatives would face a drastic drop in support, claiming a YouGov survey shows it won’t affect voter intentions: “the effect might well be negative in the short-term but — AT WORST — it will reduce the Tory vote from about its current 34% to 33%”.

Iain Dale has suggested closeted MPs who vote against the legislation may be ‘outed’ by gay rights campaigners.
Image: Steve Punter.

Conservative blogger and radio host Iain Dale — who is also openly gay — argued on his blog that a number of the opponents in the Tory ranks are themselves in the closet and may face outing attempts by gay rights campaigners. On ITV, Dale said he had looked at a list of MPs who intend to vote against the Bill on the website of Campaign for Equal Marriage: “I note with interest the names of several MPs who most people in the Westminster Village know to be closet gays. And I note also the names of two supposedly straight MPs who I know to be conducting gay affairs at the moment. I don’t believe in ‘outing’ anyone, but because of the rank hypocrisy there will be others who will take a different view.”

Before the debate, Labour leader Ed Miliband said he will vote “proudly” for equal marriage: “I don’t think that the person you love should determine the rights you have. That’s why I’ll be voting for equal marriage, along with the rest of the shadow cabinet.”

Liberal Democrats committed to supporting the policy. A notable exception among the Liberal Democrats is John Pugh MP who said in a letter to his constituents published on Monday he will vote against the Bill because he believes “it achieves none of its objectives and weakens the link between marriage and the family”.

In the run up to the debate, MPs claim to have received emails they characterised as “vitriolic”, “appalling”, and “unpleasant” from both supporters and opponents of the Bill. The Conservative MP Angie Bray said: “You get emails from one side saying you’re morally deficient if you vote no and emails threatening hell fire and brimstone if you vote yes. It has frankly been an ill-tempered debate on both sides.”

Some MPs have said negative emails from opponents have prompted them to support the Bill. An anonymous MP told The Independent: “Quite a few of us who were considering abstaining will vote in favour of gay marriage because of the unreasonable nature of the emails we have been receiving. Some of the emails I’ve had are simply appalling and I’m fed up with it.”

Conservative MP David Burrowes, who opposes the Bill, said unpleasant messages have also come from supporters of the Bill: “I’ve had death threats, hostility and hate mail. My children have even been told that their dad is a homophobe.”

Burrowes made his case against the Bill Tuesday on ConservativeHome: “Marriage has never been just about the happiness and fulfilment of the individuals involved. It is part of a bigger picture — human societies need stable family groupings, especially for the nurture and care of children. The man-woman union at the heart of marriage has to do with this bigger picture.”

Burrowes also argues the marriage Bill will not significantly advance gay rights, pointing instead to his support for an introduction of a new offence of homophobic hatred.

Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin wrote an article defending the legislation for ConservativeHome, arguing “the Bill respects those who feel that same-sex marriage does represent an attack on their view of marriage” and since “nobody is going to be forced to take part in a same-sex marriage who does not wish to do so, I very much hope that in turn they will respect those who feel that the present inequality of marriage is an attack their identity and freedom as individuals.”

The newly elected Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, used his first post-appointment public statement to reaffirm the Church of England’s opposition to the Bill: “I stand, as I have always stood over the last few months, with the statement I made at the announcement of my appointment, which is that I support the Church of England’s position on this. We have made many statements about this and I stick with that.”

The Guardian opinion writer Polly Toynbee argued the fallout within the Conservative Party has failed to show they are “a modernised party” but instead revealed them “as a nest of bigots”, warning that the party disunity threatens the Conservatives’ chances at the next election.

The debate

The Second Reading started just after 12:30pm on Tuesday. Maria Miller introduced the bill: “The depth of feeling, love and commitment between same-sex couples is no different from that depth of feeling between opposite-sex couples. The Bill enables society to recognise that commitment in the same way, too, through marriage. Parliament should value people equally in the law, and enabling same-sex couples to marry removes the current differentiation and distinction.”

Miller argued against the charge that the Bill redefines marriage by pointing to previous reforms of marriage law: “Suggestions that the Bill changes something that has remained unchanged for centuries simply do not recognise the road that marriage has travelled as an institution.”

Miller concluded her introduction of the Bill by appealing to fairness: “Despite all the discussion and debate, this Bill is about one thing — fairness. It is about giving those who want to get married the opportunity to do so, while protecting the rights of those who do not agree with same-sex marriage. Marriage is one of the most important institutions we have; it binds families and society together, and it is a building block that promotes stability. This Bill supports and cultivates marriage, and I commend it to the House.”

Yvette Cooper gave the Opposition response.
Image: Yorkshire Labour Euro team.

The Labour politician Yvette Cooper gave the Opposition response. She welcomed the Bill and argued: “Parliament should not stop people getting married just because they have fallen in love with someone of the same sex, and we should not say that same-sex relationships are intrinsically worth less.”

Regarding the claim that the Bill would eventually force religious groups to perform same-sex ceremonies, Yvette Cooper stated: “It is clear that they will not have to.”

Cooper also argued against a number of objections to the Bill. She said some object that marriage is by definition between a man and a woman, but: “We cannot hide discrimination simply by calling it a definition. Marriage has changed many times over the centuries — and thank goodness for that.”

In response to the argument that marriage is for the purposes of procreation and protection of children, Cooper argued: “Many marriages are childless, and we do not prevent people who are too old or too sick to have children from getting married. We do not do fertility tests at the altar.”

Following the speeches of Miller and Cooper, MPs from all parties spoke both for and against the Bill. Opponents argued their opposition to the bill was not driven by homophobia or bigotry, the Labour MP Robert Flello stating: “the debate has been characterised as bigoted religion on the one hand versus equality on the other.”

Conservative MP Edward Leigh argued marriage exists for children: “Marriage exists to keep the parents exclusively committed to each other, because, on average, that is the best and most stable environment for children. If marriage were solely about the relationship between two people, we would not bother to enshrine it in law, and nor would every culture, society and religion for thousands of years have invested it with so much importance.”

Leigh then suggested proponents were motivated by their own interests rather than the interests of children: “Marriage is not about ‘me, me, me’, nor about legally validating ‘my rights’ and ‘my relationships’; it is about a secure environment for creating and raising children, based on lifelong commitment and exclusivity”.

The Conservative MP Nick Herbert introduced some levity into the debate when he ridiculed the idea that heterosexuals would be threatened by gay and lesbian couples getting married: “Darling, our marriage is over: Sir Elton John has just got engaged to David Furnish”.

David Lammy MP compared the campaign for gay rights to civil rights: “Separate but equal is a fraud. It’s the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus.”

During the debate, a number of gay MPs spoke in support of the bill. Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams noted: “Through my teenage years being openly gay was virtually impossible as it was terrifying in terms of the abuse.”

Crispin Blunt
Image: Ministry of Justice.

Another Conservative MP, Crispin Blunt, spoke of the importance of the bill to him as a gay man: “Semantics matter. Words express the values of society. This bill about marriage is part of the astonishing and wonderful change that has taken place over the last fifty years that has taken millions of us from criminalisation to legal equality and the enjoyment of self-worth and validation. That certainly wasn’t apparent to me as a young man. What I understood was that there was something wrong with me that had — had — to be mastered. And for three decades I managed that struggle. And the relief and happiness of not having to do so any longer comes from others who fought for all of the measures advancing equality over the last five decades that are the precursors to today’s Bill.”

Crispin Blunt’s speech prompted Mark Menzies to note he would change from abstaining to supporting the bill.

Hugh Robertson closed the debate, praising the House for a “lively and impassioned debate” and stated the government’s case: “This is a bill with a very straightforward proposition at its heart: whether extending marriage for same-sex couples strengthens marriage and increases equality or whether it is a threat to religion and society. The Government believes it is the former.”

According to media reports, more Conservative MPs voted against the Bill than for it in the second reading. Conservative MP Tim Loughton said: “Apparently there’s 132 Conservative MPs who voted in favour, so I think what we’re going to see is that more Conservative MPs voted against this legislation than for it.”

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the passage of the Second Reading, saying the legislation represents “an important step forward for our country”.



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January 25, 2013

UK government formally launches same-sex marriage legislation in Parliament

UK government formally launches same-sex marriage legislation in Parliament

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Maria Miller
Image: Department for Work and Pensions.

The British government formally published legislation today to allow marriage for same-sex couples. The bill is titled the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. MPs would be able to vote on the legislation at the second reading in Parliament on February 5.

Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, said of the legislation to BBC Radio 4: “We feel that marriage is a good thing and we should be supporting more couples to marry.” Gay and lesbian couples have been allowed since 2005 to form civil partnerships.

The Coalition for Equal Marriage, a campaign group supporting the legalisation of same-sex marriage, have tracked support by individual MPs and claim 336 MPs are likely to vote in favour of the legislation, while 130 are likely to vote against. Conservative MPs are to be given a free vote, but both Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs are broadly in support.

As part of the legislation, the government have included a set of provisions they describe as a “quadruple lock” against churches and other religious denominations being forced to perform same-sex weddings, including an explicit ban on the Church of England and the Church of Wales doing so. The “quadruple lock” consists of an explicit statement in the Bill “that no religious organisation, or individual minister, can be forced to marry same-sex couples or to permit that to happen on their premises”, an amendment to the Equality Act 2010 to prevent claims of discrimination against religious organisations for not performing same-sex weddings, an opt-in for religious groups who do wish to perform same-sex marriages, and the explicit ban for the Churches of England and Wales.

Maria Miller said the government recognises “that some churches won’t want to participate in same-sex marriages. We are trying to make sure that there are the protections there for churches who feel that this isn’t appropriate for their particular beliefs. We know that there are churches who do want to take part in same-sex marriages, so we have made sure that there are provisions there so they can.”

Former defence secretary Liam Fox, opposing the legislation, has suggested the European Court of Human Rights will overrule the government’s protections for churches. He argued earlier this month: “Any assurances that we are given that distinguishing between churches will not be used at some point by European courts to drive a coach and horses through the legislation carries little credibility with those of us who have watched similar assurances trounced in the past.”

The Roman Catholic Church has strongly opposed the measures. Archbishop Vincent Nichols has said he is “very disappointed” the government is pushing for same-sex marriage and claimed it would “weaken” the institution. The Archbishop also claimed of the legislation: “[t]here was no announcement in any party manifesto”. However, the Conservative Party’s “contract for equalities” for the 2010 election included a statement saying they would “consider” same-sex marriage: “We will also consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage.”

A Guardian/ICM poll conducted in December 2012 found 62% of the British public favour allowing same-sex marriage.



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